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MIRI: The Miri High Court today ruled a prima facie case had not been established against three men, including a datuk plantation owner, accused of abetting in the shooting to death of land rights activist, Bill Kayong, on June 21 last year when discharging and acquitting them.
Datuk Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, 46 and his two employers Chin Wui Ching, 51 and Lie Chang Loon, 38 walked out of the court as free men amidst accusation that the prosecution was inept and had botched the case.
A fourth man, Mohamad Fitri Pauzi, 30, accused of pulling the trigger that killed the PKR politician and key aide to Miri MP, Dr Michael Teo, at a traffic light intersection near to the E-Mart supermarket in Tudan was ordered by Judge Ravinthran N Paramaguru to make his defence on the murder charge as he said the prosecution had found a prima facie case established against him.
Paramaguru had set three days for the trial that will begin on June 14.
Mohamad is charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which if found guilty face the mandatory death sentence.
This killing became high profile because it involved a politician, Lee’s family political connection to the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Lee’s oil palm plantation company that is involved in a land ownership dispute with native customary rights (NCR) land owners in Sungai Bekelit.
Lee’s father is also the Temenggong for the Chinese community in Miri.
He fled to Australia two days after the shooting but when he tried to flee and hide in China, he was on Dec 12 arrested in Putian, Fujian Province as an international fugitive.
The Chinese then handed over to Malaysian authorities and was deported.
In the first reaction to the decision, Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said the prosecution had botched their case and questioned their competency.
“How competent are the DPPs (Deputy Public Prosecutors) to conduct major criminal cases? Were the prosecution witnesses prevented from being influenced to change their stories? Did the prosecution even really try to build up a solid case?” he asked.
“It is a devastating blow for the people who are seeking justice for Bill Kayong’s family,” Baru said.
“It is obvious to all that he was murdered for his activities in helping to defend the lands of the indigenous people but the prosecution had failed to put up a credible case against the mastermind.
“One can sense the frustration of the judge in having to put up with an inept prosecution.
“Rulings are based on evidence presented before the court and without putting forth a strong case, the prosecution had failed to even get past first base.”
He said the release of the “alleged mastermind accused”… “makes a complete mockery of our criminal justice system”.
“The trial will be remembered for the supposed key prosecution witnesses switching sides during the trial, while many named witnesses from the communities who could have testified to give useful evidence were not called.
“It was recalled that the threats made against Miri MP Dr Michael Teo and the late Bill Kayong were not adduced in the trial. The whole conduct of the case leaves much to be desired.”
Baru said people all over the world and those concerned with the case will surely ask: “Why did Stephen Lee flee the country immediately after the murder if he was innocent?”
He said in today’s case, “the message to the natives of Sarawak is that there is nothing that can be done to stop the oppression of their communities and the denial of their rights.
“At the end of the day, it looks like the rich are not accountable for their actions and they can behave like gangsters without any consequences besides the inconvenience of a few months in the police lock-up.” – dayakdaily.com