This award is named after a beloved colleague and Malaysian activist who had drowned in the Baram River whilst on a fact finding mission to investigate human rights abuses inflicted on Indigenous Penan women in the interiors of Sarawak.
Events of November 1994
A group of young activists went on a fact-finding mission to Ulu Baram, Sarawak to investigate the incidences of alleged rape of indigenous Penan women by forest rangers and other human rights violations. Among them was a young Justin Louis, KOMAS’ first coordinator who, armed only with a video camera, worked tirelessly in documenting the struggles of grassroots communities in Malaysia. As the long boat carrying the fact-finding mission team travelled up the mighty Rejang river, the boat encountered complications and capsized. Justin lost his life in the strong rapids. He was only 30.
Justin Louis believed in the power of moving images in bringing about social awareness and meaningful change. His zest and passion for life was matched by his commitment to transform the lives of the marginalised and oppressed in society.