Call to reopen probe not politically motivated
KINABALU: Former Finance Minister Datuk Haji Mohammad Noor Mohammad
Mansoor told the High Court here yesterday that the call for
re-investigation into the plane crash that killed former chief minister
Tun Fuad Stephens and all 10 others on board the Nomad aircraft on June 6,
1976 was not politically motivated.
Mohammad Noor, who held the post during the Berjaya government, said the
family members of those leaders who perished in the air crash have their
right to say what they wanted to say and to do what they wanted to do but
there are one or two million of Sabahans, including himself, who wanted to
know what really happened on that day.
Mohammad Noor was responding to counsel Trevor Maringking's suggestion
Trevor had earlier on said that from the press statement issued by some of
the family members of the perished leaders, they wanted politicians to
leave out the crash tragedy alone and just argue on the issue of oil
royalty based on the statement of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, and suggested
that they were saying that this call for re-investigation is politically
Mohammad Noor was testifying before justice Dato' Abdul Rahman Sebli in
the ongoing hearing of a RM50 million suit brought by Tan Sri Harris
Salleh against Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck
Lee and the party for allegedly insinuating that he (Harris) was involved
in causing the plane crash.
Mohammad Noor was the first witness called by the defendants who are
represented by counsel Datuk Simon Shim and Flora Dius.
Harris, 81, who filed the suit on June 6, last year, is claiming general
damages, aggravated and exemplary damages of not less than RM50 million to
be assessed separately against Yong and SAPP as the first and second
He is also seeking an injunction to restrain the defendants whether by
themselves or their servants or employees or agents from printing and
publishing further the statements and similar libel in any form or means.
Harris is represented by leading counsel Yunof Maringking and Trevor.
To another question from Trevor, Mohammad Noor said he was aware that some
of the family members of the perished leaders were not in favour of
re-investigating the air crash despite the purported new information by
Tengku Razaleigh being reported in the newspapers.
"Yes, I heard of that but that is their right and I also have my own
right," he said, adding that as a Sabahan, he wanted to know what really
happened and Sabahans also have their right to know what really happened.
"Once the investigation is on and the real cause is known, probably those
who perished can rest in peace and we, also as Sabahans, would have peace
of mind," he said.
He said that until now there was no proof of the cause of the incident
otherwise all people have the benefit to read the report now.
However, the witness said that he was not aware that sometime in 2009, the
then Deputy Transport Minister had given the government an explanation
concerning the cause of the aircraft incident in parliament.
Mohammad Noor agreed that it was possible that Harris had given a briefing
concerning the cause of the air crash during a cabinet meeting that he
(witness) did not happen to be present.
He agreed with Trevor's suggestion that if members of that cabinet were
not satisfied with the cause of the incident, they could pass a motion in
the state assembly or during a cabinet meeting to ask for the Federal
Government to make further investigations into the air crash at that time.
Meanwhile, when Yunof suggested that since Harris had contradicted Tengku
Razaleigh's account of the event prior to air crash, it would be prudent
and indeed obligatory for Yong to clarify with both the plaintiff and
Tengku Razaleigh before making any further statement on the matter,
Mohammad Noor said, "I think the first defendant is acting, just like me
as a Sabahan, to know what really happened."
To a further question from Yunof, Mohammad Noor disagreed that the most
interested group to find out the real truth on the cause of the air crash
tragedy were the family members of the air crash victims.
"The victims were a chief minister and almost the entire State cabinet. As
a Sabahan, I think I have the right to know what happened. The family
members of those who perished have right to know.
"We should not be deprived of this right to find out what really
happened," he said.
He also disagreed with Yunof's suggestion that since the second defendant
is now out of Barisan Nasional, it has to create a new issue and no other
than the double six tragedy for him to convince the people of Sabah to
support him during the next general election.
Mohammad Noor said that there are one thousand and one issues in Sabah right
When asked by Yunof on why the defendants were adamant there should be a
re-investigation into the air crash tragedy and no other party has
expressed a similar sentiment, the witness said, "The first defendant is
the president of a political party fighting for the right of Sabahans. If
he doesn't make the statement, others would be asking him, especially the
members of the party why he keeps quiet."
Meanwhile, during re-examination by Simon, Mohammad Noor agreed with him
that every investigation into the incident would be able to establish the
Meanwhile, another defence witness who is a Daily Express reporter,
Christopher Maskilone, told the court that on the evening of April 2,
2010, he covered a talk by Tengku Razaleigh entitled "Minyak Sabah Untuk
Siapa? (Who is Sabah oil for? "
He said there were about one thousand people who attended the talk held at
the KDCA building, along Jalan Penampang.
During the talk, Christoper said that Tengku Razaleigh also talked about
the moment before they left Labuan and how the then deputy chief minister,
Datuk Harris Salleh (now Tan Sri), invited him and two other VIPs to
accompany him (Harris) to visit Banggi.
He said according to Tengku Razaleigh, he was already sitting inside the
plane that was also carrying Tun Fuad Stephen and several other ministers
To another question from Simon, Christoper said Tengku Razaleigh then
agreed to follow Harris together with the two VIPs, namely Tun Rahman
Yakob and Pahang Tengku Bendahara in another plane.
He told the court that Tengku Razaleigh was the one who had invited the
When further asked by Simon on what was the witness's reaction to Tengku
Razaleigh's disclosure of the incident, Christoper said, "As a reporter, I
am trained to look for an interesting angle and surely Tengku Razaleigh's
statement was very interesting."