Letters: 3rd August 2014

The power of prayer

Believers worldwide have been praying for millennia speciously convinced, despite the glaring evidence to the contrary and thanks mainly to organised priesthood systems, that praying served a useful purpose whether they were invoking the generosity of Zeus, the might of Jehovah or the bounty of Buddha; to name just three out of the seemingly interminable list of celestial stalwarts who are supposed to be perpetually in attendance upon the entire human race and its never ending demands, exhortations and cries of despair.

Belief in prayer means automatically belief in the supernatural, which is analogous to belief in witches and wizards, gnomes and goblins, leprechauns and what have you. When priests from primitive times came up with the concept of praying, that was later copied by every subsequent religion, they were preying on a very basic human weakness – fear.

And because ignorance promotes fear the further back we go in the mists of time, naturally a more terrified human psyche is notably encountered everywhere, due in great part to the lack of scientific knowledge and the great terror of the unknown. This proved to be the perfect scenario for the planting of the seeds of superstition into the unfortunate human minds.

Arguably over the millennia some prayers may have provided solace to many believers despite their irrelevance, however in the end it is the religious institutions that stand to gain big time from prayer and no one else. Just look around you.

Vladimir Cini, Marsaxlokk

Are we missing the point?

Surely it cannot just be me who, while extremely pleased at the happy outcome, felt immensely aggrieved that the returning prodigal son Martin Galea, was feted and treated like a hero when he returned to Malta (on a special flight, subsidised by whom?) after bring released by his Libyan militia abductors.

Furthermore, that the government was praised to the gunnels for assisting in securing his release and ‘paying for’ his special flight to bring him back home.

However, it is beyond irony that Mr Galea was engaged as a health and

safety officer in Libya as seemingly it was not his own health and safety he was concerned with or interested in, nor the brave souls who were tasked with helping secure his release and subsequent repatriation.

Did he not consider for one moment that he was working in a war zone when going to work in Libya and that financial rewards pale into

insignificance when one’s life is clearly potentially at risk and, if not, then why not? For it is claimed that the reason for his abduction was ‘not known’ but what is manifestly evident is why he was in Libya – as other than financial reasons what other possible motives did he have?

Moreover, did he contemplate for one moment that working in an unstable and highly volatile war-torn country might impact him, his family or those who would ultimately be compelled to rescue him?

What concrete measures did our government take to ensure that our citizens never travelled to Libya as opposed to ‘advising’ them not to go there which, in any event, such erudite counsel came very late in the day and only after he was abducted, and that such advice was promulgated how exactly, and in what forms of the media?

Also, Air Malta made such travelling easier given that only at the 11th hour did they stop flying to Libya, despite many other airlines recognising the inherent dangers by choosing not to fly there long before both Tripoli and Benghazi airports were attacked and bombarded with heavy artillery.

Apparently recognising or accepting inherent dangers, as well as demonstrating a proactive stance, are not our strong suit and how long will it be, one wonders, before Mr Galea and his other gambling, risk-taking repatriates (they can afford to be, at our expense) decide to go back to Libya ‘safe’ in the knowledge and with the full confidence that if anything goes wrong we will once more bail

them out and get them back home – and happily pay for this privilege and not even mention this cost, and while we are justifiably ecstatic that this incident had a happy ending are we, in our current delirious state of being overcome with unbridled joy, missing the point ?

Peter Murray, Lija

Flight MH17 – Who is to blame?

The shooting down of Malaysian Flight 17 in Ukraine has been constantly lingering at the back of my mind for the past days.

How is it possible, after so many conflicts and just as many civilian aircraft crashes, that no one envisaged the terrible fate that awaited the passengers on flight MH17. Could it have been avoided? Statistically it is stated that one stands a better chance of surviving flying than simply crossing a road. However flight MH17 was overflying war zone airspace.

Numerous satellite systems encircle our globe and scan the earth’s surface for a multitude of reasons, some legitimate or beneficial and some not. Some look up and assist weather forecasting, others map sea currents while others are there to eavesdrop and spy on us. How did a missile with the potential of downing a civilian aircraft, in the hands of the Ukrainian separatists or terrorists, go unnoticed, with all the advanced spying equipment available?

As a layman I would be interested to know whether any of the surface to air missiles fired earlier over the region would have been detected by our big brothers and their spying satellites. Could this tragedy have been avoided?

The Ukrainian authorities had prior to this incident reported having a number of their aircraft shot down by surface to air missiles. They had designated the area as being safe to fly above 32,000 feet or unsafe below this limit. Did they know the type and capabilities of the missiles that were used and the altitude where their aircraft were when shot down? If so was the information at hand trustworthy to legally bind them to notifying the international civilian flying community of the danger of overflying the war zone or more drastically and as a safety precaution to close that corridor in their air space altogether. Did their commercial interests take precedence over safety?

If it turns out, and it looks so, that the aircraft was downed by a missile, an errant one or worse, deliberately targeted where does this incident place Ukraine in adhering to its legal responsibilities and obligations towards the international community? It worries me stiff to think that a country with a conflict within its boundaries was not capable of knowing the impact its conflict would have on innocent citizens of other countries. Paradoxically the Libyan conflict near our shores springs to my mind. The respondent authorities immediately closed the Libyan air space to all civilian flights as a precautionary measure.

Airplanes fly routes in designated flight path corridors using existing predefined territorial air space, and directed by flight controllers and passed from one to the other as the aircraft transcends from one air space to another. At the time of the incident the plane was under the control of Ukraine controllers. Could these controllers have been aware of, and possibly alerted higher authority of potential missile strike threats to commercial/civilian traffic?

If as I suspect Ukraine knew that part of its civilian traffic air territory was susceptible to surface to air missiles than it shoulders a hefty responsibility for this tragedy.

The name and blame exercise points its fingers at Russia, having supplied surface to air missiles with the potential to down aircraft flying at very high altitudes. If this is true it is nothing new but a game-changer and an eye-opener.

On a personal level this incident makes me a bit more wary of flying. How many of you would have looked up the flight path before boarding the aircraft on your last holiday. It never crosses your mind because of the deserved trust we have in airlines and people running the industry. This issue does not feature because we live in a democratic society where we strive at justice and fair play.  But will things be the same. I do not feel safe anymore.

Carmel Vassallo,via email