Report on Double Six tragedy still classified after 43 years

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew (4th from left) with others at the Double Six memorial service in Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew paid tribute today to the victims of the Double Six plane crash of 1976, the full report of which remains classified 43 years later.

Speaking to reporters after a memorial service at the Double Six monument, she said Sabahans regard those who lost their lives that day as heroes, and that the date is an important one for the state government.

She also acknowledged calls for the report, which is kept in the country’s national archives, to be made public.

“We are aware that there are calls by people, whether from the government or opposition, to reveal the results (of the probe).

“I will bring this to the attention of the chief minister on Monday,” she said, adding however that it is up to the relevant authorities whether or not to declassify the report.

In the incident which took place on June 6, 1976, Fuad Stephens, who had been sworn in as chief minister just 53 days before, died along with 10 others including prominent Sabah ministers when the GAF Nomad aircraft they were in crashed in Sembulan here.

Today’s memorial service was attended by Liew, representing the chief minister, and a host of government officials as well as family members of those who died. These include Fuad’s widow Rahimah Stephens, and Nancy Mojuntin, the widow of local government and housing minister Peter Mojuntin.

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Jimmy Wong was among those who made the call last year for the report to be declassified. He said many Sabahans wanted to know the real reason for the crash.

“Whether the cause of the accident was the plane being overweight, as some people claimed, is still doubtful. The people don’t believe it.

“So I hope the new chief minister will look into it. It has been 42 years, and the time has come to reveal it once and for all,” he said at last year’s memorial.

Following the incident, the Australian GAF Nomad manufacturer, accompanied by officials from the Australian Department of Transport, launched an investigation to prove that the crash was not due to mechanical issues.

The probe was completed some four months later but the full report was not made public. Instead, it was classified under the Official Secrets Act.

Then-deputy communications minister Enche Mohd Ali M Sharif issued a statement about the findings, saying the investigating team had not found any technical error or sabotage but had attributed the crash to human error.

Liew said she understood that many Sabahans are eager for the air to be cleared on the issue.

“Perhaps the authorities concerned have their reasons why this report was not revealed to the public. So we give it back to them, when there are calls (to declassify the report),” she said.