KOTA KINABALU: Mohd Noor Mansoor is 77 years old now and fervently hopes he will be alive long enough to see the Double Six crash Australian investigation report being declassified one day.
Having already regretted not being able to form the state government with his Berjaya colleagues in 1976, Mansoor hopes to have some closure regarding the air crash that killed his five friends, who were Sabah ministers, including then chief minister Fuad Stephens.
“We used to eat and sleep together. We were really tight together. Their memories are deep in my heart. I can’t forget them.
“There are only a few of us left now (Berjaya colleagues),” said the senior politician and former state finance minister here today.
“My regret was that I was not with them when they formed the government in 1976. When I heard about the crash, I could not believe it,” he said.
Mansoor was at the Double Six monument where a small memorial service was held to commemorate the 44th anniversary of the air crash near Sembulan here.
He said he was under house arrest in Kuala Lumpur, and about to be released after undergoing his Internal Security Act detention, when the crash occurred in 1976. Ten people on board were killed.
He said the 1970s were a dangerous time for the political opposition as the chief minister had the authority to recommend detention under the act.
Besides Fuad Stephens, others killed in the crash were state finance minister Salleh Sulong; state local government and housing minister Peter Mojuntin; state public works and communications minister Chong Thien Vun; assistant minister to the chief minister Darius Binion and permanent secretary of the state finance ministry Wahid Peter Andu.
Others who died were Syed Hussien Wafa (director of the Economic Planning Unit), Ishak Atan (executive assistant to then federal minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah), Captain Gandhi Nathan (pilot), Corporal Said Mohamed (Fuad’s guard) and Johari Stephens (eldest son of Fuad).
The crash occurred while they were travelling home from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu on the GAF Nomad aircraft after their Berjaya party won the 1976 polls, ousting Usno, led by the late Mustapha Datu Harun.
A probe launched by the aircraft manufacturer, accompanied by the Australian Department of Transport officials, was classified.
The report titled “G. Bennett – Sabah Air Nomad – Report by Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) investigation team on a crash of Nomad aircraft in Malaysia 9M – ATZ on 6 June 1976” is currently hosted at the National Archives of Australia under Series no: B5535.
It has a restriction number of 33(1)(a) attached to it, stating “Malaysia has not as yet publicly released their final and full report of the investigation”.
Mansoor was only 33 at the time of the air crash and till this day has been curious as to what caused the crash, adding that he perhaps had to wait for another six years for the investigation report to be declassified.
“Like everyone, I also want to know what really happened. The probe results have been kept under wraps for too long.
“After 50 years, it should be part of the public record already,” he said.
Relative to seek help of Aussie government
Federal Deputy Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Jeffrey Kitingan said he would be getting one of the crash victims’ family members to do a follow-up on the investigation report.
He said the previous Pakatan Harapan government had made no effort to declassify the report despite his request in Parliament previously.
“Now we have Iskandar, the son of Salleh Sulong (one of the crash victims), who is willing to follow up the matter with the Australian government. This could be a fresh beginning.
“According to the Australian authorities, unless the federal government or family members initiate the move to release the report, they will not act on the matter,” he said.
Jeffrey said the report was a matter of public interest, adding that the Malaysian authorities may have some things to hide by keeping it a national secret.
“This has caused public speculation and release of the report will put an end to this.
“There have been many speculations that the crash was related to the signing of the oil agreement (with the federal government). People will continue to speculate and will never rest unless this document is declassified.”
Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee said if the air crash had not happened, the future of Sabah would be very much different from what it is today.
He said there is still hope now as the advent of social media and news portals would encourage the younger generation to question what caused the crash or what had transpired before it.
About 50 state and opposition leaders, as well as family members of the crash victims, attended the memorial service, which started at 8am.
The Kota Kinabalu City Hall had limited the number of people attending to 20 due to the need for social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state government was represented by the Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe.
Family members of crash victims who attended included Fuad’s widow Rahimah, Salleh Sulong’s daughter Kartina, Peter Mojuntin’s son Donald, a relative of Chong, Humphrey Chin, and Darius Binion’s nephew Henry John.
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