A day after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, Malaysians are mourning the loss of the 298 passengers on board, but also the reputation of their country, which has been thrust into a devastating limelight for the second time in four months.
“This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak wrote in a Facebook post. “I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time. The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries. But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.”
G. Subramaniam, whose son was aboard the ill-fated MH370, echoed this sentiment. "Why is there no peace of mind in our country? Tragedy after tragedy is happening to us,"he told Malaysian Insider.
Lee Chong Wei, one of the country’s top athletes, tweeted less than an hour after the plane crashed, “Just heard a terrible news. I don't think we are ready to accept this so soon after the #MH370 tragedy... Let's #PrayForMH17 everyone..”
Relatives of MH17 passengers said they were receiving much of their news on social media.
Most of the passengers were from other countries. Kaylene Mann, an Australian woman, who lost her brother in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, learned on Friday that her stepdaughter was on the plane shot down over Ukraine. In a tragic twist of fate, Sanjid Singh, one of the flight attendants aboard MH17, had swapped flights with a colleague to fly on the doomed jet. Four months earlier, his wife, who is also a flight attendant with Malaysia Airlines, was initially scheduled to work on MH370 but switched with her colleague before the flight took off. In another eerie account, a Dutch man posted a photo on Facebook of the Malaysian Airlines jet before takeoff with the caption, "If it disappears, this is what it looks like."
Those stories are universally distressing. Yet in Malaysia itself, the tragedy is compounded because the nation was still reeling from the mysterious disappearance of MH370. It is impossible not to feel targeted amid such epic and seemingly related tragedies. The hashtag #PrayForMH17 has been trending on Twitter with many users calling for Malaysians to unite following the tragedy. Others are tweeting support for Razak and criticizing any blame put on the country’s leader for the crash.
Still, many Malaysians feel a sense of national embarrassment, whether it is warranted or not, and numerous Malaysian officials have repeatedly expressed their grief on Twitter. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai recently shared a photo of himself visiting relatives of passengers aboard MH17 at a Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s minister of defense, has been keeping his followers up to date on the latest news of the investigation along with calls for the country to remain united.
“We r in this 2gether 1Nation,” he tweeted early Friday morning.