Tearful relatives of Indonesia jet crash victims demand answers

Relatives weep during the funeral of a victim of a Lion Air plane crash, in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Tearful relatives of Indonesia jet crash victims demand answers

  • At a news conference charged with emotion, relatives addressed questions to Indonesian officials
  • As of Monday, 138 body bags containing human remains had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified

JAKARTA: Relatives of the victims of an Indonesian jet that crashed into the sea off Jakarta this week killing all 189 on board demanded answers on Monday as to why the plane had been passed fit to fly and called for no let up in the search for loved ones.
Indonesian authorities on Sunday extended by three days the search for victims and a second black box recorder from wreckage of a nearly new Boeing Co. 737 MAX that slammed into the sea a week ago only minutes after it took off from Jakarta.
At a news conference charged with emotion, relatives addressed questions to Indonesian officials including transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi and the head of the country’s transportation safety committee (KNKT).
“We are the victims here. Imagine if you were in our position,” said Najib Fuquoni, a relative of a victim, demanding an independent investigation into the crash.
Muhammad Bambang Sukandar, the father of another victim, said Lion Air technicians needed to take “full responsibility” if it was proved they had not properly attended to technical issues following the jet’s previous flight from Bali to Jakarta.
“This is not an unimportant thing. These are people’s lives,” he said, as he sought to choke back tears.
“Don’t let something like this keep happening in Indonesia,” he added. Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record has been patchy. Its transport safety panel investigated 137 serious aviation incidents from 2012 to 2017.
At one stage during Monday’s news conference, relatives urged Lion Air founder Rusdi Kirana, who was in the audience, to stand up. He stood up, but did not comment and clasped his hands together as if seeking forgiveness.
The privately owned budget carrier was founded in 1999. Its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents and it has been placed under tougher international safety restrictions than other Indonesian airlines.
While victims’ relatives are desperate to know what happened, the first crash of a Boeing 737 MAX is also the focus of scrutiny by the global aviation industry.
“As an initial step we conducted ramp checks for 11 Boeing 737 Max 8,” said transport minister Sumadi, adding that authorities were also conducting a special audit to include operating procedures and crew qualifications.
The search effort has involved 151 divers, five helicopters, 61 ships, ranging from fishing boats to ships with advanced sonar scanners, as well as underwater drones.
An Indonesian rescue diver died during the search for a second black box, parts of the plane, and human remains on the muddy seabed.
The head of KNKT Surjanto Tjahjono has said 69 hours of recorded data from 19 flights, including the one that crashed, had been downloaded successfully from a partly damaged flight data recorder recovered on Thursday.
As of Monday, 138 body bags containing human remains had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified.
Among the larger parts of the plane found have been a mangled engine and a damaged aircraft wheel.
Tjahjono said based on initial analysis the “engine was running with fairly high speed” when it hit the water. While there were no signs of an explosion in the air, the plane appeared to have hit the water with huge force, he said. “When the plane hit the water, the energy released was extraordinarily large.”


Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

Updated 19 July 2019
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Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

  • Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds
  • Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 13 days, a day after he was arrested in a case involving a multibillion-rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract to Qatar.
Abbasi, who is also the vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) party, was presented before Judge Bashir Ahmed of an accountability court on Friday morning. The case has been adjourned until Aug. 1.
Speaking to journalists before his appearance at the court, Abbasi called his arrest “an attack on democracy.”
Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of LNG that the agency says caused a loss of about $2 billion to the national exchequer. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a “favored” company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
PML-N Sen. Mushahid Ullah Khan said Pakistan was facing “the worst energy crisis of its kind” when his party came to power after the 2013 general election, and the LNG deal was quickly finalized with Qatar to overcome it.
“The industry was shutting down with thousands of people getting unemployed, but this LNG supply helped us reverse the tide,” he told Arab News.
Khan said Pakistan’s LNG contract with Qatar was “the cheapest possible deal” the country could have gotten, and rubbished allegations of corruption and kickbacks.
“If there is something wrong in the contract, why is this government not reviewing it?” Khan asked.
Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar under a 15-year agreement at 13.37 percent of Brent crude price. It is a government-to-government agreement and the price can only be reviewed after 10 years of the contract.
“It is the worst example of political victimization by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government,” PML-N Chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said on Friday after the accountability court remanded Abbasi in NAB custody. “Shahid Khaqan served the nation with dignity and did not commit any wrongdoings,” Haq added.
Abbasi was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.
He served as federal minister for petroleum in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. Abbasi then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017.
On Thursday, Pakistan opened technical bids of four international companies for the supply of 400 million cubic feet per day of LNG for a period of 10 years to fulfil the country’s rising energy requirements.
Officials told Arab News that a Qatari delegation, led by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in June, resented that Islamabad had ignored its lowest offer of 11.05 percent of Brent for the fresh deal, and instead floated tenders seeking provision of LNG for 10 years from international companies.
The secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy said: “Yes, this is true. Qatar expressed its annoyance, but we are following our rules. Qatar has not submitted its bid to participate in the process.”
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he describes as a venal political elite, and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The NAB’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan, and its focus on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations of a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.
Commenting on Abbasi’s case, former NAB prosecutor Munir Sadiq said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against Abbasi in an accountability court for prosecution, but only if it found irrefutable evidence against him.
“This case is now at the evidence-collection stage, and the NAB will file a reference in the court if it finds irrefutable corruption evidence against Abbasi during the investigation,” Sadiq said.
He added that any inquiry against Abbasi would be shelved after 90 days if corroborating evidence of corruption was not found.
“If a weak case will be filed against the accused, then he will surely receive support from the court,” Sadiq said.