Marina Mahathir: GE14 grounding of private jet – coincidence or conspiracy?


GE14 grounding of private jet – coincidence or conspiracy?

Marina Mahathir

Published:  Nov 16, 2021 10:11 AM⋅Updated: Nov 17, 2021 8:17 AM

My parents and those of us who were going to join him in Langkawi were due to fly to the island on Friday, April 27 (2018), the day before Nomination Day, so that we would be fresh and relaxed the next morning.

Soon after my parents arrived, the pilot of the plane had a word with Dad. There was a technical problem with the plane which they were trying to fix. This would take some time and he was unsure when the plane would be ready to fly.

A major spanner was thrown into the day’s plans. I had already missed my flight. The next commercial flight to Langkawi that day was at 4pm or so, which would arrive on the island after the EC office had closed. If they could not fix the plane soon, the only options were to borrow another plane. Or drive.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but it did seem more than a coincidence that on the day that we absolutely had to get to Dad’s would-be constituency, there seemed to be no way of getting there.

None of us was qualified to know whether there was anything truly wrong with the plane we were using but we had to accept that, to all our intents and purposes, it was out of commission. As always, Dad remained calm while the rest of us paced anxiously about the room, making phone calls and discussing alternatives for transport.

At a time when Dad was persona non grata in the country, friendships are tested by situations like this. As she listened to all our worried discussions, my sister-in-law Mastisa, who was also scheduled to fly with Mum and Dad to Langkawi, looked up and saw a friend who happened to walk into the waiting lounge just then. A wealthy businessman, he was about to fly to Singapore on his own jet, a jet that was sitting on the tarmac ready and waiting to take off.

Mastisa leapt up and went to talk to him. She explained the situation, our urgent need to get to Langkawi that afternoon and our plane troubles. Listening to her and looking around and seeing Mum and Dad quietly waiting, he did not hesitate. “Take my plane,” he said, “I can go later.”

As we flew the one hour or so north to Langkawi, we did not know that there was more drama in the cockpit. Our pilot was being denied permission to land in Langkawi and ordered to divert to Penang instead, a clear attempt to delay us even more. My parents, my sister-in-law and I, exhausted from the drama before take-off were oblivious to what was going on. Only later, after we had landed safely in Langkawi, to be greeted by Dad’s relieved staff and supporters, were we told what happened.

I really don’t know how it was resolved unless someone with a cool head and a conscience decided to ignore whoever issued the diversion order. Still the entire episode sent chills down my spine, the first time in my life that I had felt unsafe within my own country, knowing there were possible attempts to jeopardise my family’s safety.

Good news greeted us upon landing. One of Dad’s people had negotiated with the EC office to stay open late to cater to our delayed arrival.


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