Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fateful disclosure

BETWEEN hope and certain misery the choice is predictable, but when all hope is dashed and misery descends, the mind plays tricks even on the strongest spirit. For those family members waiting for news of their loved ones on board the missing Malaysian Airline (MAS) flight MH370, the terrible time of reckoning arrived on Monday when they were personally informed that the aeroplane had plunged into the desolate seas of the southern Indian Ocean. Predictably, too, the reaction was a mixture of deep resignation by some and total denial by others. This latter group, mainly families of the Chinese passengers, had good reason. Losing an only son or daughter -- the one-child policy to be blamed for this outcome -- is a heart break imaginable but not really comprehensible. That hope lives eternal, so some says, makes denial inevitable.

Under the circumstances, willing the presumed dead to go on living becomes that much easier and blame is a convenient currency. Putrajaya could so easily have ignored the findings of failsafe scientific instruments and allowed the waiting to go on -- knowing that tragedy is already made -- and save itself the vitriol of despair flung at it. But what good would it do? Debris seen, though not conclusively identified, points to that ultimate fate for MH370: a watery grave so immense and deep. The science was but the nail in the coffin. However, the profound pain of the families is made even deeper for the 17 days of hope, no matter how slim. Even when the brain expects, the heart will stubbornly reject, for closure is not born of conjecture, scientific evidence notwithstanding. The mind will desist with its trickeries only when credible proof is presented.

Not unnaturally, therefore, Putrajaya's announcement does not in any way imply that the search will end. Already preparations to trawl the part of the ocean identified has begun. Everything is being done to find the aeroplane's black boxes, which will put all speculations to rest definitively. This is the priority, because in less than two weeks, the signal from them would have died and recovery made near impossible. Contemporary existence, so much shaped by science, has made reliance on it complete, especially given the dearth of hard facts surrounding the MH370 phenomenon. Conspiracy theories abound but proof is not forthcoming. Tragic though it is, science has converged with the meagre signs thus far, unconfirmed but still the best leads to hand. Making the call to disclose the findings based on the last pings must have been difficult, but more difficult and near impossible is the coming to terms for the families of the 239 on board with the prime minister's fateful announcement

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