Our beloved country Malaysia will be celebrating its 64th Merdeka Day, which is just around the corner. Let us express our deepest love and appreciation to the Unsung Heroes who fought for Malaysian independence, truth and justice.
Even the world is stricken by the Covid-19 pandemic but Malaysia is still committed to seeking justice for the victims of the MH17 tragedy. July 17, 2021, marked the seventh anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which had killed a total of 283 passengers and 15 crew members. MH17 was on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
The dreadful incident is still fresh in our memory and, undeniably, it has brought great sorrow and suffering for the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew who were on board.
Three days after the senseless tragedy, a Malaysian team known as the ‘Dozen Persons’ was given the trust to execute an important mission for the sake of the country. The main aim was to release the victims’ remains and the cockpit voice recorder and flight recorder (black boxes) and provide access to the crash site for the air-crash investigations.
The journey to the region was a risky experience with no firearms but just some cash, food and medication purposely to accomplish the covert operation. The perils of facing separatists, language communication barrier, travel distance and the need to fast for 18 hours were the main obstacles in making the negotiations a success.
Major Dr Mohd Zainizam Zainal, one of the Dozen Persons, was the interpreter in this special operation. He was responsible for transferring the thoughts in a written format and the ideas involved during the negotiation process from one language to another. Even though he is a medical doctor in the Malaysia Armed Forces (MAF), indeed his prime role was to ensure that the basic meaning that requires to be conveyed should be communicated in an effective manner. Better communication will result in better negotiation.
Zainizam said negotiation is an effective discussion at reaching an agreement while communication is an art to be mastered depending on how you speak. One has to very sensibly convert the thoughts into speech by carefully selecting significant words for others to understand well.
“Ukrainian is one of the most difficult languages to learn and this amazing language requires hard work, determination and high motivation in order to understand it accurately. But I am very blessed and grateful for the opportunity I had as learning another language is an investment for the future and, unexpectedly, to serve the nation,” said Zainizam.
During negotiation, it is crucial to understand the power of language communication. The way we present our thoughts matters the most as we must speak clearly. Our thoughts and ideas must be expressed clearly for others to understand well.
“It was a risky talk with the separatist leader Alexander Borodai as he was reluctant to speak (any language) other than Ukrainian and we had to go through many stages of negotiations. Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), we made it when the negotiations were successfully resolved within 24 hours without any conditions made by the Donetsk Separatist Group (DSG) leader,” said Zainizam.
The Dozen Persons completed the challenging mission of entering Ukraine to retrieve the bodies and flight recorders even though their lives were on the line. These Unsung Heroes, who devoted their lives for the country no matter what it takes, will always be appreciated and remembered.
Undoubtedly, without understanding another language this critical mission will have been unaccomplished.
The Dozen Persons:
1. Colonel Mohd Sakri Hussin (Chief Negotiator – National Security Council (MKN))
2. Brigadier General Datuk Dr Mohd Ilham Haron (Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) – Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF))
3. Dato Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood (DVI – Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL))
4. Colonel Dr Mohd Hafizi Abdullah (Emergency Physician - MAF)
5. Major Dr Mohd Zainizam Zainal (Medical Officer / Interpreter - MAF)
6. Lieutenant Colonel (Ustaz) Nazri Musman (Religious Corps Directorate (KAGAT) - MAF)
7. Major Muhammad Mustafa Omar (PASKAU – Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF))
8. Inspector Abd Rahim Abd Aziz (SMART)
9. Sergeant Shahrizal Abu Bakar (PASKAU - RMAF)
10. Corporal Rosli Mustafa (PASKAU - RMAF)
11. Leading Aircraftman Mohd Afendy Ahmad Zaini (PASKAU – RMAF)
12. Rosli Shaari (Government Integrated Radio Network (GIRN) Communication Expert)
Major Dr. Mohd Zainizam Zainal (front row, left) the Interpreter of MH17 tragedy mission.
Alexander Borodai (right) watches keenly as the black box is handed over to one of the Dozen Persons.
Meizareena Mizad is a language teacher at the Centre for Language Studies, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM).