Jul 22, 2014

Indonesia - MH17 CRASH: Indonesia joins MH17 probe amid uncertainty over access to site

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The Indonesian government has readied experts and investigators to join international joint efforts to probe the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet in eastern Ukraine as well as to recover and identify the victims, even though the separatists controlling the site have yet to give clear access.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa confirmed on Sunday that Indonesia was party to the emergency commission led by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman, entitling Jakarta to send necessary personnel, such as experts and investigators, to join the international team.

“Indonesian Ambassador to Ukraine Niniek Kun Naryatie was present at the commission’s meeting in Kiev on Saturday,” Erly Wijayani, a spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy in Kiev, told The Jakarta Post.

Marty, however, did not highlight Indonesia’s stance over the stand-off between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia rebels, which had blocked international  efforts to gain total access to the crash site.

A number of world leaders have thrown pressure to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure that the separatists allow investigators free access to the site. “Our main concern is the Indonesian citizens on board the plane and keeping their families well-informed on the incident,” Marty said.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Thursday. All 298 people on board the Boeing B777, including 16 Indonesians, were killed.

Indonesia’s National Police’s Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) was set to dispatch seven forensic experts to Ukraine to join the international team to scrutinize the remains of the victims, DVI commander Sr. Comr. Anton Castilani said.

“I myself will lead the Indonesian experts. Our team will consist of those with DNA, pathology, and odontology expertise. We are prepared to go [to Ukraine] pending a green light from National Police chief [Gen. Sutarman], given the fact that the crash site is in a conflict zone,” Anton told the Post.

He added that the team would focus on identifying passenger remains after previously collecting DNA samples from the families of Indonesians on board the ill-fated wide-body jet, which was shot down on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) chairman Tatang Kurniadi, meanwhile, said that his organisation was also ready to help the investigation if needed.

However, he added, because the plane was allegedly shot down, the KNKT might not get too involved with the probe.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, said he understood that Jakarta’s soft stance could be driven by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s concerns over the potential of new heightened tensions between Russia and the US.

Hikmahanto, however, insisted that the Indonesian government must get involved with pushing parties relevant to the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet to open access to the crash site and let credible investigators conduct a probe into the incident.

 Asean has strongly condemned the downing of the airplane. “We express shock at the tragic deaths of the 298 people of multiple nationalities on board the airline.

Flight MH17 was flying over non-restricted airspace, and following a flight path that had been declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),”

Asean foreign ministers said in a statement released by The Asean Secretariat.

Bagus BT Saragih and Ina Parlina

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