The Malaysian Government blames a group of nude foreign tourists for ‘causing’ a deadly earthquake at a sacred mountain, calling for them to be brought to justice.
A magnitude-5.9 earthquake on Friday sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes at Mount Kinabalu, in the eastern Sabah state on Borneo Island – killing at least 13 people.
Malaysian Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the lives lost were caused by the “sacrilegious act” of a group of Europeans who stripped naked on the peak of Mount Kinabalu, Malay Mail Online reported.
The minister condemned the “uncivilised” and disrespectful actions of the group and called for the culprits to be brought to a native court and charged according to local customs.
The group was also barred from leaving the country.
“Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs,” Mr Pairin said during a press conference about the natural disaster.
“It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly.”
Locals who live at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu believe the mountain was sacred and carried the spirit of their ancestors.
Mr Pairin said he had a premonition that something bad was going to happen earlier last week when he saw a flight of swallows circling outside his house during breakfast, Malay Mail Online reported.
“At first I didn’t think anything of it, but after it went on for more than half an hour I knew something was not well. I brought it up with my wife and we bought agreed that something bad was going to happen,” Mr Pairin said.
“The next day, I was on the way to the airport when the earthquake occurred. To me, when something like this happens, it is a clear connection of the incident to the earthquake that has brought about so much damage and loss of lives.”
“There is almost certainly a connection. We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected.”
On May 30, a group of 10 Europeans including two Canadians, two Dutch and a German national broke away from their entourage of 27 at the mountain’s summit plateau and proceeded to strip before taking photos.
Malaysian authorities identified Lindsey and Danielle Petersen as the two Canadians accused in the incident, according to The Canadian Press.
Lindsey Peterson, who is from Saskatchewan, posted frequently on Facebook about his travels with his sister through Asia.
The siblings’ father, Floyd Peterson, told The Canadian Press that he had no idea his children were in trouble.
“Would you tell your parents you did this?” he said. “I don’t have anything to say, I’m just absorbing this.”
The Canadian Foreign Ministry was aware of reports of Canadians being detained in Malaysia.