Why Malaysia? Why us? Three inconceivable incidents in three years have caused our nation to hog headlines around the world as bewildered Malaysians ask themselves mystifying questions.
First, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which was followed by the missile attack on Flight MH17, and lately, the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Malaysians don’t go looking for trouble but trouble, in its bizarre or sinister form, came looking for Malaysians.
It is estimated that between 8,000 and 13,000 planes are in the air at any given time worldwide. That’s about 93,000 daily flights from 9,000 airports.
Of these staggering aviation numbers, the unthinkable happened to only one flight. On March 8, 2014, MH370, with 239 people on board, flew north, made a U-turn and never returned.
The world has never seen anything like this before — the vanishing of a huge modern jetliner. Why Malaysia?
Of the 161 commercial planes flying over eastern Ukraine at about that time on July 17, 2014, it happened to only MH17. Any of the other 160 planes could have been the victim, but the heat-seeking Buk missile, fired by cold blooded men, brought down the Boeing 777, killing 298 people. Why Malaysia?
And, of all the places that the assassins chose to strike, it was Kuala Lumpur instead of Macau or Singapore or other cities where Jong-nam was known to have also lived. Why Malaysia?
Malaysians, so used to watching Korean dramas on TV, found themselves caught in a mind-boggling Korean reality drama, The Murder of Kim Jong-nam.
As the body of the half-brother of North Korea’s supreme leader lies in the Hospital Kuala Lumpur mortuary, the good relationship between Malaysia and North Korea, which began in 1973, turned bad.
Tom Clancy, the author of The Hunt for Red October, who is also an expert in military hardware, famed espionage novelist John le Carré and acclaimed thriller writer Frederick Forsyth would be held spellbound by all these episodes.
We usually say countries which suffer natural disasters, like earthquakes, or man-made tragedies, like wars, are the unluckiest.
But, what happened to Malaysia was misfortune of another kind, sheer bad luck, which no other country has ever experienced.
Metaphysical cause and effect aside, we keep wondering and we keep asking questions with no answers forthcoming.
Some of us resignedly link it to the irony of fate. Fate, in its wicked way, had the alleged killer wearing a T-shirt with the LOL (laugh out loud) acronym emblazoned on her T-shirt when Jong-nam was attacked. Inevitably, the “Laughing Assassin” headlines followed.
And, fate had it that Malaysia’s football team was drawn to play North Korea in the Asian Cup in Pyongyang not long after Jong-nam’s murder. Understandably, the match in the North Korean capital on March 28 was called off.
It is rare that Malaysia meets North Korea in a football match. But, some cynical fans felt that the national team might as well not go to Pyongyang because there was “no chance of winning”. The last time Malaysia played North Korea, in an Asian Cup match in Bangkok 16 years ago, Malaysia lost 4-1.
It is fathomable that the two alleged femmes fatales charged with Jong-nam’s murder were recruited from Vietnam and Indonesia when Malaysia, a land of peace and prosperity, has been a magnet for foreign workers and economic migrants. That includes several hundred Koreans from the Hermit Kingdom.
In a sense, Malaysia has found itself a “happening place” for world news. But for now we just want some peace and quiet. No news is good news for Malaysians, really.
Chan Wai Kong is NST deputy sports
editor. Chan sees life differently after waking up from a coma following a car accident in Vancouver.