Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Malaysia vows transparency on MH370

Malaysia’s premier has pledged to release a report on flight MH370’s disappearance as passengers’ families protested outside the country’s embassy in Beijing, venting anger at the agonising information vacuum surrounding the plane.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose government has faced wide questioning over its transparency on MH370, promised that a preliminary report submitted to the UN’s aviation body would be released publicly.

“In the name of transparency, we will release the report next week,” he told CNN in an interview aired late on Thursday.

That wasn’t soon enough for dozens of Chinese relatives who held an overnight protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, according to a spokesman for relatives.

Many family members, especially those in China – two-thirds of the 239 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane were Chinese – have for weeks bitterly accused Malaysia of a secretive and incompetent MH370 response.

Tensions boiled over at a briefing on Thursday at a hotel where relatives are staying, after airline representatives said a Malaysian embassy official would not arrive to answer their often extremely combative questions.

“We want somebody from the embassy to come out and tell us why they didn’t come,” said relative Steven Wang.

He said about 100 people had waited outside the mission overnight.

Police fanned out around the embassy Friday morning.

Dozens of relatives had staged a noisy protest last month at the embassy – apparently sanctioned by Chinese authorities, who cleared streets for their approach – decrying Malaysian authorities and the national airline as “murderers”.

The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is now believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, where an Australian-led search is under way.

But a difficult underwater search of the suspected crash site, using an unmanned mini-submarine equipped with a sonar device, was nearing completion with no trace of the plane.

“Bluefin-21 has now completed approximately 95 per cent of the focused underwater search area. No contacts of interest have been found to date,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, based in Perth, said in a statement.

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requires countries to submit within 30 days a factual account of what is known so far in any air crash.

A Malaysian official had said Wednesday it was uncertain whether the government would release the report.

But Mr Najib confirmed Malaysia would release it publicly after an “internal investigation team” examined it.

Asked on CNN whether that indicated it contained embarrassing revelations, Mr Najib replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

Anthony Brickhouse, a member of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, said the report was unlikely to contain anything startling.

“This preliminary report is really just a run-down of what you know so far. And in this case, not much is known anyway,” he said.

Malaysia has pledged that any data eventually recovered from the plane’s “black box” will be publicly released.

It has said it is assembling what officials insist will be an independent international team operating under ICAO guidelines to conduct a comprehensive probe.

Australian and Malaysia authorities are mulling what to do next in the ocean search if the Bluefin-21 fails to find wreckage.

But they insist the search – estimated to have cost at least $100 million and counting – will go on, possibly using other assets including more powerful sonar devices.

Mr Najib stressed that his government was not yet prepared to declare MH370’s passengers dead, while saying, “it is hard to imagine otherwise”.

Force expect Sth African rugby onslaught

The Western Force are aiming to snap out of their recent funk against South African teams in their bid to land a dream Super Rugby finals berth this season.

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The Force are sitting pretty in fifth spot following five wins from their opening eight games, but the Perth-based franchise are yet to be tested by any South African opposition.

That will change over the next month when the Force take on the Bulls (Perth), Cheetahs (Bloemfontein), Stormers (Cape Town) and Lions (Perth) in what shapes as a season-defining period.

The Force have lost seven of their past eight games against South African opposition, and coach Michael Foley knows his charges will need to turn that record around if they are to stay in the hunt for a top-six berth.

South African sides are renowned for their strong scrummaging work – an area the Force were badly exposed in during last week’s 22-16 loss to the Melbourne Rebels.

Foley said his team also needed to improve their lineout if they were to come away with a positive record over the next four games.

“For us, having the four South African sides means we have to meet some of those challenges over the next four weeks if we’re to have a successful year,” Foley said ahead of Saturday night’s clash with the Bulls at nib Stadium.

“Every season you go into, you think about the ultimate goal, which would be to win (the title) or make the finals.

“But there’s a lot of things we’ve got to achieve before we get to that point.”

The ninth-placed Bulls appear ripe for the picking following three straight defeats on their Australasian tour and the loss of a host of key players.

But Foley remained wary of a side captained by legendary Springbok Victor Matfield.

