KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Donald Mojuntin has called on the families of victims of the “Double Six” plane crash to look at whether they could still take legal action over the tragedy.
“Now it remains to be seen whether the statute of limitation has run out for any legal action,” said the eldest son of the late Datuk Peter J Mojuntin, one of the 11 who perished on June 6, 1976.
“For that, I think the remaining members of the respective families of the victims need to sit down and deliberate,” he added.
Donald said that his family fears that they would never get the closure they needed, adding that the release of the previously declassified Australian report of the tragedy on Wednesday (April 26) has cluttered matters even more instead of clearing up the incident.
“With all these unanswered questions, I don’t think we can ever have complete closure,” Donald said.
Donald then added that “bombastic things” were said in the Australian report, such as Sabah Air operating without approval from the Civil Aviation Department.
“How can this happen? Secondly, the Australian report stated that although the structural integrity of the aircraft was ‘assured’, they found ‘failures’ in the flying control systems during forensics done on the aircraft wreckage,” said Donald.
He added that it seems as if no further investigation was done by the Malaysian authorities on these “failures”.
“Could this be the cause of the right wing of the aircraft momentarily dipping before rising to a level position, after which the aircraft entered a spin, lost height and crashed? Was it not important to find the cause of these ‘failures’ in the flying systems,” said Donald.
The Australian report into the tragedy said that the pilot's "poor ability" and overloading may have caused the plane to crash.
It also said that Malaysia did not immediately accept the technical findings that the aircraft had no mechanical or body defects and asked for independent views on the aircraft's condition.
After getting independent views, Malaysia accepted the Australian report, which also ruled out that the aircraft flaps were defective.
The Australian investigation further found poor operations by Sabah Air and a failure on the Civil Aviation Department's (CAD) part to completely fulfil their obligations as the local certification authority were factors contributing to the crash.
In the report, Nomad aircraft manufacturer Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) also said that Sabah Air was operating illegally as its operations manual submitted to the CAD was never approved.
Donald said it was easy to lay the blame with the pilot who could not defend himself, as he was also killed in the crash, but questioned why was the latter given the responsibility to fly Sabah’s top leaders if he was deemed incompetent.
“All these questions would also have cropped up if the Federal Government was transparent 46 years ago and probably would have been answered over that course of time.
“Classifying the report under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) shows a lack of empathy especially to the victims' respective families,” he said.
Donald added that the family still could not see any justifiable reason to keep the Malaysian report under wraps for more than four decades after reading both the Malaysian and Australian reports
“Certainly, on the face of the two reports there is nothing to hide in the public interest and the contents cannot be deemed to be against national security,” said Donald.
“Whatever it is, recent events have us feeling more distress rather than relief. One cannot help but feel a great injustice has been done, I am sure most Sabahans feel that too,” he added.