PETALING JAYA: Australia’s plan to go ahead with a controversial memorial for passengers and crew on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has riled family members based in China who had formally objected to the project earlier this month.
MH370 China Families, a network representing relatives in China, said they were incensed at being notified by the Australian government of its intention to proceed.
In a statement today, it said this was contrary to their wishes and those of relatives based in Australia itself.
“China family members remain opposed to a memorial as long as MH370 is not found,” it said.
It said the families in China were notified of the matter in a letter dated Jan 24 which bore the letterhead of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), the Australian government agency that had overseen the search for the aircraft.
It said the letter by JACC chief coordinator Judith Zielke claimed that the project “has received widespread support from the Australian families of those on board MH370”.
The China family members had presented their formal opposition to the Australian embassy in Beijing on Jan 12, stating: “We hereby reiterate that we now firmly oppose the establishment of a memorial to MH370 at Elizabeth Pier in Australia.”
It said they had also contacted Danica Weeks, wife of missing Australian passenger Paul Weeks, who confirmed her opposition to the project taking place in the absence of the discovery of MH370.
“Mrs Weeks stated that neither she nor any Australian family members had been contacted or (had) given consent for the memorial at this time,” the statement said.
On Dec 31, the Perth Now news portal had reported Danica 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”.
Letter of protest
Earlier this month, Australia’s ABC news network 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 memorial plan to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull just before the new year.
The Boeing 777 disappeared en route to Beijing from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board on March 8, 2014.
Western Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet had released a tender in early December 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 Southern Indian Ocean, where the plane was believed to have last flown over.
On Jan 10 this year, Ocean Infinity, a US seabed exploration company, inked a deal with the Malaysian government to search for MH370 on a “no cure, no fee” basis.
The search involves the use of the Norwegian Seabed Constructor vessel equipped with advanced submersibles covering an area of 25,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean within 90 days.