KUNDASANG, June 6 — The earthquake that has so far claimed 11 lives here was caused by the sacrilegious act of a group of Europeans who stripped naked on the peak of Mount Kinabalu, according to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
The Huguon Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun) condemned the “uncivilised” and disrespectful actions of the 10 Europeans, and called for the culprits 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. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs.
“It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly,” he said in a press conference to announce the latest death toll at the Sabah Parks headquarters here today.
Locals who live at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu here believe that the mountain is sacred and carries the spirit of their ancestors.
Pairin said he had a premonition that something bad was going to happen earlier this week when he saw a flight of swallows circling outside his house during breakfast.
“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.
“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,” he said.
“There is almost certainly a connection. We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected,” he said, adding that they should face appropriate action according to native laws and then banned from entering the state again.
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.
They were approached and reprimanded by a mountain guide, and allegedly told him to “go to hell” and called him “stupid”.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who is a Ranau-born Dusun, said that the five identified culprits will be found if they are still in Sabah and will not be allowed to leave until they face action.
“Only after will we kick them out and ban them from entering Sabah again,” he said.
When asked what actions will be taken to prevent the incident from recurring, Masidi said that it was not viable to question everyone who came to the mountain.
“It something that could not be foreseen and was over in a matter of minutes. We have to trust that people who come here are good people,” he said.
Masidi said that they are planning on holding a traditional ceremony and ritual to appease the spirits as soon as possible.
State police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan yesterday said that the five of the tourists were believed to still be in the country and would be barred from leaving at all entry and exit points on the offence of gross indecency.
Locals, with Sabah Parks, the custodian agency for Kinabalu Park, hold a sacrifical ritual annually to appease the spirits for the safety of their climbers.
Sabah Parks staff Alip Sampil, who lives in Kampung Kiau said that the villagers here were angered by the incident last Saturday when 10 tourists stripped for nude photos at South peak.
“They were so offended and angry with the behaviour. The mountain is sacred to the people here.
“The worse part is that they were rude and disrespected the guide who told them not to do it,” said Alip.
“The last time we had an earthquake was so long ago. This is more than a coincidence. I think that the spirits were deeply offended by the insolence,” said another local villager who declined to be named.
The earthquake at 7.15am yesterday occurred some 16km north of Ranau has so far claimed 11 lives while eight others are still missing. At least one climber is in a coma while others have suffered broken limbs.