Malaysia excluded from MH17 probe – for 'not pointing fingers at Russia'?
Malaysia has been left out of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which has been tasked with learning more about the details of the tragedy which took place over Ukraine in July. This is despite the Dutch prime minister stating the importance of Malaysia's cooperation during a visit to the country this month. The JIT includes the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, and Australia.
Experts from the Southeast Asian country are not taking part in the criminal probe into the reason behind the Boeing 777 crash, which killed all 298 people on board. Those victims represented 10 nations, and Malaysia had the second highest number of casualties at 43. Most of the passengers – 193 in total – were from the Netherlands.
Earlier in November, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar demanded the "active participation of Malaysian experts in the work of the joint investigative group," while debris for further investigation was collected from the site without the country's involvement.
After the completion of the debris collection was announced, Malaysia said the action by the JIT countries was “unilateral,” an informed source in the Malaysian capital told TASS news agency.
According to Malaysian media, the country's transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that Malaysia had expressed its stance "very clear" that it must be part of the criminal investigation, and informed Dutch authorities of its intention. Malaysian ambassador to Ukraine Chuah Teong Ban reportedly expressed concerns that his country would not be allowed to inspect the debris unless it became part of the criminal investigation team.
The police chief said he would head to Amsterdam on December 3 to discuss Malaysia’s participation in the process with JIT members, joined by attorney general Abdul Gani Patail.
'Political play in the situation'
"When the crash happened, we did not blame any parties, neither Russia nor Ukraine, as we would like to take a look at the concrete evidence," head associate professor in research and aviation at Kuala Lumpur University, Dr. Mohamed Harridon, told RT. He added that unlike "western counterparts," Malaysia has taken a “neutral role," and not "pointed fingers at Russia," which could be the reason for the country's exclusion from the investigation.
Saying that Malaysia's participation would "push for a more balanced power into the investigation," Harridon – whose views on the matter were also published in one of Malaysia's oldest newspapers, the New Strait Times – pointed out that the country being part of the investigation was only right and "legal."
"If you have evidence, it should be investigated by all parties – also by neutral parties – [and] investigated thoroughly, instead of putting the blame initially on one party," he told RT, adding that there is "a political play in that situation."
"We are trying to lobby ourselves to be [included] in the investigation, we have laid out several statements, we have passengers dead in the crash, the plane belongs to Malaysia Airlines, and according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), we should be part of the team," Harridon said, referring to the ICAO Chicago Convention, which states that the operator of a crashed flight must not be left out of an investigation.
"The exclusion from the investigation appears to be an indication that the investigation’s objectivity has been compromised and that the conclusions it draws will likely be politically motivated," New York-based geopolitical analyst Ulson Gunnar wrote in New Eastern Outlook magazine.
Gunnar added that Kiev is "a possible suspect in the investigation," as it had "confirmed to possess weapons capable of reaching the altitude MH17 was flying at when it was allegedly hit" – so Ukraine's "inclusion in JIT represents a monumental conflict of interest."
'Our participation will help prevent attempts to conceal the real story'
Saying that Malaysia must take a leading role in the investigation, the advisor for the country's Suaram human rights organization, Kua Kia Soong, raised the issue of an alleged non-disclosure agreement drawn up by the four participating countries, The Star newspaper reported.
"Something simple like the fact that these four countries can keep the findings of the MH17 crash to themselves is unacceptable," Kua said. He added that the consensus of the four countries which is allegedly needed ahead of revealing findings to the public is also inappropriate.
"One can understand why Ukraine is in the team since that is where the plane was shot from the sky. We can understand the Netherlands’ membership of the JIT since the flight originated from Amsterdam. But why is Belgium in the JIT?," Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), said, according to The Malaysian Insider.
The scholar said that if Belgium was on the list because of Brussels being the administrative capital of the European Union – which "may have some aviation responsibilities over commercial flights in the continent" – it still makes no sense, because "then it is the EU, not Belgium, which should have a place in the team."
He also said that if Australia is in the JIT because a number of its citizens were killed in the tragedy, Malaysia should not have been sidelined in the criminal investigations. He added that the US should be participating too, "since Boeing, an American multinational, manufactured the 777 passenger jet."
"Our participation in the investigation will at least help to check any attempt to conceal or camouflage the real story," Muzaffar said, as quoted by The Malaysian Insider.
Professor Mohamed Harridon doubts the whole truth will ever be revealed. "This is a long process, probably [will] take years, and there still [will] be speculations. Perhaps we [will] only know 60 percent of the truth," he told RT.
The Dutch Security Council announced on Friday that the task of collecting the Boeing 777 wreckage had been completed at the site, and fragments still left in Ukraine are of no interest to investigators. However, local agencies will be charged for removing any remaining fragments from the crash site, TASS reported.