For one MH370 family, 350 days of silent frustration

(From left) Grace, Nathan, Anne and Azelia in happier times.
(From left) Grace, Nathan, Anne and Azelia in happier times.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — If there is one person who has not said anything about the loss of a loved one on flight MH370 which went missing on March 8 last year, it must be V.P.R. Nathan.

His wife, Anne Daisy, was on the plane that dropped off the radar less than an hour en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing — and he has been suffering in silence since.

Nathan, 58, has been forced to remain silent because he is deputy director in the air traffic management section of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).

Due to the nature of his job, Nathan has been unable to add to the chorus of frustration, suffering and sorrow vented by family members of the 239 passengers and crew on board the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

About 50 of them were Malaysians.

Nathan, 58, has been with the DCA for 30 years and is currently on secondment with the International Civil Aviation Organisation in air traffic management and based in China. He has been there since 2013.

His 56-year-old wife was on her way to visit him when MH370 vanished. It was her third visit to be with her husband.

The father of two daughters — Grace Subathirai, 27, and Azelia Shalini, 22, —has been keeping away from gatherings of family members of the ill-fated flight, and has instead been working from the background with the support group Voice 370.

Grace, speaking in Petaling Jaya yesterday, hinted her father would probably make his first statement after getting clearance from the authorities.

“He has been suffering in silence and needs to speak up and to get it out of him.”

Grace has been actively involved with Voice 370 but never revealed that her father was with the DCA.

“It has been a very tiring and painful period for us, especially with my father not being able to play an active role because of the nature of his job,” said the lawyer, in an exclusive interview with Malay Mail.

“My father has been giving us moral support and helping us stay strong. We are prepared to accept whatever God has in store for us but we want closure.

“We will not accept that the aircraft is missing and cannot be found.”

Grace was in England doing her Bar vocational course last year when she received a call about MH370.

“I was devastated. I speak to my mother daily and she had called me before boarding the aircraft,”she said.

Grace was upset when the government last month officially declared the disappearance of MH370 an accident and its passengers and crew presumed dead, 327 days after it vanished.

The announcement was to clear the way for Malaysia Airlines to pay compensation to families.

Instead, it provoked fury among relatives.

DCA chief Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had said the search effort had pursued every credible lead and reviewed all available data, but had failed to locate the plane.

He insisted the hunt for the wreckage would continue.

“The announcement was not necessary. Families were already able to get compensation and our fear was that it could lead to a halt in the search,” said Grace.

She added that after covering 240,000 sq km of search area, there was still 60,000 sq km to go.

“They do not have much time as bad weather is going to hamper their search by the end of May when they will have to stop for about four months,” she said.

“The search has to continue even after they have completed the 60,000 sq km area. If the search is stopped, it will be an aviation mystery. That cannot happen. A precedent will be set and in the future, if there are any aviation mishaps, cases will be closed without answers.”

Grace said she understood the complexity of the search, especially with no debris found till now, unlike the Air France 447 which crashed into Atlantic on May 31, 2009 killing all 288 people and took two years to find the wreckage and bodies.

She said: “There is so many grey areas which need to be addressed and we are looking for answers.”

Her family is planning a remembrance day on March 8 at a shopping complex to create worldwide awareness to a disaster that has yet to produce answers.

“We are expecting about 100 family members and relatives of MH370 to be present. We are printing T-shirts bearing the words ‘Search On’ to be worn that day,” she said.

“We want to make it known that today we are the ones suffering and tomorrow it could be anyone and we do not want them to go through the same fate.”

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