Hijacked airman’s family still suffering 37 years after crash

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MH370 wasn’t the first time Malaysia experienced an aviation disaster with sinister undertones.

On December 4th 1977, Flight MH653 was violently hijacked during a routine domestic flight from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. It eventually crashed into a mangrove swamp in Johor, with the loss of all 100 souls on board.

The perpetrators and their motives have never been identified.

NZ Herald talks to Devika Ganjoor Erickson, the daughter of the slain pilot, Captain G. K. Ganjoor. She now lives in Auckland, and her family’s experience at the hands of inept bureaucrats is a harrowing one:

Her father’s death left her mother a widow at 30 with children aged 5 and 18 months and a dramatically changed life. It occurred the day after their wedding anniversary and the day after Ganjoor completed 21 years of flying.

Erickson, who was 5, has memory “flashes”: with her dad at a Disney On Ice show, a fatherly cuddle, her mother at home inconsolable while surrounded by people. She’s been told that she repeatedly asked where her father was.

He was a voracious reader, a keen cook, who loved squash, tennis and horseriding, an amateur actor and poet and a university boxer.

“We lost out on those rich experiences, as well as missing a father figure.

“It was incredibly hard for my mother.”

Ganjoor previously flew for Indian Airlines and the family had moved from Lucknow, in India’s northeast, to Kuala Lumpur four years earlier for her father’s job and were isolated from family.

Erickson feels the airline should have done more to help her mother. She said that two days after the crash, while in shock and without legal advice or family support, her mother signed a document at the request of the airline that waived her legal rights. “She was shell-shocked. She would have signed anything.”

The airline gave about a year’s salary as full and final compensation from which a fifth was deducted in death duties. The remainder was divided with Ganjoor’s wife and two children from a previous marriage.

The family’s privileged lifestyle – they had two maids – changed overnight.

“Mum was a housewife, a very spoilt housewife, and suddenly to go from that to literally wondering how she would feed her kids, was very hard. It was a hand-to-mouth existence.”

After pleading with the airline for a job, her mother was given a low-paid clerical role and told she could never be promoted to a higher-paying job because she was not a Malaysian citizen. Her mother did that job until retiring at 55 and returning to India where she lives in a small apartment.

Her mother’s requests to the airline for help to pay for costly English language schooling in Malaysia were declined, said Erickson, because her father was an expatriate. Consequently she and her brother were sent to India for schooling.

Her mother lost the free travel benefit that came as a pilot’s spouse and though her job made her eligible for flight concessions there was never money for family holidays. A trip to McDonald’s was a treat, Erickson said. “I felt we were being punished for something that wasn’t our fault.”

“The airline just didn’t have any heart to deal with it properly. It has not been done right by my Mum. She should not have gone through what she’s gone through; for a young widow to be struggling so much.”

 

 

Utusan sees truth in theory blaming CIA for MH370’s disappearance

When all else fails, blame the United States.

Here’s a case in point:

Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia today said there may be truth to a conspiracy theory blaming the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, for the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The daily’s assistant editor Ku Seman Ku Hussein said it was time “to think outside the box” about the biggest tragedy to affect Malaysia and the world aviation history, saying the incident could be a ploy to tarnish the good relations between Malaysia and China.

“If the CIA could arrange for the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, it is not improbable to link MH370 with the intelligence agency,” he wrote, referring to speculations on the involvement of American intelligence in the 9/11 attacks.

MH370 Malaysia Airlines: Anwar Ibrahim says government purposefully concealing information

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Unfortunately, you know a nation is in dire straits when its opposition leader has to resort to using a foreign newspaper to slam his own government:

Malaysia’s government is deliberately concealing information that would help to explain what happened to missing Flight MH370, the country’s opposition leader has claimed.

In a wide-ranging interview that cast doubt on the official investigation into the disappearance of the plane, Anwar Ibrahim said the country’s “sophisticated” radar system would have identified it after it changed course and crossed back over Malaysia.

Mr Anwar, who personally knew the pilot of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing in the early hours of March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, called for an international committee to take over the Malaysian-led operation because “the integrity of the whole nation is at stake”.

He indicated that it was even possible that there was complicity by authorities on the ground in what happened to the plane and the 239 people on board.

 

MH370 flight attendant’s husband wants to give children answers but has none

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Sadly, the bereaved in this story happens to be a former neighbour of mine.

