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Malaysians await arrival of 20 compatriots killed in MH17 tragedy

A nation of 30 million people is welcoming home 20 of their compatriots who perished in a plane crash in eastern Ukraine, marking the sad occasion with a nationwide day of mourning on Friday (Aug 22).

KUALA LUMPUR: A nation of 30 million people is welcoming home 20 of their compatriots who perished in a plane crash in eastern Ukraine, marking the sad occasion with a nationwide day of mourning on Friday (Aug 22).

The eyes of the world will focus on the VVIP Bunga Raya Complex at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, where the remains of the Malaysian nationals are scheduled to arrive at about 9.45am aboard a special aircraft from Amsterdam. 

Malaysians wake up this morning to the Jalur Gemilang - the national flag - being hoisted at half-mast as they prepare to observe the one minute of silence later to honour the victims of the crash, which killed altogether 298 people including 43 Malaysians aboard the ill-fated jetliner on July 17. 

What must have been an agonising wait for the next-of-kin of the 20 victims is about to come to an end with the scheduled arrival of their remains, 37 days after the downing of the civilian Boeing 777 that shocked the world. 

What's in store is the nation's first ever ceremonial military honours bestowed on civilians encapsulated in a simple yet dignified ceremony at the Bunga Raya Complex, which is normally reserved for the arrival and departure of kings and queens and heads of government. Malaysia's King Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and the Queen Tuanku Hajah Haminah as well as Prime Minister Najib Razak and wife Rosmah Mansor will be among the dignitaries present at the complex located adjacent to the KLIA main terminal building. 

A total of 300 military personnel from the 12th Infantry Brigade will be on duty to ensure the remains are treated with utmost respect and dignity. Notwithstanding a live telecast on the proceedings at the complex over local television channels, people began to converge outside the premises as early as 7am to witness for themselves the historic but sad occasion. 

To date, 30 Malaysian victims of the plane crash have been identified, but only 20 are being repatriated after completing stringent procedures before being released to Malaysian authorities. Arrangements are being made to transfer the remains in 17 casket and three urns bearing the ash of cremated remains to their hometowns and eventual final resting place in various locations such as Muar, Segamat, Putrajaya, Ipoh, Taiping and Gombak. 

Military planes and helicopters have been put on stand by to transport several remains to their respective destinations, including as far away as Kuching.  

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