The Force welcome back fullback Jayden Hayward and lock Sam Wykes, but winger Luke Morahan (hamstring) and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson (ankle) remain grounded by injury.

Although the Bulls love to scrum and maul, Foley has also warned his team to expect lots of high balls.

“Bjorn Basson as a winger sets the benchmark for the tournament in terms of coming through and contesting that ball,” Foley said.

“It’s ok to say ‘we’ve got to catch them’.

“But there needs to be a response from the whole team to get behind that ball and then play out of that situation.”

Royals say cheerio to Australia

It was as though Prince George didn’t want to leave Australia.

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The baby prince let out a last-minute wail just before his parents, Prince William and his wife Catherine, were about to embark on their long journey home to London.

With a royal wave and beaming smiles, the young royal family said goodbye at Canberra airport on Friday afternoon.

The royal couple formally thanked the police guard surrounding their motorcade, before being farewelled by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lynne, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

George frowned as he looked over his mother’s shoulder at what he was about to leave, and made his feelings known: he furrowed his eyebrows and let out a wail.

Spectators cheered and waved as the royal couple’s plane took off.

Nicolette Ellis brought her four children to see the young family off.

“I hope to see them back again. They’ve definitely brought some life back into the royals,” Ms Ellis told AAP.

Her father Ross Brown – who has seen his share of royal tours – gave this one his stamp of approval.

He said it was refreshing to see a younger royal couple Down Under, because they were much more open than previous counterparts.

“Will and Kate are so normal. They really got out amongst the people.”

The royal couple spent their final day in Australia commemorating Anzac Day in the national capital.

They made a surprise appearance at the dawn service, laid floral wreaths at Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, and at the Australian War Memorial planted a seedling cultivated from seeds collected following the Battle of Lone Pine.

It capped off a successful 10-day national tour that took them to the Northern Territory, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.

Theirs was a visit focused on meeting the young of their generation, who they may one day rule as monarchs: mixing beats with Adelaide DJs, playing with kids at Canberra’s National Arboretum, and meeting young guns like sailor Jessica Watson and sports star Ellyse Perry.

It was also about acknowledging the past: respecting the traditional owners of the land with a welcome to country in the NT, paying homage to Charles and Diana with a sunset stroll at Uluru, and becoming the first royal couple to attend Anzac Day services in Canberra in 50 years.

They came to meet a populace still tossing up the concept of a republic.

They saw parts of the country.

And they left, charming a nation.

New generation embraces Anzac spirit

Among the rain-sodden crowd at the Sydney Anzac Day march, a woman in a yellow raincoat held a hand-written sign for the passing diggers.

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“We love our freedom,” it read.

Beside her a man held another sign that added: “Thank you”.

Ninety-nine years on from the terrible Gallipoli landings, Anzac Day is being embraced by new generations of Australians, resulting in huge turnouts at ceremonies across the country and overseas.

And as older diggers fade from the ranks of marchers, younger servicemen and women are taking their place.

Iraq veteran Benjamin Lesley Gillman was among the many veterans of recent conflicts encouraged to march at the front of the Sydney march.

“What I just did then is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” the 29-year-old said.

Rodrick Stewart, a 78-year-old Vietnam veteran, was watching the march and was heartened by the growing crowds attending Anzac events.

“It’s very encouraging,” he said.

“You think you actually did some good.”

Across the nation and in places of significance around the world people stopped on Anzac Day to remember extraordinary sacrifices made by brave young Australians and their allies nearly 100 years ago.

At Gallipoli in Turkey, a smaller than expected crowd of 4400 mostly Australian and New Zealand pilgrims gathered to mark the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, a year before 10,500 will squeeze on to the site for the centenary.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson told the quiet, reverential gathering that those soldiers who landed at Anzac Cove 99 years ago were, by their own admission, ordinary men.

“They did not seek glory, nor did they want their actions to be glorified,” he said.

“That these ordinary men, however, did extraordinary things is beyond doubt.”

In France, on the World War I Western Front battleground at Villers-Bretonneux, a crowd of 4500 Australians, Kiwis and French locals watched the dawn service.

London-based Australians Jessica Farlow, 23, Jess Rainsford, 19, and Tom Mills, 24, were among those honouring the Anzac tradition.

