Families of ill-fated Lion Air victims still hope for miracle as DNA tests underway

Rescue workers lay out newly recovered debris of Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 October 2018
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Families of ill-fated Lion Air victims still hope for miracle as DNA tests underway

  • Two passengers on the plane's previous flight from Bali to Jakarta on Sunday described issues that caused annoyance and alarm
  • Lion Air president Edward Sirait said there were reports of technical problems with the flight from Bali but they had been resolved in accordance with the plane manufacturer's procedures

JAKARTA: Toni Priyono Adhi still keeps alive her hopes that his daughter Puspita Eka Putri will pick up her phone and answer his calls, although deep down he knows that it is very unlikely.
Putri, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Oct. 26, was one of the 189 people on board the Lion Air JT610 flight from Jakarta bound for Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Island which crashed Monday morning into the sea off Karawang in West Java, about 75 kilometers from Jakarta.
“I just keep praying for a miracle. We keep trying to call her and call out her name in case she replies,” Adhi told journalists at the police hospital in East Jakarta where body parts plucked from the crash site were taken and families of the victims are submitting antemortem data for identification.
Adhi said it was Putri’s first business trip with a beauty products company that she joined a month ago. Her mother, who identified herself as Nuke, said it was Putri’s first flight by herself.
“We always took flights together. I always picked her up from her campus when she was in college. My daughter, she was really beautiful. God had entrusted her to me,” said a visibly shaken Nuke, kissing her daughter’s photo.
Imbalo Sakti remembers her brother-in-law, Capt. Musa Effendi, as a kind-hearted man whom the family members looked up to.
Sakti told Arab News that Effendi, who worked as a portmaster in Muntok port on the western part of Bangka Island, was on his way to a meeting in Pangkal Pinang.
“He had traveled from Medan, North Sumatra, where he had attended a Qur’an recital in his hometown to give thanks for he and his wife’s safe return from the Hajj two months ago,” Sakti said.
Since there was no direct flight from Medan to Pangkal Pinang, which are about 1,000 kilometers apart, he had to fly to Jakarta and take a connecting flight to Pangkal Pinang.
“My daddy has been posted in Bangka Island for two years. He spent the night at a transit hotel in Jakarta’s airport and took the morning flight to Pangkal Pinang,” Effendi’s daughter Dwi Ratna said.
Anugrah Satria, a frequent Lion Air flyer, said he met Alfiani Hidayatul Solikah during his flight and became friends with the 19-year-old flight attendant.
“It was her first job, and it was her wish to become a flight attendant. I met her on one of her first flights as a stewardess on a flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta,” Satria told Arab News. “She was always nice to passengers, and smiled a lot. She never complained about her job,” Satria said.
The pilot of the brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane, which had only 800 flying hours since its initial operation on Aug. 15, was an Indian from New Delhi, Bhavye Suneja.
Media reports said he was a trainee pilot with Emirates before joining Lion Air in March 2011.
The Indian Embassy in Jakarta confirmed the pilot’s nationality in a tweet, saying that that “most unfortunate that Indian Pilot Bhavye Suneja, who was flying JT610, also lost his life ... Embassy is in touch with Crisis Center and coordinating for all assistance.”
A number of Indonesian officials were also on board the flight, with the Finance Ministry having lost 21 officials, of whom 12 were from the tax office, who were commuting back to their post in Pangkal Pinang.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani visited the police hospital and met the grief-stricken families of her staff on Monday night to console them.
The ministry’s head of communications, Nufransa Wira Sakti, said in a statement that they were officials at the ministry’s Pangkal Pinang office.
“They were heading back to their work after spending the weekend attending a ministry event on Oct. 27 and to attend a coordination meeting, while also spending the weekend with their families in Jakarta,” Sakti said.
Also among the victims were three police personnel from Bangka Belitung police, three officials from the oil and gas directorate general of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, 10 staff from the State Audit Agency, six regional lawmakers of Bangka Belitung province, and four employees of the state-mining company, PT Timah.
Following the crash, Australia issued a warning to ban all Australian government officials and contractors from flying Lion Air or their subsidiary airlines, and the decision will be reviewed when the findings of the crash investigation are clear.
As of Tuesday afternoon, search efforts to collect debris from the plane are still under way, with vessels sailing back and forth to Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok port to drop bags containing plane debris and body parts collected from the crash site, while police forensic teams continued sorting out the debris and personal belongings of the passengers on the dock.
The search and rescue agency’s deputy director for operations, Nugroho Budi, said it had sent 13 body bags to the police hospital from Tuesday’s operation and found 52 national identity cards.
“The search and rescue team will expand the search area to a radius of 15 nautical miles from the crash site,” Budi said in a news conference.
Head of medical and health of the national police, Arthur Tampi, said the forensic team had examined 24 body bags and identified 87 body parts.
Tampi added that they had not been able to identify any of the victims as they received only body parts and none of the bodies were intact.
“The bodies have deterioriated and some of the bones were loose. I even saw parts of an infant body in one of the body bags,” Ari Dono, deputy of the national police chief, said after an inspection in the police hospital morgue.


Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

Updated 13 November 2018
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Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

  • Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that belong in the minority
  • Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism

BEIJING: China defended its internment of Muslims in the country’s northwest as a terror prevention measure on Tuesday, calling on the international community to reject “hearsay” and believe its official line.
Up to a million Uighurs and other Chinese Turkic-speaking minority groups have been placed in political re-education camps in the Xinjiang region, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.
After originally denying the existence of the centers, Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism to stay away from terrorism and allow them to be reintegrated into society.
But the program has faced rising criticism outside the country — notably from the United States and human rights groups.
“We hope our journalist friends and our other foreign friends will take into consideration the information and briefings on the situation given by the Chinese authorities,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“Rumours and hearsay should not be believed,” he said standing next to his German counterpart Heiko Maas at a press conference.
“It’s quite clear that the government in Xinjiang knows best what is happening in Xinjiang — not other people and third party organizations.”
Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that conflict with Communist ideology and the dominant Han culture.
Former inmates of the camps say they were detained for having long beards or wearing the veil.
Attacks attributed to Uighurs have left hundreds dead over the last few years in China, many of them in Xinjiang, where Beijing says its concerned about a rise in Islamic radicalism.
The authorities have put in place intrusive measures of security — ubiquitous surveillance cameras, DNA sampling, home visits by officials and GPS trackers in cars.
“We call that a combination of repression and prevention. But we place the priority on prevention. If it’s done well, terrorism won’t expand and take root. It’s the most effective way to combat terrorism,” Wang Yi said.
The German foreign minister did not mention the Xinjiang region at the press conference, but did say he had “spoken on the question of human rights” during his closed meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
A debate on the situation in Xinjiang was held in the German parliament last Thursday.
China’s ambassador to Berlin expressed Beijing’s “profound discontent” and put in an official protest following the “blatant interference” in its “domestic affairs.”