25 April 2011

On The Board


I walked into the ops room to see whether the new roster was up for May.

Then I noticed my name was all over the roster.


Now it is time. I apologise in advance for this, but I am in transition no more.

13 April 2011


On 11 April, my friend who was flying the Deputy Prime Minister and his entourage to selected campaign spots encircling Sibu sustained fatal injuries when, after returning the passengers to the town square, the helicopter he was flying rolled over to the starboard side from a hover, the very side where he was strapped into his seat. He breathed his last before Sunday night dinner time.

I was in Sibu on Tuesday to aid the DCA's airworthiness cell coordinate the investigation process.

After sending my friend's coffinned body on a chartered flight back to Kota Bharu, where he was to be laid to rest, I returned to Premier Hotel for a short rest, which was shortened further by Capt H's call. The DCA aircraft accident investigation team was to arrive at 1730H, headed by Dato' Y. I was to meet them and help them check in to their hotel and take them to the crash site.

The number of a cab driver was given to me and the meet up with the DCA men was arranged. "Ahpo" the driver, coursed through heavy traffic and the monotonous patter of rain to the airport. This was election time, and Sibu, like the rest of the state, was all abuzz with contending parties, swirling into the town via the arrival gates. This Sleepy Hollow was stirring with dreams and nightmares.

I got Dato' Y and his men into the little Avanza and we chatted as Ahpo exhibited his trade skills all the way to the town square. As we arrived at the Sibu Municipal Council's field, I saw the wreckage. Not my first. Yet, being at a crash site and seeing a mate's last venue of life floods me with emotions I have never acclimatised to.

I noted the people of Sibu standing outside the police perimeter tape. They stood with an air of sacred reverence; like a funeral wake over the spot where my friend's life was taken or given, I know not which. I have been made to understand since that Sibu has not seen a tragedy of this nature yet.

I approached the two cops who were on sentry duty there, introduced myself and pointed out Dato' Y to them, explaining the purpose of our arrival, which was to begin evidence gathering. We were received well and escorted into the cordoned off area. Dato' Y and his two-man team began their work aided by cameras.

I have no bone to pick with journalists. They have a job to do, I acknowledge that. But 26 years of service in the air force and knowing how obscenely they handle our fatal accidents, a journalist at a crash site strikes my patellar tendon.

Here he was, and his obesity lent no redeeming charm to his shamelessness as upon seeing us, he crossed the perimeter tape and began shutterbugging. With a huge telephoto zoom lens, he still chose to be inside the perimeter. This isn't about denying your press rights. It's about keeping the crash site untampered and undisturbed. It is also about sensitivity towards the friends and family of the deceased. The cop who stood with me clicked at him and waved him away with "Encik!". The journalist just walked a few feet away and started again.

Yes, my patellar tendon had definitely been sledgehammered.

I walked up to him, with the constable chasing after me.

"Encik, kamu dari mana?" I had to identify whom he worked for.

MSM, he replied.

"Encik nampak kah tidak pita yang megatakan ini kawasan penyiasatan polis dan anda dilarang melintas?' In effect, did you not see the perimeter tape that says this is a police scene and you are not to cross in?

He threw a glance over his shoulder and did not deny understanding the significance of a police-scene-do-not-cross perimeter tape.

"Kalau begitu apa yang menyebabkan Encik rasa yang Encik boleh melintas garisan pita itu?" What then made you think you could cross over?

The MSM journalist apologised profusely and backed off. I had nothing further to say to him.

And I laud the people of Sibu for remaining outside the perimeter tape in spite of the journalist's behaviour.