Crikey, 12 May 2017: On a Tuesday morning in June last year, Sarawak land rights activist and opposition politician Bill Kayong pulled up at a set of traffic lights in the coastal city of Miri, and was shot dead through the driver’s window of his Toyota pickup.
The alleged “mastermind” of the assassination was Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, the director and key shareholder of an oil palm company, which had for years been locked in legal battles with indigenous landowners who Kayong campaigned for.
Lee’s father and co-director of the company, Lee Sie Tong, is the government-appointed administrative head of Miri.
Lee initially fled to Australia after the attack but was arrested in China.
According to online news reports, his plantation company had been implicated in threats and violent attacks against villagers, local leaders and campaigners going back years but police had done nothing about complaints they received.
The events highlight an in-practice indifference of authorities on both the Malaysian and Indonesian sides of the island of Borneo to native land rights and forest protection, and an underlying culture of corruption and impunity.