Show us the bodies, MH370 kin say amid death pronouncement

Relatives of crewmembers and passengers of missing flight MH370 are seen in the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCA) hall where a press conference was scheduled, in Putrajaya, January 29, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Relatives of crewmembers and passengers of missing flight MH370 are seen in the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCA) hall where a press conference was scheduled, in Putrajaya, January 29, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 29 — Shortly before the government officially declared the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 to be downed in an accident today and those aboard dead, relatives of some of the passengers and crew said they will never accept the pronouncements without hard evidence.

Lim Wee Hoon, 41, said she was uncertain if death certificates will be issued if Malaysia’s aviation authorities classify the passenger jet as being lost, but said it would be unacceptable without evidence.

“To me, if you ask me, I’ll refuse to accept it because how can you prove somebody dead without any evidence? It’s ridiculous.

“I still believe my brother-in-law is alive until I see his body, then I’ll accept the fact that he is gone,” she told reporters here after the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) hastily deferred its 3.30pm announcement.

The DCA pushed the announcement to 6pm through a live broadcast on official television channel RTM, believed to be due to the officials’ spotting of family members in the media room.

Lim, whose sister’s husband Chan Huan Peen was on board the ill-fated flight, also said the authorities should have been more considerate of the families’ feelings as the festive season of Chinese New Year was just round the corner.

“If there is an announcement that have to be made, I think they have to be wise enough, they can make it last year, few months back or they can make it after Chinese New Year,” she said.

Many of the passengers on board MH370 are from China, whose citizens celebrate the lunar new year. This year, the lunar new year — where families of Chinese ethnicity traditionally gather for reunions — falls on February 19 and 20.

She also spoke about the struggles that the next of kin face as they still think of their loved ones months after the plane went off the radar.

“To the world, people may think life has to go on, life has to move on but it’s hard for the families,” said Lim, who was present in the DCA headquarters here with her husband Wesley Walter.

Kelly Wen, the wife of Chinese passenger Li, similarly said she would not be able to accept the announcement of loss without any evidence being found of the plane’s actual fate.

When told that an official declaration of “loss” over the status of MH370 would help the next of kin with compensation and insurance claims, Jacquita Gonzales said it was the “least of their worries” and they just wanted their loved ones back.

“Yes, it’ll help a lot of families, I know, because they are financially strapped, but our main priority is to get back our loved ones,” the wife of inflight supervisor Patrick Gomes told reporters prior to the DCA’s 6pm announcement.

Lim also said there were some hiccups for the next of kin to make withdrawals from the private pension fund Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Sosco, but said procedures could be dispensed with for special circumstances such as those involving the MH370 families.

This evening, Malaysia officially declared missing MAS Flight MH370 as an “accident” and its passengers and crew members deceased today, just under 11 months after the ill-fated jetliner’s mysterious disappearance on March 8, 2014.

The declaration was made by the DCA today pursuant to International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Chicago Convention, allowing the family members of the 239 passengers onboard to proceed with their claim for damages.

Yesterday, Voice370 — the self-styled support group for families of those on board the missing plane — addressed rumours that the Malaysian authorities’ would make a major announcement about the flight, saying they will not accept such declarations from Putrajaya without physical evidence of the plane’s fate.

On March 24 last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak confirmed that the missing MAS jetliner MH370 “ended” its journey in the southern Indian Ocean, but stopped short of saying that the Boeing 777 aircraft had crashed into the vast ocean.

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