KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 – Malaysia is intensifying negotiations with the Ukrainian government and separatist group to allow the investigation team to re-enter the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine before the onset of the winter season. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told the Dewan Rakyat today that Malaysia was hopeful that the negotiations would be fruitful, although the chances of re-entering the crash site appeared to be getting slimmer.
“We will continue negeotiating and hopefully, the investigation team can enter the crash site soon, before the winter season starts. Otherwise, we have to wait until the cold season is over, probably next April,” he said in reply to a question from Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling). Liow said yesterday, Dutch and local investigators managed to enter the MH17 crash site and they gathered the personal belongings of victims on the ill-fated aircraft.
Flight MH17 carrying 298 passengers and crew had crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17 while en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. It is believed to have been shot down by a missile over the troubled country. Liow said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had held discussions with the Ukrainian government.
“We understand the complexity of the situation in Ukraine as there are several separatist groups there, at least 12 or 13, so it’s not easy to get an agreement for a full ceasefire from them,” he said. To the original question from Fong Kui Lun (DAP-Bukit Bintang) on the developments of the MH17 tragedy, Liow said to date, the remains of 278 of the the 298 victims had been identified by the medical team at the Military Medical Centre in Hilversum, the Netherlands.
Out of the number, he said, 43 Malaysian victims were identified including one with a dual citizenship. On the costs borne by the Malaysian government, he said it only bore part of the costs such as on flight tickets, accommodation and meals for public servants sent to Ukraine and the Netherlands on official duties in connecton with the tragedy. “The cost of managing the remains of the Malaysian victims and bringing them home is borne by MAS and the amount has not been finalised yet,” he added.
To another question from Fong, Liow again stressed that no agreement had been made between the Malaysian government and pro-Russia separatists when the separatists agreed to hand over the MH17 black boxes to Malaysia, other than allowing the investigation team to remove the remains of the victims from the crash site. “The blackboxes have been returned to us and have been analysed. All the conversation data are in good condition,” he added.