Chief correspondent Paul McGeough at the crash site: Where horror, outrage and incompetence meetMH17 tragedy: Full coverageKuala Lumpur: Malaysia said it was “deeply concerned” an international investigation team was still blocked from reaching the MH17 crash site and warned separatist groups not to tamper with the plane’s black box.
The Ukraine government told Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai on Monday it had been unable to establish a safe corridor to the site where more than 100 bodies remain unrecovered and are rapidly decomposing. “The Ukraine government has said it cannot guarantee the safety of the international team in and around the crash site,” said Mr Liow, who is in Kiev.
He spoke amid growing anger in Muslim-majority Malaysia that the bodies of Malaysian victims have not been recovered and treated in an Islamic way. Under Islam, bodies are required to be buried within 24 hours.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose step-grandmother was on the plane with 297 other passengers, said his government was determined to bring back the remains of the 43 Malaysian passengers before the end of the Ramadan fasting month next week, the most significant time for Muslims.
“I don’t want their remains to be taken to an unknown location, and I am determined to bring them back to Malaysia,” he said.
Mr Liow said the situation was further hampered by reports that competing separatist groups control the area in and around the crash site, with no clear leader or chain of command.
“Malaysia is deeply concerned that the international team is effectively being prevented from entering the crash site,” he said. “It is imperative that international investigators and search and recovery personnel are afforded full and unhindered access to the site.
“Malaysia demands that all human remains be allowed to be recovered, identified and repatriated.”
Mr Liow said the Boeing 777’s black box recording device contained crucial pieces of evidence that should be handed over to an international investigation team comprising experts from Malaysia, the US, Britain and the Netherlands.
“Despite reported comments by the leader of a separatist group that his group has not interfered with the crash site, Malaysia is very concerned that the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised,” he said. “Malaysia demands immediate and unrestricted access to the crash site and guaranteed safety for its officials and those of the international team.”
Armed pro-Russian rebels have reportedly seized 196 bodies from the crash site in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. They have been loaded onto refrigerated train carriages, though when the train will leave, or its destination, have not been made clear.
Malaysia’s media have accused the rebels of violating the bodies and disturbing the crash site. “Hand them over,” the Kuala Lumpur-based Star newspaper demanded on its front page.
Mr Liow is in Kiev with a Malaysian recovery team of 133 forensic, technical and medical experts who have been waiting to travel to the crash site since Saturday.
Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the situation as “horrendous” and demanded to know where the bodies are now.
“We want to know who has taken the bodies and where they are being kept,” he said. “I hope and pray the bodies are being treated with respect.”
Some Malaysian relatives want to fly immediately to Ukraine to be with the remains of their loved ones.
“We are co-ordinating with Malaysia Airlines on this. The arrangements will be made by them,” Malaysia’s Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said.
Prayer vigils have been held throughout Malaysia as the country mourns the loss of the second Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in five months.
Many Malaysians have taken to social media to express their outrage at the reported acts of disrespect towards the bodies at the crash site.
“They have shown no remorse. Murderers, looters, thieves and barbarians who have no respect for 298 souls on MH17,” Chandra Vejayan posted on Facebook.