Call for public inquiry into the tragic helicopter crash during the 11th Sarawak general election causing the death of six people, including a deputy minister and another MP

The 11th Sarawak state general election has ended on May 7 polling with fairly expected results, the re-election of Tan Sri Adenan Satem as Sarawak Chief Minister, the formation of the new Sarawak State Government by Sarawak Barisan Nasional and the failure to deny Adenan two-thirds majority in the 82-seat Sarawak State Assembly.

I had publicly predicted these three results after Nomination Day on April 25, and I was not greatly surprised by the outcome of the 11th Sarawak state general elections.

One of the disappointments of the 11th Sarawak state general elections was the inability of Pakatan Harapan to campaign as one team, and which saw multi-cornered contests even involving Pakatan Harapan parties, but the results have shown that it had not materially affected the results of the Sarawak state general election.

A combined and united Pakatan Harapan in the Sarawak state general election would have found it difficult to regain the 15 state assembly seats won by DAP and PKR five years ago in the 2011 state general election, but there is no doubt that the failure to present an united front by Pakatan Harapan parties caused great disappointment all-round and should be a lesson to all Pakatan Harapan parties for the future.

The three Pakatan Harapan parties netted 30.5% of the popular votes cast in the May 7 Sarawak polls comprising DAP 19.35%, PKR 10.08% and Amanah 1.12%.

DAP had set out in the 11th Sarawak state general election with two objectives:

(I) to defend and win the 12 State Assembly seats won in the last state general elections; and

(2) to achieve a breakthrough in the Dayak-dominated seats to expand DAP support from the urban areas.

At the mid-point of the Sarawak state general election campaign on April 30, I warned that seven of the 13 seats carved out of the 12 State Assembly constituencies won by DAP in last general election were in “danger list” for the May 7 poll.

I was proved quite right when DAP could only win seven of the 12 seats won five years ago but this gave me no pleasure whatsoever.

I had hoped that DAP candidate Modi Bimol could win the Tasik Biru state assembly seat, and that was why I was in Tasek Biru on Nomination Day.

But the combined artillery and firepower of the Barisan Nasional national and state “heavyweights” including the Sarawak Chief Minister and the Malaysian Prime Minister who led a long queue of State and Federal VIPS to descend on Tasik Biru with monetary offers and other goodies, succeeded in foiling Modi from the DAP election breakthrough. Modi lost by 1,288 votes.

DAP candidate Sanjan Daik had performed creditably in Mambong while the three candidates Paren Nyawi in Katibas, Larry Asap in Bukit Goram and Baba Emperan of Samalaju hold out much promise for the future.

DAP suffered a major defeat in the 11th Sarawak general election on May 7, reduced to seven state assembly seats from the 12 won five years ago in the 2011 Sarawak state general election but it was not the most devastating defeat that DAP had suffered in our 50 year history.

In the 1999 general election, for instance, DAP was reduced to 10 Parliamentary seats and a single seat in the Penang State Assembly, when in 1986, DAP had won 24 Parliamentary seats while in the 1990 general election, DAP had won 14 Penang State Assembly seats.

Even Karpal Singh and I myself lost in the parliamentary elections in 1999.

But we did not give up and surrender. Today, thanks to the perseverance, stamina and commitment of DAP leaders and supporters, DAP is the second largest party in Parliament after UMNO, leading the Penang State Government and part of the Selangor DAP State Government, with the most number of State Assembly seats in the country.

I am confident that the electoral debacle and reverses of DAP Sarawak in the recent Sarawak state election would become a stepping stone for the Sarawak DAP to achieve greater heights than in the past in its political struggle to be a political party for all Sarawakians – not only in the urban but also rural areas; the voice not only the Chinese but also Dayaks and Malays in Sarawak.

The saddest and tragic event during the Sarawak state election was the helicopter crash which killed six persons, including the Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities and Sungai Besar MP, Datuk Noriah Kasnon and MP for Kuala Kangsar Datuk Wan Mohammad Khair-ir Anua Wan Ahmad in Batang Lupar on May 5.

Could such a tragedy be avoided?

There should be a full public inquiry into the tragic Eurocopter A350 crash while transporting Noriah and Wan Mohammad Khair-ir from Betong to Kuching to determine the cause of the tragedy.

I fully agree with the Bernama Chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang that Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, does not have a good record on helicopter flights, and the latest helicopter disaster killing six persons should be the cause for a full inquiry into the safety of helicopter flights in the country, the lessons to be learnt from the history of helicopter crashes in Malaysia, particularly Sarawak especially on the rules covering helicopter flights.

Azman estimated that there had been 15 helicopter crashes in over 15 years with the loss of 33 lives including VIPs – and most noteworthy was another MP and the Minister without portfolio, Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis.

Azman estimated that some 80 helicopters were in service during the two-week Sarawak state general election campaign, with most outsourced from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Were all the helicopters air-worthy and the foreign pilots of these Filipino and Indonesian helicopter pilots familiar with the local terrain and the peculiar weather patterns in Sarawak?

One question many are quietly asking in the mourning over the recent helicopter crash was over the death of the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Dr. Sundaran Annamalai, who was one of the six who perished in the helicopter tragedy.

Why is the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities involved in the Barisan Nasional campaign for the Sarawak state general election – which should not have involved government officers, especially top civil service personnel!

Who were the other civil service officers from Putrajaya who were involved in the Barisan Nasional campaign for the Sarawak state general election?

A public inquiry would be able to reveal the full list of the public servants from Putrajaya who were involved in the Barisan Nasional campaign in the Sarawak state general election – which is clearly wrong, electoral abuse and should not be repeated in the future.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah