Arrogant Chief Minister Diced With Death!

By Sarawak Report

Sarawak Report has uncovered astonishing information that the Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud,  unknowingly risked his own death for months by flying in an unsafe plane!   Tellingly, the reason he did not realise his peril was that he thought he knew better than the qualified experts and had put crony politicians in charge of the aircraft.

We have discovered that over several months in 2004 Taib, along with several family members, ministers and favoured associates were flown about in a jet that pilots and engineers had warned was unsafe.  Memos have been uncovered which show that qualified staff were warning of the problems, but were ignored because of the rivalry and chaos that existed in the company Hornbill Skyways, which supplied the jet. 

It is common knowledge that shortly after no less than 4 Hornbill aircraft crashed in the course of just one year, killing over ten people, including one Minister.  Hornbill had its operating licence removed. 

Personal jet! 

Taib’s current jet – a US $19.5 million Cessna 750 Citation Jet, boasted to be the fastest private jet in the world. It has been seen in Europe and Australia where it could only be flown at enormous expense.

The corruption surrounding Taib’s acquistition of his own personal jet service has been widely documented, however the extent to which this put his own safety at risk and that of others has not.  One of the numerous key jobs that the Chief Minister has awarded himself  is Chairman of the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).  In 2004 this state-controlled organisation owned a 70% share of Hornbill Airways with the remainder owned by another state organisation, the Sarawak Foundation. 

Insiders say there is no argument that Taib was the ‘effective CEO’ of Hornbill (several of the airline’s Board Members were also found to be his junior Board Members at STIDC) and he has used his authority to provide himself with highly costly jet transport at the expense of the Sarawak taxpayer.  The timber corporation needs helicopters, however the jets belonging to the company are for the sole purpose of providing exclusive travel for the Chief Minister and his family and guests.  Senior executives have confirmed that Taib currently keeps a Cessna Citation Jet and a helicopter expensively on standby for his own exclusive use 24/7 every day of the year.  A monthly cheque is paid by the State to Hornbill cover the cost! 

Risk from ignorance 

However, it would seem that the Chief Minister, who is used to getting his way on so many things, likewise assumed he could call the shots when it came to key management and safety issues in an airline where lives were at risk, including his own!  Airline industry professionals tell us they were horrified to discover that the key top managers at Hornbill are all ignorant politicians and not industry experts. 

“The top management of Hornbill knew nothing about aviation at all” one has confided. 

Another has confirmed “The culture was one of putting deference towards politicians before safety” 

Industry standards demand that the accountable managers in an airline ought to be professionally familiar with aviation.  However Taib and his subservient board have chosen instead to appoint politicially reliable ‘yes men’.  The Chairman of Hornbill Airways is the former banker and Assemblyman Aidan Wing, who knows nothing about the airline business or safety issues.  Taib may like to run his country using cronies, many of them unqualified, however such practices when applied to aeroplanes will soon spell disaster.  The professionals who spoke to Sarawak Report have told us they were not in the least surprised that there were 4 serious crashes in 2004 before Hornbill finally lost its public operating licence!