‘Reveal the 1976 Sabah air crash report’

After 37 years, the report on the air crash which took the lives of the chief minister and 10 others is still kept under wraps.

Queville To, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: After 37 years, the investigative papers on the air crash which killed Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others is still a secret.

And one man who wants to change all that is Captain Joseph Lakai, a test pilot turned politician.

He has called on the government to make public the full reports of the plane crash and put to rest once and for all insinuations that the deaths of Stephen and several members of his cabinet was deliberate.

On June 6, 1976 a small plane carrying the then chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others crashed as it was coming down for a landing. All on board was killed.

Others who died were cabinet ministers Salleh Sulong, Peter Mojuntin, Chong Thain Vun and Darius Binion, top Sabah Ministry of Finance official Wahid Peter Andau, Director of Economic Planning Unit of Sabah Syed Hussein Wafa, Isak Atan (Private Secretary to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah), Fuad’s son Johari, Corporal Said Mohammad (Stephens bodyguard) and the pilot Captain Nathan Gandhi.

Stephens and his colleagues in the new state government had flown to Labuan to negotiate the extraction of Sabah’s oil and they had reportedly refused to sign away the state’s oil rights in return for a 5% royalty.

Days after their deaths, new chief minister Harris Salleh agreed to the deal offered by the federal government.

Lakai said the report was crucial as it would reveal the truth on what went wrong and could determine whether it was a human error, a technical fault, bad weather or other unexplained causes which had caused the crash.

Lakai who once served in Royal Malaysian Air Force as flight test engineer and test pilot added that such reports are 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, especially after 37 years is completely unacceptable.

“The circumstances surrounding the air crash and the secrecy of the report can give rise to suspicions and speculations.

“As a patriotic Sabahan, an aviation consultant and a mechanical engineer, I fully agree with SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) efforts to uncover the truth behind the air crash by first getting the 1976 report released,” he said.