Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unsolved Mystery 7: Air Tragedy

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds,
Upon death's purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds,
Your hand must come,
To the cold tomb,
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.
-James Shirley, 1596-1666

July 12, 2004! Remember that day of infamy? In one aircraft crash, Sarawak lost some of its brightest stars with promising futures... starting with one of the most humble cabinet ministers around, Dr. Judson Tagal; others were Marcus Raja, Roger Wong, Jason Eng, Lawrence Th'ng, Ling Kian Ho and the ill-fated helicopter's pilot, Captain Samsuddin. It took 17 days before the plane was eventually found in the Baram region.

I remember well two of these memorable persons: Dr. Judson
Tagal and Marcus Raja.

I first met Judson at the airport in the late 1980s on a visit to Miri while having my Canadian semester break.

I saw this man whom I recognised as his brother,
Mutang Tagal whom I knew very well. I hollered "How are you doing, Mutang?"

The grinning friendly man replied, "Fine!"

Then I said, "Oh man, you look younger these days!" and I went on about the old days when we met in prayer meetings and so on.

Bemused and beaming rather widely from ear to ear, he finally revealed he was
Mutang's brother! Aware of my embarrassment, he assured me, I wasn't the only person to have mistaken him for his brother.

Well, we did get to chat about many things for sometime while he was waiting for his flight to take off.

That was the one occasion I could recall well.

Raja was another funny guy whom I knew better as we were part of a team in a business course that was sponsored by a German philanthropist. This is Marcus' name on the registration list (Click pic to enlarge it) which had all the names of participants in it. He also gave me his business card.

Marcus was so humorous and cracked many jokes making our time indeed together an unforgettable experience. We knew a lot about each other as it was all part of the moderator's aim to build up our team spirit and do some networking.

The moderator, an elderly huge Indian psychologist from West Malaysia was a humorous genius who knew how to set the right tone and got us all ticking! Everyone doubled up in laughter when he introduced himself thus: "I'm a psychologist from Seremban. Now not many people here will know about this small town. Well, I know my town name is famous in a nice place called "Seremban Lodging Hotel"! (Ha! Allegedly, an infamous place for the lusty adventurous visitors in those days!)

Humor aside, questions remain today about the tragedy... such as the cause and the outcome of the investigation into the crash...Here is an abstract of a provocative letter to the New Straits Times' editor dated 3rd August, 2004 which poses some intriguing queries...

By an unusual coincidence, while the search for the seven were ongoing, Judson's faithful driver unexpectedly died in an accident near his home as reported in the Sarawak Tribune dated 28th July, 2004.

Then the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak and the person in charge of the search operation, announced in the State Assembly, as reported in the Borneo Post dated 8th December, 2004, the final report of the crash would be out soon ... Till today, we await the report...Is this a mystery or what???

Here then are more pic recollections, abstracts from the Borneo Post, of those tragically sad days for Sarawakians and the widowed spouses and families of those Sarawak heroes who lost their lives in their line of duty.

The 11th Hour Last Goodbye

Remains of Victims

UPDATE: July 31, 2011

Is there any conspiracy theory behind the crash? Yes, there are ... but it is not my intention to discuss it here. To this day, what is known as stated in the papers and by the players involved is: a) Judson was a rock-solid Evangelical Christian in a well-known Christian stronghold; b) Judson was at an event with another close friend and popular uprising political star, potentially Chief Minister, fellow cabinet member Adenan Satem the day before he died; c) Adenan's publicly expressed grief at the church funeral was well noted; d) there was much talk about dams being constructed throughout Baram for the benefit of the rural natives but till today, there is little progress and last but not least, e) one of Judson's best medical partners in a private medical centre joint venture, popular Dr Chin in Miri also met an untimely demise a few years after his death.

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