Malaysian officials have claimed that tourists who took naked photos at the top of Mount Kinabalu are to blame for the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that followed days later, killing 16 climbers in the process.
Now, this may all sound a little bit absurd at first, and while it does seem ridiculous to make the group scapegoasts for such a tragic natural disaster, the tale of their naked roaming does paint them in a more than disrespectful light.
The guilty party of 10 were climbing Kinabalu on May 30th when they broke away from their party to strip off and take some photos.
Now, this all seems fairly routine for a bunch of young ramblers, but the thing is, Mt. Kinabalu is seen as sacred ground to the locals, who believe the mountain carries the spirits of their ancestors.
When climbing up the mountain then, it’s taken for granted that tourists conduct themselves courteously and honour the traditions that have been held for generations in the surrounding towns.
So, when the tour guide of the group in question saw them getting their kit off and – as far as he was concerned – effectively posing naked around a hallowed resting place, he understandably asked them to stop. They told him “to go to hell".
The tragic earthquake hit less than a week later, and while it’s more appropriate to call the bunch of tourists disrespectful jackasses than murderers, their sacrilegious actions are now being held to blame by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is calling for them to be brought to a native court and charged according to local customs.
“Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe," he said, speaking about the mountain. “When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs.
“It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly. There is almost certainly a connection. We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected."
Datuk Masisi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, went even further, saying that the culprits will be found if they are still in Sabah, and not allowed to leave the country without facing action.
“We have to trust that people who come here are good people," he said, adding that the locals are planning on holding a traditional ceremony and ritual to appease the spirits as soon as possible.
Five of the travellers involved in the naked fiasco are said to still be in the country, and will apparently be blocked when they try and depart.
While they did show clear disregard for ancient customs, we hope that the group do get out of the country at least unharmed, although hopefully with a lesson learned. The whole scenario is starting to sound like something out of a horror film.
A very unfortunate story indeed. Show respect when you’re travelling folks – for obvious reasons.