Published on: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Captain Joseph Lakai said plane crashes such as the Double Six tragedy that claimed the lives of former Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others should be made public.
He said reports of such air crashes are useful in research to find out what went wrong whether it was due to pilot error, ground engineer errors, technical fault, air design fault, bad weather or other unexplained causes.
The former flight test engineer and test pilot in Royal Malaysian Air Force said the reports are also necessary for 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 suspicions and speculations.
"As a patriotic Sabahan, an aviation consultant and a mechanical engineer, I fully agree with SAPP's efforts to uncover the truths behind the air crash by first getting the 1976 report released," he said.
He said SAPP's MP for Sepanggar, Datuk Eric Majimbun, had posed this question to the Federal Government in Parliament but to no avail.
He said the Double Six tragedy that took place on June 6, 1976 at Sembulan involved an Australian manufactured GAF Nomad N-22B type twin engine turboprop passenger aircraft operated by Sabah Air.
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 pilot Captain Nathan Ghandi.
"Immediately after the crash, there were allegations of foul play due to the political circumstances at that time," Lakai said.
He said the Australian government sent a team of four investigators to assist in the investigation of the crash.
He said preliminary investigations indicated overloading was one of the contributing factors.
"However, the real reason remains a mystery and the air mishap surrounding is still unexplained and this had haunted many who tried to seek the truth behind the tragic incident, 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.
"Now we Sabahans want and should know the truth about what really happened on June 6, 1976.
He concluded that according to the National Archives of Australia record series B5535 Annexure 1S33(1)(a) - Reason for decision (not to make public the findings) were because;
- 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.
- Malaysia has not as yet publicly released their final and full report of the investigation.
- 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.
- Release of the information could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the international relation of the Commonwealth.
Annexure 1 S33 (1) (b), he said, stated:
- 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.
- The disclosure of this information would therefore constitute a breach of confidence owed of that foreign government.