By Victor Ma
KOTA KINABALU: Captain Joseph Lakai, a former local RMAF fighter pilot has called on the government to make public the reports of the airplane tragedy that claimed the lives of the then Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others.
He stressed that this is crucial as the reports are meant to tell the truth of what went wrong, whether pilot error, ground engineer, technical fault or air design fault, bad weather or other unexplained cause(s).
Lakai who once served as a flight test engineer and test pilot added that such reports are necessary for the victims’ families to pursue insurance and negligent claims against aircraft manufacturers and airlines.
“To keep the June 6, 1976 crash report continuously away from public sight especially after 37 years is completely unacceptable and unimaginable.
“The circumstances surrounding the air crash and the secrecy of the report into it can give rise to suspicion and speculation.
“As a patriotic Sabahan, an aviation consultant and a mechanical engineer, I fully agree with SAPP’s (Sabah Progressive Party) efforts to uncover the truth behind the tragedy by first getting the 1976 report released,” he said.
Speaking at a news conference facilitated by SAPP Information Chief Chong Pit Fah here today, Lakai said he was made to understand that SAPP MP for Sepanggar, Datuk Eric Majimbun, had posed this question to the federal government in parliament but to no avail.
The plane crash popularly known as Double Six Tragedy that took place on June 6, 1976 at Sembulan, here, with an Australian manufactured GAF Nomad N-22B type twin engine turboprop passenger aircraft operated by Sabah Air with tail number 9M-ATZ departed Labuan Airport at 113 km route approaching Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
The then Sabah’s Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens perished in the crash, along with Datuk Salleh Sulong, Datuk Wahid Peter Andu, Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Datuk Chong Thain Vun and Datuk Darius Binion.
The other victims were Fuad’s son Johari, Dr Syed Hussien Wafa, Ishak Atan, Corporal Said Mohammad and the pilot Captain Nathan Ghandi.
Lakai claimed that the main reasons behind the tragedy remained a ‘mystery’ till today.
“Immediately after the crash there were allegations of foul play due to the political circumstances at the time. Many questions arise whether the tragedy was the result of a mechanical problem or bomb or pilot error or problematic aircraft,” he added.
He continued that the Australian government sent a team of four investigators to assist in finding the cause of the accident. Preliminary investigations indicated overloading was one of the contributing factors.
“However the real reason remains a mystery, the air mishap surrounding is still unexplained and this had haunted many who tried to seek the truth behind the tragic incidence, while the original report on the incident remains classified until today,” he added.
He said the people of Sabah want to know why the 1976 report remains classified and not allowed to be published.
“What makes Tun Fuad’s aircraft crashed? Was there a bomb on board the plane as claimed? Was the accident occurred as a result of mechanical failure as dubious? Was it due to the overloading factor or Pilot error?
“If not, then why the Government of Malaysia never publish any investigation reports to the public?” he asked.
He thus said such reasons warrant an explanation of the tragedy to be disclosed.
“Now we Sabahans want and should know the truth about what really happened that June 6. Were the deaths of Tun Fuad and his Cabinet members a mishap or sabotage or a political conspiracy, Lakai further asked.
He said Sabahans had every single right to demand the present Government of Malaysia with a logical explanation.
“We want the government to reveal the hidden story behind the scenes as this incident has resulted Sabah be unfortunate today,” he added.
He also echoed SAPP’s stand that if they are voted into power this coming election, the new state government of Sabah will demand the release from the Australian government their forensic findings on the NOMAD aircraft wreckage.
He concluded that according to the National Archives of Australia record series B5535 Annexure 1 S33 (1) (a) – Reason for decision (not to make public the findings) were because:
1. Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation – Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation requires that a participating state in an investigation not release details of the investigation without the permission of the main investigating state.
2. Malaysia has not as yet publicly released their final and full report of the investigation.
3. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau undertakes investigation of aircraft accidents under Annex 13. The public disclosure of this information would lessen the confidence of foreign governments in Australia’s commitment to meeting the requirement of Annex 13 and compromise the future activities of the ATSB and impair its ability to carry out its statutory function.
4. Release of the information could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the international relation of the Commonwealth.
Annexure 1 S33 (1) (b)
1. The information was of an inherently confidential nature when communicated to the Australian government. The information is still afforded security protection by the foreign government and it has asked that the information not be disclosed to the public.
2. The disclosure of this information would therefore constitute a breach of confidence owed of that foreign government.