'This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia.' The Malaysian Prime Minister's words summed up his country's mood to the news of another downed Malaysia Airlines flight. Of the 298 victims, 43 were Malaysian nationals, including 15 crew and 2 infants, according to the airline. The nationalities of 41 passengers remained unverified at the time of writing. 'The flight's passengers were from many nations but we are all united in grief' said Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Coming so soon after the MH370 disappearance, this tragedy has shocked Malaysia. The Malaysian Minister of Defence had earlier taken to Twitter to condemn the apparent attack.
As more information comes to light, Malaysia will move from grief to anger. The Malaysia ‘brand' has been devastated by these two tragedies of its state-controlled airline (which wears the national colours) and this will impact on the national psyche. The public will demand that its government, already reeling from the March MH370 disaster, react strongly and swiftly to the downing of MH17. The muscular Twitter comments by the Minister of Defence has already paved the way for Malaysia to demand the international community act against the perpetrators of the attack. After strong condemnation for its sluggish response to the MH370 disappearance, Prime Minister Najib's government will seek to reassert itself and demand a strong and united response to the tragedy.
The state-controlled airline will face media scrutiny about its decision to fly over the war-torn area, which some airlines had decided to avoid in recent months. Malaysian Airlines took to Twitter to say that the flight route was 'declared safe and unrestricted by ICAO and IATA', the bodies charged with monitoring international airspace.
For Malaysia Airlines, this could be a knockout blow. Already reeling from the MH370 tragedy, the airline posted a loss of 443 million ringgit (A$148 million) in the first quarter of 2014 and its shares have lost over 25% of their value in the first half of the year. Some 30,000 bookings had been cancelled or delayed as of April in response to the disappearance of MH370.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted in an address to parliament that 'this looks less like an accident than a crime'. Indeed, this should be a watershed moment for new curbs on the movement and security of military grade weaponry. Pressure will be on China and Russia as permanent members of the UN Security Council to support UN resolutions to stop military weaponry getting into the hands of non-state actors. This should include greater movement toward full participation and implementation of the 2003 Wassenaar Agreement (in which Russia is a participant, but China — and Malaysia — are not), an agreement that promotes transparency and greater responsibility for transfers of conventional arms, including missiles.