Ten foreign tourists climb up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, strip naked and start peeing for the camera. Their local guide tells them not to, only to be mocked and scolded.
Almost a week later, an earthquake happens in Sabah. Earthquakes are very rare in Sabah. And now 18 people have lost their lives. All were climbing the mountain.
Sabah is a state that consist of a majority of indigenous people who have traditional beliefs. One of those beliefs is that Mount Kinabalu is a sacred and spiritual place.
It has spirits protecting it, called Aki, and many locals associated the earthquake with the naked, peeing tourists. It would seem like the tragedy was the wrath of the spirits.
I do not want to belittle the beliefs of the Sabahans, but it would be too far fetch for me personally to accept that spirits or god would bestow tragedy unto innocent people.
But that really isn’t the point.
The first main point is that a natural disaster has happened and people have died. We now need to look back at what has happened and make sure that we are much better prepared next time.
We need to mourn those who were killed and pay our respect to them. We also need to honour those who died trying to save and rescue others.
And speaking of that, the second point is the fact that a bunch of foreign tourist had disrespected the local culture and beliefs of Sabah and Malaysia.
They have now been remanded and will be taken to court for their actions. It is reported that if found guilty, they may face either a 3 month jail term or a fine.
Many Malaysians are angry and offended by what these ten people have done. And it is rightfully so that they feel that way. I am angry and offended too.
But to say that they caused the earthquake and deaths is unfair to them. So unfair that I think what they did doesn’t even warrant a jail term, no matter how short.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending them. They have been insensitive, inconsiderate and outright rude. For that, they definitely have to be punished and and be taught a lesson.
Imagine going to Thailand where they are such pious Buddhists and desecrating all the temples there. It just isn’t decent, sensitive and respectful behaviour.
It does seem that Malaysia and Sabah (and Malaysians) are in shock at what had happened and we just couldn’t explain why it did happen.
But looking for a simple reason for a natural tragedy isn’t right. Sure, we can condemn the nude tourists. But putting the blame of a terrible earthquake and 18 deaths on them is just a bit too much.