(This is the address that I had planned to give at the MH370 Remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur today, the 7th of March 2020. I called off my trip at the last minute. I am sharing it here.)
We are gathered today under extraordinary circumstances. I will resist the temptation to use the word ‘unprecedented’ – a word appropriated by the authorities to describe the loss of MH370 and take cover to justify all their acts and inaction, in the face of expectations and criticism.
Six years have gone by since MH370 was last heard from or seen. For us, time stood still and life was in ‘limbo’; we added years faster, either maturing doubly quick or declining at a rapid rate. At any rate, life was and never will be the same again.
Six years is a long time. Many of us are now piecing together the fragments of a shattered existence that resembles in part what was, but also with new elements – new people and relationships, new places, new pursuits – signifying a resolute and courageous willingness to not let the void we experience draw everything into it and leave us feeling empty and bereft. I think we can be proud of ourselves, and certainly be forgiving of the time we have taken to come to an inner settlement with our loss. This process may never be fully complete, but we might yet someday be able to say with fond remembrance that the scars are of love as much as of loss, our resilience as much as our vulnerability. Speaking for myself, I alternate between feeling burdened and lonely on the one hand, and energised and sanguine about my prospects on the other. On balance, in a better place than, say, a couple of years back.
When I look back, what comes to mind are the occasions (and there have been many) when the authorities seemed all set to bring the curtains down on the search for MH370, the anguish it set off and collective effort to retain the search that followed. With the passage of time, the fervour has diminished. The resolve has not. Other priorities have emerged. The all-consuming uni-focal attention on the search and investigation of the past years has given way to greater accommodation of life’s other demands. However, it will be a mistake to assume that the expectation of a search has been given up. We will continue to press on.
Voice370 has attempted to be a credible and representative voice of the community of MH370 families. I believe it speaks not just based on a narrow mandate to seek justice, accountability, credible answers and closure for MH370 families alone, but because there is a larger issue of aviation safety and public interest at stake. Trust and faith in public institutions is at stake too. I believe there is a case for people, businesses, institutions, and governments world over to more actively engage and weigh in.
Millions of flights have taken off since March 8th 2014 and reached their destinations, billions of people have taken to the skies, added years to their lives. So, if one flight never made it after taking off, and just 239 remain missing, should one continue to fuss about it?
The disappearance of MH370 points to gaps or flaws in one or all of the following – systems, technology, infrastructure, and human capability. There is vulnerability that we don’t fully understand yet. We need work on this. Locating the plane is critical to this task. Full disclosure supports this task. Without credible answers, the swirl of conspiracy and accusations of falsehood and cover-up will not go away easily. To those who know more, if indeed there are those, I say to you that truth is a higher power than loyalty and duty to man and country.
Lastly, let us be there for each other, and devise ways to stay connected, share in the good as well as the troubling. I am happy for Danica who married recently, and Grace, who I believe is next, and all other families who have found joy and love in their lives. May such tidings be shared freely. Those who have lost may yet find love, or solace or succour in other loved ones in their midst. The wheel of life rolls on.