Jimmy accepts invite for Christmas helicopter joy ride


TAWAU: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sabah chief Jimmy Wong has accepted Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming’s invitation to him to take a helicopter ride though he feels the current Sabah Air chairman Datuk Yusoff Kassim is the appropriate person to issue the invitation.

“I was hoping that the current chairman Datuk Yusoff Kassim would issue the invitation. Nevertheless, let us see these two helicopters at the Merdeka town padang on Christmas Day, December 25,” he said.

“We will be at the padang on Christmas morning together with the rakyat of Sabah, the children in particular, for the promised Christmas joy ride by Sabah Air,” he said, adding that he also wants to see Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and his entire Cabinet to be at the padang in Kota Kinabalu on Christmas Day.

On the clarifications made yesterday by Yusoff and Sabah Air CEO Manu Sasidharan and Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, Jimmy said it showed the organisation was in disarray.

He said: “Three persons made statements and it only showed that no one is in charge of Sabah Air. By having three spokespersons, it is akin to spreading the liabilities.

“In this respect we must revisit the Auditor General Report 2010. Sabah Air was formed in 1975 with the objective of readying air transportation for passengers, cargo and other services in Malaysia.

“Datuk Yusoff Kassim’s contention that Sabah Air is predominantly in the business of saving lives contradict the original objective of the organisation.

“How is Sabah Air going to register profit when they are basically involved in saving lives?”

Jimmy said DAP Sabah never denied the importance of air ambulance service but if the government had laid out a good road network and infrastructure, the need for air ambulance and flying doctor services would be minimal.

He said rural clinics and mobile clinics are more basic and a priority for the rural community.

On Yusoff’s statement that it is prudent to ensure fleet expansion and renewal is carried out on the basis of an upcoming possible contract, Jimmy said the AG Report 2010 stated that the company must properly plan when buying helicopters.

“This came about when Sabah Air had signed a contract to purchase one helicopter model AEW139 at a cost of RM45.45 million in the hope that they will succeed in getting the tender for the Carigali Hess’s production and drilling operation in Kota Bharu.

“The contract was terminated and Sabah Air then purchased the controversial helicopters from Eurocopters for RM33.8 million in October 2010 and January 2011 respectively,” he claimed.

“The AG Report 2010 said that the helicopters had technical problems which were repaired in April 2011. However, the report (dated 24 June 2011) also stated that since the purchase of the two helicopters they were not ready to be utilised and are kept in the hanger,” he said.

“Therefore, it is not wrong to label these expensive helicopters as scrap iron since they were not utilised at all,” he asserted.

“It does not take one to be a rocket scientist to say that two helicopters in the storage are scrap iron. As an aviation man, CEO Sasidharan should be ashamed for not utilising the helicopters to make money for the company. There is nothing political about this issue, it is business,” he said.

“Why should Eurocopters be given the privilege to put the choppers in Lima Show for a ringgit? This is against the very essence of Yusoff’s and Pang’s statements that the helicopters are used for the benefit of the people. Why are they being leased for the show and for demonstration flights? After all, Sabah Air will not get a cent from any successful transaction between Eurocopters and other buyers,” he said.

Jimmy said he wants the government to review the position of Sabah Air as it has moved away from its original objective.

He said Pang’s statement that Sabah Air made a RM1.6 million profit when he was the chairman contradicted the AG Report 2010 which specifically noted Sabah Air’s accumulated losses of RM3.675 million in 2007, RM2,070 million in 2008 and RM4.764 million in 2009.

“Sabah Air has five subsidiaries and only one, Intra-Travel is active. The others including the Wildlife Sanctuary (Borneo) Sdn Bhd are dormant, according to the AG Report 2010,” he said.

Jimmy said DAP Sabah urges the government to review the position of Sabah Air chairman and CEO as they are not sticking to the original objective of the company.

“When I read their press statement, I am not sure if they know what they are doing.

“As a wholly-owned government agency, the State Government should assist Sabah Air to get contracts with the Petronas oil and gas industry.

“Sabah Air should be given priority when it involves Petronas in Sabah in particular. The State Government should also consider expanding Sabah Air to provide air transport covering Borneo and the Southern Philippines,” he said.