Sipaun: What if Double Six never happened?
Published on: Sunday, June 19, 2022
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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Close-­up of the soaring rounded obelisk which marks the fatal Double Six crash site in Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu (left). Sipaun (right).
‘OF course, this is very academic and my guess is as good or as bad as anybody else,” said Tan Sri Simon Sipaun during a sharing session on Daily Express’ “Double Six: The Untold Stories Documentary” premiere on June 6.

Had it “never took place, Sipaun said: “I envisaged the following possible scenarios.” 

“The Berjaya Government would have continued to rule (Sabah) well beyond 1995. Sabah’s share of oil and gas would be much more than 5pc.” 

“The circumstances would not have arisen which led to the formation of PBS. PBS would never have been formed.”

“Tan Sri Joseph (Kitingan) would not have the opportunity to become Chief Minister. Tan Sri Pairin would not have been Huguan Siou today.”

“Umno possibly would not be in Sabah today.”

“Labuan would not have been a Federal Territory.”

“Illegal immigrants would not, in my view, have become what they are today.” 

“Democratic practices and good governance would have been better observed.” 

“Sabah would not have become the poorest State in the country.”

“The State civil service would be more multi-ethnic and multi-religion with greater emphasis on meritocracy.” 

“There would be less politics dominated by race and religion.”

Datin Jikilin Binion, widow of Darius Binion, being presented a framed family picture from Datuk Clement Yeh, Managing Director of Sabah Publishing House which produces the Daily Express

“Generally Sabah would have been a better place to live in,” Sipaun took the liberty to delve into his visualisation what Sabah would have been had the tragic incident never occurred, qualifying himself though at the outset that his guess weren’t written on stones.             

Being a close contemporary of the key Double Six victims Tun Fuad, Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Datuk Chong Thien Vun, Datuk Darius Binion, Peter Andu etc, Sipaun shared with everyone an interesting and gripping account of what happened on two critical days – June 5 and June 6, 1976 as follows:  

Quoting comedian George Burns known for his wisecracks, Sipaun said, probably referring to himself: “You know you are old when it hurts everywhere, where it does not hurt it does not work!

“I also found out as I grew older when you are in you twilight zone, you are very forgetful when it happened six days ago but the memory is very clear what happened 46 years ago and it is in this context that I am sharing,” he said. 

June 5: I boarded Nomad with Tun Fuad

“At about 6.10am Saturday, 5 June 1976, I boarded an Australian Nomad aircraft operated by Sabah Air together with the late Tun Fuad Stephens, his brother the late Tan Sri Ben Stephens and a few others whose names I cannot recollect.

“However, I do remember I was sitting next to the late Datuk Abdul Hamid Awang and I even joked with him as we started to fly above and I said to him … ‘ini propeller ... pusing’. 

“I was joking-lah as I always do. And at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon the following day Sunday, June 6, I heard that the same aircraft had crashed landed in Sembulan.

“I just couldn’t believe what I heard and I was very traumatised and I could not eat for at least a week,” Sipaun recalled.    

“At that time I was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Communication and Works and my new Minister was Chong Thien Vun. I knew him, I was together with him in Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand in the early 60s although he was slightly ahead of me and he was my Minister at the time… unfortunately, he also died in the crash.

“Another Minister, Datuk Sallah Sulong, he was my classmate from school days right up to Form Six, we were the first group of Sixth Formers in North Borneo at the time and I went to new Zealand with him in the same aircraft also.

“Then later on he (Sulong) was my Minister when he was the Minister of Local Government and then from Minister of Local Government he resigned to join Berjaya when Berjaya was set up.”

“Now I was already at the old Kota Kinabalu Airport at about 6am on Saturday (5 June 1976). I was one of the group of civil servants who was asked to go to Labuan. And as usual I was very early at the airport.” 

Sipaun: ‘Tun Fuad asked me to join his flight’  

“When I arrived at the airport (early morning June 5), Tun Fuad, I remember, he was sitting there and he was supposed to be on the first group of people to leave for Labuan. 

“Then as I was early, when he saw me, he said, Simon, kau ini (can you fly with the first group?). So I said: after you, YAB. I am in the second group but he said: Since you are already here and there’s a seat, why don’t you come with my group?  Which I did. And there was nothing (out of the ordinary) to ask me as a civil servant to go to Labuan. I was just asked by the Protocol to go there. 

“Now my assignment was to witness the signing of agreement related to oil royalty. That was the message I got. When I reached Labuan nobody informed me the venue and the time of the signing ceremony. I only remembered having a big lunch at the Labuan Golf Club and I was sitting next to Datuk Peter Andu. 

He was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance at that time, he also happened to be my neighbour in Taman Rose Garden near the QEH1.

“Then while he was sitting next to me at lunch, he whispered to me: ‘Hi Simon, you see we have so much food but we don’t have the appetite and yet there are so many hungry people around us having not enough to eat.’ So I found it a bit strange coming from him.”

“Then Dr Zaid Hussein passed by, he was wearing a Russian hat Cossack and I jokingly commented: ‘Hi Dr, you look very impressive with your head gear’ and he said, ‘if I don’t wear it now, I may never have the chance to wear it again’. That was the last time I saw him alive!” 

How Sipaun was spared Double Six

“Now I decided to go back to KK on the same day – 5 June 1976 (Saturday), taking MAS flight 4pm. Then sitting next to me was Datuk Darius Binion. So he said, why are you going back? Then he said (he was going back June 5 because) he wanted to attend the victory celebration in Putatan. Now he asked me: But why are you going back on the same day, sign belum ada lagi (oil & gas royalty agreement not signed yet)?  

