The report largely pointed to possible pilot errors and technical issues.
The family of Tun Fuad Stephens, one of the victims of the “Double Six” tragedy, said that despite the release of the much-anticipated investigative report into the accident, the true reason for the accident will not be known until the Australian authorities also release their reports.
The three remaining children of Fuad Stephens, the then chief minister on June 6, 1976, said that they were grateful for the declassification of the report, but added it still left some questions unanswered.
“Why was it given a security classification under the ISA? Why was it not released when the crash happened?” they said in a statement in Kota Kinabalu.
“We wrote to the Air Accident Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Transport in June 2020 to ask for a copy of this report and were told that they couldn’t find a copy of the report and, even if they found it, it was classified.
“In all fairness to the people and organisations that might be negatively mentioned in the report — such as the pilot — we feel that we won’t get a complete picture of the cause of this crash unless we see all the reports from Australia.”
The statement was released by Asgari, Faridah and Fauziah Stephens.
Documents related to the GAF N-22B Nomad passenger plane, which crashed, killing all 11 onboard, including Fuad, his son Johari, three Cabinet ministers and the pilot, are being withheld by the Australian government.
The Stephens siblings said it was the right time to push Australia for the release of all these documents.
“As a family, we would also like to say that we love Australia. Our father, Tun Fuad, was the Malaysian High Commissioner in Canberra from 1967-1973. We all loved our time there. We all have fond memories of it. And we all have a great fondness for the country. Most of us and our kids have studied there,” they said.
“But it is time the Australian government provided us with all the reports on the Nomad. It’s been 47 years.”
Former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee had made similar calls in the past, saying that Australia had previously held back due to concerns over its relations with Malaysia.
The Australian National Archives stated that its “records contain technical details…which could impact on the Commonwealth’s (Australia’s) relations with the current government of a foreign country”.
It had also disclosed that “certain parts of the text have been expunged”.
The report, which was released yesterday, largely pointed to possible pilot errors and technical issues.
The ill-fated flight also killed three state ministers, an assistant minister and government officials.
Fuad was travelling from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu when the plane crashed in Sembulan.
The lack of transparency over the reports has led to much speculation and various political conspiracies.
Datin Jikilin Binion, the 88-year-old widow of the late state assistant minister Datuk Darius Binion who was one of the 11 passengers killed in the plane crash, was disappointed with the report.
She has been hoping for closure after waiting more than 40 years for the report to be made public, but was disappointed there was no element of sabotage in the crash.
“I am not contented with the report. It has been over 40 years and it feels the truth is still not known,” she said when contacted today.
Jikilin asked as to why the aircraft where the Chief Minister was boarding together with other state assemblymen, who included her late husband, were not given priority to land at the Kota Kinabalu airport and was instead asked to give way to a Boeing flight.
She added that the folks in Sembulan who had witnessed the crash had noted the aircraft was turning before crashing.
Jikilin also said that she still keeps the watch and ring her late husband wore on that fateful flight.
“The watch and ring were badly dented,” she said.
Meanwhile, the family of the late Datuk Peter J Mojuntin, one of the 11 victims killed in the plane crash, felt the much-anticipated investigation report over the incident was a let-down.
Datuk Donald Mojuntin, Peter’s son, said his family could not fathom why the report had been kept under wraps for 46 years.
“It’s a normal report over pilot inexperience or negligence (but) it doesn’t indicate anything that would be against the public’s interest.
“So why was it classified under the Official Secrets Act?
“I also don’t know how to feel. I know some of my family members are really unhappy as they didn’t get the closure they thought they would when the report came out.
“It has raised more questions than answers,” he said.
To keep such a report from the public’s eye and grieving families for almost five decades is mind-boggling, said Donald.
“Every memorial day on June 6, we go through the same thing – a lot of questions, conspiracy theories and other stuff but this was not put to rest because the report was not published.
“But now it has been declassified, we find there was no justification to put the report under the OSA.
Donald thanked the government for releasing the report but urged the Federal Cabinet to go a step further and investigate why it was kept secret.
“Whose interest was it to protect? What public interest or national security was under threat?
“These are the questions floating around, not only within the families but in Sabah,” Donald said.