Grace Nathan put on a brave smile and a firm handshake but the look in her eyes belied the pain and anguish that she has lived with for the past two years.
Grace, a lawyer in her late 20s, clearly remembered how she instinctively dialled the number of her mother’s mobile phone upon learning she had passed her bar exams in late 2014.
The phone did not ring. She burst into tears as she remembered that her mother, Anne Daisy, was among 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared without a trace on March 8, 2014 about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
“I thought the pain would just go away in time but it just lingers and continues to eat us up,” she told dpa.
“It’s been like a roller coaster, up and down, up and down, but it never really goes away,” she said, her voice at times cracking with emotion. “It is impossible to move on because we don’t know what happened, so there’s nothing to accept.”
Grace, who leads an annual commemoration for the disappeared aircraft, said there was less participation this year, compared to last year when there was greater enthusiasm to keep alive the memories of MH370.
“Everybody is feeling that they are becoming more and more dead inside,” she said. “It’s all like, oh my God, why is this still happening?”
Grace admitted the stress and emotional swings she has been through during the last two years have taken their toll on her.
She said that on several occasions, she could not find her way to her office, where she has been working for more than a year.
“I had to check my phone to find my office address. I forgot what floor I work on. It’s ridiculous. It’s not even a big building,” she said.
Adding to the misery of the MH370 kin is the concern that the government will soon stop searching for the missing plane, believed to have crashed in a remote part of the Southern Indian Ocean.
Voice MH370, an organization of relatives of those aboard the missing aircraft, urged the international search team to press on until the plane is found.
“It appears that the concerned parties – Malaysia, Australia and China – are preparing to bring the curtains down on the search for MH370,” the group said in a statement released on March 2.
“Voice MH370 urges authorities to press on and search on the current search area. We believe that they should not throw in the towel, close this case and simply chalk it up as an unsolvable mystery,” it added.
The upcoming deadline for the filing of compensation claims is another concern that the relatives of passengers have to deal with.
Under the International Civil Aviation Organization Montreal Convention, passengers can only file compensation claims within two years of the incident.
In the case of MH370, that will only be by March 8 this year, according to Arunan Selvaraj, lead counsel of Rusmah Arunan and Associates, the law firm that handles two of three civil suits filed in Malaysian courts related to the disappeared aircraft.
Arunan said he received queries from foreign lawyers about the possibility of filing cases in Malaysia on behalf of their clients, but he declined because it was already very close to the deadline and there is a law in Malaysia that relatives have to seek consent from Malaysia Airlines before they can sue it.
“I find it silly and absurd. Basically you are trying to tell someone, if you are going to sue someone you have to get his permission,” Arunan told dpa, adding that queries about the rationale for such a law have remained unanswered by the relevant authorities.
Arunan said he advised foreign clients to file their cases in their home countries, beyond the reach of Malaysian law.
The veteran lawyer said that based on discussions with relatives of MH370 passengers, their main motivation in filing law suits is not so much the money.
“What they actually want more is the truth,” he said. “They want to know what actually transpired.”
Malaysia Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said an international investigating team was to release an interim statement on MH370 on the second anniversary of the plane’s disappearance.
“The purpose of setting up this investigative team is to determine the cause of the accident, so I think the interim report will definitely look into this effect,” he said in a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur.
But Liow did not say if the report will provide new details and insights related to the jet’s disappearance.