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Families of MH17 victims face long wait

After days of expressing hope that the bodies of those on board MH17 would be sent back to Malaysia before the Eid celebration on Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has warned that the painstaking process of identifying the victims could take weeks, or even months.

KUALA LUMPUR: In the Sikh religion, prayers for the dead are usually held after the body has been cremated - but with no time-frame of when MH17 crash victim Karamjit Singh's remains will be sent home, his family has arranged for a high priest (Sahib) to be brought in to pray for his soul and bring peace to his family.

Manjit Singh, the victim's brother in law, said: "It has been very emotional, the last few days. We just cannot accept the fact that this thing has to happen to us. Since we cannot wait for his body, we pray that his soul will be accepted hereafter and to have peace in this house. No more crying."

The victim's wife, Harbinder Kaur, has been having sleepless nights, haunted by her husband's tragic passing. Married for almost 30 years, the couple have two children. Spent and totally gutted, she said her biggest regret was not being able to say goodbye.

Attempting to seek justice for Karamjit's death, Karamjit Singh's son Amarpal and his family went to see Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier this week. Amarpal said: "You see, I've asked the prime minister, 'what do you call this incident? Is it an accident or is it an act of murder?' None of them could provide me that answer. But I think my dad was murdered."

Mr Najib had tried to ask for the return of the bodies before the Muslim holiday of Aidil Fitri on Monday. But with forensic work only just beginning in the Netherlands, that prospect is looking increasingly unlikely.

Mr Najib said: "We cannot avoid a very painstaking process. This is both a technical requirement and a legal requirement. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the bodies can be brought back in time for Raya." Mr Najib added that the process may take weeks, or even months.

But some families remain hopeful of quick identification of their loved ones. Shahaday and his sister Endang believe their aunt Siti Amirah, who is also the step-grandmother of Prime Minister Najib Razak, can be easily identified because of her titanium knee replacement.

"Bring anything that we can bury," said Endang.

But for them, and many other Malaysians, this Hari Raya holiday will not be the same. The government has cancelled all "open house" celebrations as the nation mourns and awaits the return of all 44 Malaysian victims of the MH17 crash.

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