“So I said there is a State Legislative Assembly meeting scheduled on Monday and there are a few things I need to tidy up.

“But instead he said: You come and join me for the celebration-lah in Putatan (June 5 night). So instead of working at home, he picked me up at 7.30 in the evening, he took me to the celebration in Putatan and that’s how I spent the evening until about 11.30 at night.” 

“But in Labuan the same day (June 5) before I was assigned to the place I was staying, I bumped into Datuk Peter Mojuntin and he spoke to me in Kadazan (why are you going back?). So I said to him, there are a few things I have not completed doing. So that was the last time that I saw him alive. Datuk Peter was one year younger than me, he was also my boarding mate in the Sacred Heart (Karamunsing) in the mid-50s and that was the last time I saw him alive.”

At the Double Six documentary premiere. From left: Dexter Yeh, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, James Sarda (Editor-in-chief, Daily express), Datuk Mohd Noor 

Mansor, Datuk Clement Yeh, Datuk Christina Liew, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Datuk Abidin Madingkir. 

The archway and a soaring rounded obelisk which marks the Double Six plan crash site in Sembulan. 

Binion’s ominous remark: ‘all the eggs in one basket”

“Then back to Datuk Binion, as a I said, on the way back from Labuan on the way to KK (June 5), I was sitting next to him and he was telling me his vision for Sabah, you know.  

“Then all of a sudden he said: ‘Simon, do you realise that all the eggs are in one basket in Labuan?! Anything wrong with the basket the eggs will be finished.’

“Of course, at that time I did not pay much attention to what he said. But then later on, after the tragedy, it was very prominent!

“There was a walkathon scheduled Sunday morning in KK and Datuk Binion said: come and join the walkathon.

“To me, Sunday was the only relax day that I had. So I said I cannot promise but I’ll try. Of course, I did not go to join the walkathon because I over- slept so I forgot about the walkathon.”

‘Neighbour came crying’

“Then while I was gardening on June 6, my neighbour came crying, Mr Chua his name. I said, ‘Chua, what happened to you?’ He said: ‘Tun Fuad died’, I said, ‘is it due to heart attack?’ ‘No, no, no,’ he said, ‘the plane he was travelling in crashed in Sembulan’.

“So immediately, I took my shower, rushed to the hospital but before I left my house to the hospital, I telephoned Darius Binion, I wanted to tell him that we were lucky (Sipaun did not realise at that point Binion was also in the Nomad) that we came back yesterday (June 5) but nobody answered. In any case I rushed to the hospital and I saw all the mangled bodies.”

‘I could not recognise any of the bodies except Mojuntin’

“I could not recognise anybody and then I had the suspicion that some parts of their bodies were mixed around. The only face that I could recognise was Datuk Peter Mojuntin. The rest I could not recognise. So it was something very traumatising, I never expected that I would see such a sight during my life time.

“Now, what puzzled me, I was in Labuan supposed to witness the signing of that agreement and it was not signed. And I asked, ‘mana itu, bila mau sign’ (where is that, when will they sign it?) Nobody knows. So I had a gut feeling that there could be what I called a last minute change of mind, whether true or not it’s only, I was not privy to secret information at that time. 

“Now some of the bodies were initially brought to the Kota Kinabalu Community Centre, I was assigned on duty to go there. My duty at that time was to carry the Tun Fuad Tan Sri’s medal and carry to the tunes of the military band and there was one officer behind me, we were all in our uniform, one officer behind me, just in case I could not last the journey but at that time I was in my late 30s, I was quite fit I never had any problem reaching the State Mosque. That was the funeral of Tun Fuad.”

Razaleigh: ‘I always associate Sabah with how my life was saved’

“Moving forward, on 2nd April, 2010, 34 years later, I moderated a forum, and the main speaker was Yang Mulia Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. So after introducing him, I went back to my seat at the back and Tengku Razaleigh moved forward and the first time I ever heard him, because he said: “I always associate Sabah how my life was saved. So he described he was already in the plane, seat belt already fixed, then about to leave, when Datuk, of course now Tan Sri Harris, invited him to go to fly to Kudat instead. 

“Then Tengku Razaleigh said he in turn invited the former Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Rahman Yakob, as well as one royalty from Pahang and he said, that was how their lives were saved, all because of the invitation.

“And now of course this tragedy has generated a lot of theories, questions, suspicions as to the truth associated with the incident.”

Pertinent questions 

“Some of the pertinent questions include why is the report of the investigation is not released until today. What happened to the black box if any, what did it contain, what did it reveal? Why was the plane ordered to circle around the airport before allowed to land. I understand a plane carrying VIPs is normally given priority.”   

“For as long as the investigation report is not released I believe questions will continue to be asked.

“I hear people saying, if the authorities have nothing to hide why should the release of the report be withheld.

“Perhaps an independent Commission of Investigation is not out of place although as time goes by this will be more and more difficult because a lot of those who have witnessed the event may no longer be around.”

‘The truth will set us free’: Sipaun 

“But when the truth is revealed and known, only then I think the Double Six tragedy will find some form of closure. The truth will set us free. I think the public will continue to be suspicious as long as some information is being withheld. The public deserves, in my view, nothing less than the truth.

“After all, a Chief Minister, three Senior Ministers and one Assistant Minister, Permanent Secretary of Finance, the Director of EPU were all public officers.

“The political leaders were elected by the people. They were in Labuan on official duty and it is in the public in my view that the truth should be known.

“I think there is one important lesson to be learnt from this tragic incident in terms of protocol arrangement.

“Important people should travel singly and not in groups.

“For example, former President of the Philippines Marcos and wife never travelled in the same plane.”



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December 20, 2014