“It’s sort of like a rite of passage for people of our generation,” Ms Farlow said.

In Thailand, at the jungle site of the World War II Death Railway, 1200 people, including three Australian former prisoners of war, now in their 90s, marked Anzac Day.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were surprise arrivals among the 37,000 people who attended the Canberra dawn service at the Australian War Memorial.

Prince William and Kate were also present for the national Anzac Day ceremony later in the morning, planting a pine sapling grown from seeds gathered at Gallipoli.

Later generations of war dead were honoured as well: in Hobart, a photo of Victoria Cross recipient Cameron Baird, killed in Afghanistan last year, adorned the official Anzac Day program and a permanent memorial to Cpl Baird is planned in his Tasmanian home town of Burnie.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the looming Anzac centenary should give Australians fresh cause to ponder the example set by their forebears.

World War I had a profound impact on Australia, with 417,000 Australians enlisted.

Of those, 62,000 never came home while a further 152,000 were wounded.

“We should be a nation of memory, not just of memorials, for these are our foundation stories,” Mr Abbott said in a speech.

Norma Holmes, 75, came to watch her relative, World War II veteran Keith Roberts, in the Sydney march.

Big public turnouts for Anzac Day were not always the case, Ms Holmes said.

“When I was growing up, it wasn’t mentioned,” she said.

In the crowd beside her, Kate Cohen was attending her first Anzac Day.

“I felt a connection with it and wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Record crowds at Anzac Day services

Tens of thousands of people have turned out at Anzac Day services across the nation, honouring Australian men and women who have fought and died in war.

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Crowds have reached record proportions with the centenary of the famous and disastrous Gallipoli landing just one year away.

(Transcript from World News Radio)

It’s 99 years since the First World War events that sparked the great Anzac legend on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey.

Unprecedented numbers of Australians have gathered around the nation, pledging to never forget the sacrifices of their forebears.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

At one Anzac Day service in Canberra, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sombrely reminded Australians of the horrors of war.

“Our commemorations today, as throughout the centenary, do not and will not glorify war. Rather, they honour what’s best and noblest in human nature. Australian soldiers have been called upon to do the terrible deeds that war requires, but have remained decent people. Mateship, humour and respect for an honourable foe, as well an implacable will to win have characterised the Australian soldier from that day to this.”

At the frosty dawn service at the Australian War Memorial, Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Ben Roberts Smith also honoured those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in more recent years.

He’s described the 40 Australians who died in Afghanistan as men who, like the first Anzacs, cared more about freedom and the Australian way of life than their own suffering and loss.

“Everything we understand to be the Anzac spirit is what these people dig deep and long for every day. Courage, stoicism, humour, laughter, warmth, generosity and a determination never to give in or be a burden on others. The Anzac spirit and the values it demonstrates remain our common bedrock, creed and source of hope and confidence through difficult and uncertain times in our world and our communities.”

Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison marked Anzac Day with Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland’s far north.

Lietenant-General Morrison told the ABC the sacrifices of Indigenous Australians in wartime have been enormous.

“Aboriginal men and women have served in the armed services of the country for over a hundred years. Of course for a large part of that time they returned from their service and weren’t bestowed the dignity we would want to enjoy as citizens which made their commitment and their sacrifice all the more noteworthy. And it’s just great to be able to be up here.”

And in a sign that Anzac Day is relevant to Australia’s increasingly multicultural society, thousands of new Australians have turned out for services across the country.

13 year old Jamilla’s family is originally from Lebanon.

They travelled from Sydney to Canberra to honour the sacrifices made for their adopted country.

“Well, we’ll show like respect of they fought for our country and if they didn’t do that here there would be a war.”

Sridevi’s family migrated from India over a decade ago and says the story of Anzac has become part of her story.

“My brother is marching. He’s part of the Australian Defence finance section. So he’s working there so we are here to support him. There are many of his colleagues from very different backgrounds so he finds it very multicultural and nice to fit in.”

On the final day of their Australian tour, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended two Anzac ceremonies in Canberra, arriving at the first service unannounced and under the cover of darkness.

The second-in-line to the throne is a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.