CANBERRA, Australia – Relatives of passengers and crew aboard the missing Malaysian airliner plan to present the Malaysian transport minister in Australia with letters urging that the search resume.
Sheryl Keen, a supporter of the international victims’ advocacy group Voice370, said Sunday she plans to personally hand to Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai dozens of letters from relatives when Liow meets this week in the west coast city of Perth with his Australian counterpart Darren Chester.
Last week, Malaysia, Australia and China announced that the deep sea search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had been suspended, perhaps forever, after a sonar scan of 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean west of Australia failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board after flying far off course during a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.
Keen, who chairs her own support organization Aircrash Support Group of Australia, said she had yet to hear from the Malaysian Consulate in Perth whether she would be allowed a one-minute meeting with Liow on Sunday or Monday.
“The general content is urging him to continue the search,” Keen said. “I do believe some of them are quite heartfelt and others are quite brief.”
Chester said he would hold an informal meeting with Liow on Sunday. Both ministers will welcome the final search ship Fugro Equator when it returns from the abandoned search area to Perth’s port at Fremantle on Monday.
“We will both be in Perth tomorrow to thank the crew of the Fugro Equator for their search efforts in trying conditions,” Chester said in a statement.
Voice370 wants the ministers to use the meeting to reconsider the suspension of the search.
“A quick decision to extend the search would avoid the immediate demobilization of the equipment on board the search vessel, Fugro Equator, and additional costs at a later date for mobilization of vessels,” Voice370 said in a statement.
But Chester said the decision to suspend the search “was not taken lightly.”
“I understand the disappointment and frustration felt by the families,” he said. “Not knowing the final resting place of their loved ones only adds to the tragedy of the situation.”
Voice370 has launched an online petition to increase public pressure on the governments to continue the search.
Because the airliner was registered in Malaysia, the Malaysian government has a final say on the search’s future. Australia, Malaysia and China agree they won’t relaunch the search until they have credible evidence pointing to the plane’s exact location.
Malaysia has offered a reward to any private company that found the plane’s fuselage. The government has not put a figure on that reward.
Keen described that offer as “free-for-all treasure hunt.”