A coalition of NGOs condemning the assassination of Bill Kayong said the incident was just one of many that has happened in Sarawak.
“Within the last few years, we have seen a spate of killings throughout Sarawak, with the same modus operandi - drive-by shooting by criminals and these criminals are becoming bolder by the day.
“We urge the police and the authorities to take immediate and proactive action in dealing with this sort of crime by stepping up their policing activities and installing security measures such as having closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras so as to deter such crimes from happening again in the future,” a coalition of 12 NGOs said in a statement this evening.
They include Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia, Borneo Resource Institute, Save Sarawak Rivers Network, Jaringan Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak, Baram Protection Action Committee, Orang Ulu National Association and the Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Association.
Kayong was the political secretary to Miri MP Michael Teoh and had stood as PKR’s candidate in the Bekenu state seat during the Sarawak state election in April.
He was shot dead with a shotgun when he stopped his vehicle at the traffic light intersection of Jalan Permyjaya-Kuala Baram.
The coalition urged police to investigate of Kayong’s murder was linked to his work in defending indigenous land rights.
“The late Bill Kayong was an activist and politician who was very vocal on indigenous land rights issues in the state of Sarawak.
“We urge the police to investigate the parties involved in the land rights disputes in which the late Bill Kayong was involved in highlighting, especially companies that employ thugs in the guise of security personnel to look after the plantation estates.
“Recently, a local land rights lawyer was also threatened when he acted for an indigenous community having a land dispute with a certain oil palm plantation company in Miri division,” said the NGOs.
They added that the incident should also serve as a wake-up call for the government to seriously look into the root cause of such land disputes.
“In this connection, we also urge the government. to develop and put in place practical mechanisms through the involvement of relevant stakeholders to uphold the principles of the free, prior informed consent (Fpic) as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) and other international human rights instruments,” they said.
The NGOs said Kayong’s passing is a great lost to the indigenous people of Sarawak and they stand in solidarity with his family in this difficult time.
NGO Global Witness shocked
Meanwhile, international NGO Global Witness said it was shocked by Kayong's assassination. It described him as a "dedicated land rights activist".
“The brutal slaying of land rights champion Bill Kayong shows the risks faced by activists in Sarawak who stand up to the powerful interests behind land grabbing and environmental devastation.
"This tragic killing comes the day after Global Witness released a report documenting the dramatic increase in the murder of activists like Kayong around the world.
"The Malaysian authorities must take swift action to identify those responsible and bring them to justice," said Global Witness representative Rick Jacobsen.
Jacobsen said Sarawak faces corruption, environmental destruction and human rights violations against the indigenous communities.
"The brave activists and indigenous communities speaking out against these wrongs have too often faced repression by the government, while violence against them goes unpunished," he said.