|Mourners look at a sea of flowers outside Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on Monday in memory of the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight. (Reuters)
The Hague, July 21 (AP): The families and friends of Dutch citizens blown out of the sky above Ukraine poured out their grief and anger today at a meeting with their monarch and political leaders.
“This terrible disaster has left a deep wound in our society,” a sombre King Willem-Alexander said after meeting the next of kin at a private meeting. “The scar will be visible and tangible for years to come.”
The Dutch have widely condemned the way the bodies of the victims have been treated in Ukraine and the fact they have not yet been returned home, four days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killed 298 passengers and crew, including 193 Dutch citizens.
In an unusual move that underscored the severity of the national trauma, the king gave a brief televised address to the country after meeting hundreds of grieving relatives and friends of the dead near the central city of Utrecht.
“Many people said to us, ‘We at least want to take dignified leave of our loved ones,’” he said. “We understand their frustration and their pain. And we share their heartfelt wish for clarity on the cause of this disaster.”
Speaking after the same meeting, Prime Minister Mark Rutte also acknowledged the nation’s discontent.
“All of the Netherlands feels their anger,” Rutte said. “All of the Netherlands feels their deep grief. All of the Netherlands is standing with the next of kin.”
Victor Jammers, policy director of the organisation Victim Support Netherlands, also was in the meeting. He said relatives also were angry at being kept in the dark.
“The people I spoke to direct their anger of course to the Ukraine and to Russia, to give you an example, but there is also anger towards the Dutch government, because relatives wanted more information than they got in the past days,” he said.
One of the questions many are asking is: Will the perpetrators face justice?
Prosecutors in the Netherlands said they have begun a criminal investigation, though it remains unclear exactly where any suspects might face a court, if they can be tracked down.
One relative who said she was going to the meeting was Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died on their way to a vacation in Bali.
She expressed disbelief yesterday at how the bodies have been treated. “Bodies are just lying there for three days in the hot sun,” she said. “There are people who have this on their conscience. There are families who can never hold the body of a child or a mother.”
Before meeting the next of kin, Rutte briefed lawmakers who had hurried back from their summer recess. He told them that getting the bodies home as soon as possible was his government’s top priority. He said a Dutch military transport plane is ready to repatriate the remains.
Right-wing lawmaker Louis Bontes urged the government to send special Dutch forces to secure the crash site.