PETALING JAYA: More relatives of those on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which vanished in 2014 have come forward to object to Australia’s plan to build a memorial for the 239 passengers and crew.
Australia’s ABC news network reported families of the victims, two thirds of whom were Chinese nationals, had united in appealing to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the state government of Western Australia to drop the project.
They claimed that they had not been consulted and that the monument would be too soon. They also said the planned location in the Western Australian city of Perth was wrong.
The report cited Jiang Hui, a spokesman for the Chinese families and whose own mother was on board, as saying that monuments carry huge symbolic meaning in China.
“The establishment of such monuments usually takes place only after the matter has come to an end. But so far we don’t know where our relatives are and where the plane is,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that he hoped their rejection would not be seen as ungracious but simply a reminder that the missing plane was not a lost cause.
The Boeing 777-200ER had disappeared en route to Beijing from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board on March 8, 2014.
Australia, China and Malaysia, which jointly coordinated and funded the search operation led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), had announced in January last year the suspension of the search.
ABC also reported that Sher Keen, president of Aircrash Support Group Australia, an organisation to support air crash victims and their families, had sent a letter of protest on the matter to Turnbull just before the new year.
It quoted him as saying that Turnbull had yet to respond and the victims’ families were demanding answers.
“They just can’t see the sense in placing a memorial there and placing a memorial there now,” he said.
On Dec 31, the Perth Now news portal had reported Australian Danica Weeks, wife of Paul Weeks who was among the passengers, as describing the plan as distasteful as the aircraft had still not been found.
She claimed that it sent a message to relatives of the missing that their loved ones were “collateral damage” and that authorities “want to move on from MH370”.
Earlier in December, Western Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet had released a tender with a commission value of A$126,000 (RM296,000) for the memorial to be sited at Elizabeth Quay in Perth.
The development of the structure would be funded by the state and federal governments.
Perth was selected because of its proximity to the Indian Ocean, where the plane was believed to have last flown over.
It was reported last week that the Malaysian government agreed to take up a “no cure, no fee” offer by a US seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity to resume the search for MH370.
The search vessel Seabed Constructor leased by the company left Durban port in South Africa to look for debris in the southern Indian Ocean.