It just makes the tragedy all the more personal and gut-wrenching.

The children keep asking when their mother is coming home.

Lee Khim Fatt doesn’t know what to tell them.

It’s been more than three weeks since his wife, a flight attendant on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, disappeared along with 238 others when the jet vanished mid-flight.

“I told them mummy’s going to take a bit longer to come home this time, and I even promised them I’m going to bring her home,” Lee says.

His eyes fill with tears as he explains his plight. It’s a promise he’s not sure he can keep.

“I really don’t know where she is now,” he says, “and now I am not sure whether I could bring her home.”

Text message pain for family

The sister of a Kiwi lost on MH370 speaks up about the pain and uncertainty her family has faced amidst the crisis:

Digging deep into her “generosity of heart”, Sara Weeks believed Malaysia Airlines had done its best to support the families. But whether it was the sheer scale of the event or pure mismanagement, they had “failed miserably”.

“They’ve really done an appalling job in keeping people up to date.

“Both Danica and I are horrified by the lack of information, the lack of updates, and the way they’ve been delivered.”

Ms Weeks cited withheld information, drip-fed updates, news delivered by text and the “incredibly insensitive” offer of US$5000 ($5800) compensation to grieving families while the Indian Ocean search went on as examples of how families had been let down.

The offer hadn’t been discussed in the Weeks household. “How can you compensate that kind of loss?”

It’s that kind of gesture, and how the whole event unfolded, that makes Ms Weeks think legal action will happen down the line.

“Ultimately, it’ll be something for Danica to decide as next of kin. But, on the face of it, it looks so bad for the Malaysian Government and Malaysia Airlines I wouldn’t be surprised if most people join forces and attempt legal action over it.”

Stories of that final day

A poignant recap of the lives tragically lost on MH370′s final journey:

One morning, many stories.

The three women woke before sunrise that day, leaving their hotel while it was still dark and boarding a small plane in Katmandu, Nepal, for a look at Mount Everest. They were Chinese retirees, avid photographers ending a two-week tour of the Himalayan nation. Late that night, after a stopover in Kuala Lumpur, they would head home to Beijing.

The Indonesian couple woke up at home, a tidy two-story concrete-walled house down a small alley in the city of Medan. A taxi arrived a few hours later to take them to the airport, starting them on a journey to a long-anticipated vacation without their children, a trip to China to see the Great Wall and Beijing’s Forbidden City.

In Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, the artists and calligraphers headed down to breakfast about 8 am. Some had been celebrating the night before, downing shots of the powerful Chinese liquor called Xifengjiu at the end of almost a week exhibiting their work. But they gathered early in the hotel restaurant, ready for a day of sightseeing and shopping before the late-night flight back to Beijing.

And in Perth, in western Australia, the 39-year-old mechanical engineer woke up early in his red-roofed bungalow, leaving his wife and their two young boys for a 28-day mining job in Mongolia. Just before he headed to the airport, on his way to connecting flights in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, New Zealander Paul Weeks gave his wife his wedding ring and watch for safekeeping. If anything happened to him, he said, he wanted the boys to have them someday. “Don’t be stupid!” she told him.

It was Friday morning, March 7.

By that evening, they would all be together in a departure lounge in Kuala Lumpur’s airport, with its granite floors and soaring ceilings and tiny plot of transplanted, living rainforest. And a little after midnight on March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off for Beijing, carrying 239 people inside its meticulously engineered metal shell.

Catalyst for political change?

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Zarina Banu of Al-Jazeera has written a scathing but fair assessment of the MH370 crisis.

In this maze of mirrors, Banu questions whether the will even exists for genuine reform:

Will Malaysians even have the appetite for a political witch hunt after the crisis? Right now, many are emotionally exhausted with the affair. They’ve never experienced a trauma of this magnitude played out millimetre by millimetre in front of the world. Like the families themselves, Malaysians are hoping that hard evidence of the plane and what brought it down will quickly emerge to deliver complete closure to the tragedy. Only at that point can they start looking at the ramifications. But by then, it might be too late and rather than the disaster serving as a catalyst for change, it will be business as usual.

Sadly, we may never actually get a full and complete picture of what happened on board MH370. It’s since been revealed that the black box records on two-hour loop; automatically erasing any information prior to that time frame. Which means that even if the black box is recovered, any assessment of cockpit communications will only be limited at best.

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