KOTA KINABALU: As questions remain unanswered despite the release of reports by both Malaysia and Australia on the “Double Six” plane crash, a family member of the victims has suggested joint legal action to seek closure.
Datuk Donald Mojuntin (pic), the eldest son of the late Datuk Peter J. Mojuntin, one of the 11 who perished in the crash here on June 6, 1976, said his family feared they would never get the finality they needed.
“Now it remains to be seen whether the statute of limitation has run out for any legal action.
“For that, I think the remaining members of the families of the victims need to sit down and deliberate,” he added.
The release of the previously classified Australian report of the tragedy on Wednesday did not shed any light for the families of the victims.
For example, Donald said Sabah Air was operating without approval from the then Civil Aviation Department (CAD).
“How could 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.
“It seems 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 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?” asked Donald.
The Australian report of the tragedy said the pilot’s “poor ability” and aircraft overloading might caused the plane to crash.
It also said 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 CAD’s part to completely fulfil their obligations as the local certification authority were also factors contributing to the crash.
In the report, Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), the manufacturer of the Nomad aircraft, 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 on the pilot who could not defend himself as he was also killed in the crash, but questioned why the latter was 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 had been transparent 46 years ago, and probably would have been answered over the 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.
After reading the Malaysian and Australian reports, Donald said the family still could not see any justifiable reason to keep the Malaysian report under wraps for more than four decades.
“Why then was it classified? Is there something more to it? Was there something else connected to these reports that needed to be hidden? For whose benefit?
“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.
“It cannot be denied that some of us are shocked, disappointed and angry. Hiding the report may have deprived us of taking action against those at fault.
“Whatever it is, recent events have us feeling more distressed rather than relief. One cannot help but feel a great injustice has been done.
“I am sure most Sabahans feel that too,” he added.