PETALING JAYA: Over 30 civil society organisations have expressed their dismay at the acquittal of three suspects in the murder of social activist Bill Kayong last June, calling it “a travesty of justice”.
In a joint statement signed by 38 organisations including Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Pusat Komas and Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), they lashed out at the police and prosecution for failing to establish adequate evidence against the accused.
Calling it “unjustifiable” and “incompetent”, they added that the police and prosecution had failed to call witnesses from the community who could testify and had not adduced the threats made against Kayong and Miri MP Dr Michael Teo.
“Failure to conduct a comprehensive investigation and provide due evidence for prosecution represents a failure in fulfilling the police and public prosecution’s duties and obligations to the people of Malaysia; and by proxy a failure by the government of Malaysia in upholding justice and protecting the indigenous peoples and their rights to native customary land.
“Furthermore, reflecting on the stakes involved in the case and the history of conflict between one of the accused, the community and Bill Kayong, their acquittal due to inadequate evidence would undoubtedly create and fuel public suspicion that there is an attempt to cover up the crime and protect the assailants.”
The organisations were referring to one of the suspects, Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, who was said to be the mastermind behind Kayong’s murder.
They noted that Lee was a director of the Tung Huat plantation, which had been involved in disputes with native customary rights (NCR) landowners in Sungai Bekelit.
Lee left Miri for Singapore just two days after the murder, and was later reported to be on the run in Australia. He was eventually extradited from China following an Interpol manhunt.
On June 6, Lee and two others, Lie Chang Loon and Chin Wui Chung, were discharged and acquitted without having their defence called.
High Court Judge P Ravinthran ruled that the prosecution had failed to furnish evidence linking the trio to the murder.
However, Mohamad Fitri Pauz, the man accused of pulling the trigger in the mafia-style murder was ordered to enter his defence. He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death penalty.
Kayong, 43, whose Muslim name is Mohd Hasbie Abdullah, was gunned down in his Toyota Hilux vehicle at about 8.30am on June 21 last year at a traffic light intersection at Lutong near E-Mart supermarket in Jalan Miri-Bintulu.
The killing of the Miri PKR leader was believed to be linked to his work as an advocate of social issues, especially on indigenous rights and land issues.
The civil society organisations called on the Attorney-General’s Chambers to discharge its duties professionally and ensure justice for Kayong and his family by bringing to book those involved in his murder.
They also listed out three other demands:
“For the police to act with the professionalism it has shown in the past and discharge their duties accordingly;
“For the Sarawak state government to fulfil its promises and obligations in protecting and promoting indigenous rights and the rights to native customary land;
“For the promise for the establishment of a working committee on NCR land with community participation to be implemented immediately.”