Tindarama Aman Sirom Simbuna, the head tribal priest, or Bobolian, of Sabah, Malaysia, is demanding that European and Canadian tourists accused of causing a major earthquake by stripping at the summit of a sacred mountain offer ten buffalo to aggrieved spirits to pay for their transgression.
“According to local beliefs, the spirit of the mountain is very angry,” Tindarama Aman tells Malaysia’s The Star, explaining that the only way to appease the spirit is to offer sogit, or a fine, to absolve sin. “This fine, called sogit in the native tongue, should be in the form of 10 male or female buffaloes,” he explained. He did not note why the buffalo specifically would calm the angry spirits or why the gender of the cattle did not matter.
Malaysian authorities have arrested four people, two Canadians and two Europeans, after photos surfaced on social media of the group standing nude on the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Shortly thereafter, an earthquake hit the Sabah region of Malaysia, where the mountain is located, killing 18 people. Many Malaysians, including the nation’s minister of Culture, have blamed the nude tourists for causing the earthquake and have demanded their arrest and death. They currently face a three-month jail sentence or a fine if convicted. Authorities have not clarified whether that fine could be paid in buffalo legally.
Officials have said there are still tourists at large photographed on the mountain naked. “We will continue the investigation and look for who else is involved and if they are still in Sabah, we will catch them,” said Sabah’s police chief at a press conference.
Among the arrested is 24-year-old Eleanor Hawkins of Derby, UK, who is currently completing a Masters degree in aeronautics at the University of Southampton. Her father, also an engineer, has described Hawkins as “very scared” and not worthy of severe punishment for her “stupid prank.”
“I’m not dismissing it (the stripping) as completely trivial. It was obviously insensitive but they were 4,000 feet up a mountain with no-one else around. It’s just something most of us have done in a mad drunken moment, and have got away with,” he told The Sun. The elder Hawkins added that, from his perspective, it appeared that Malaysian authorities “just want to blame somebody” for the natural disaster.
Also arrested is the man described as the group’s tour guide, Emil Kaminsky, who took to social media earlier this week before his arrest to respond to claims that his group had prompted the earthquake. “If local religion prohibits certain actions, then local believers of that religion should not engage in it, but they cannot expect everyone to obey their archaic and idiotic rules,” he wrote on Facebook, before telling one commenter, “F*ck your culture.”
Kaminsky has received a high number of death threats, racial insults (“F*ck you whiteman!!”), and literal curses from Malaysian nationals on social media. Before his arrest, Kaminski uploaded a video explaining that his insults were not directed at the victims of the earthquake:
I was not making any references to people that died up there. I was simply insulting that Masidi Manjood [sic: Malaysian Culture Minister Masidi Manjun] guy, that f*cking chief minister, because to say something that f*cking stupid, you really have to lobotomize yourself on a piece of heavy machinery. How the f*ck do you get to be in a government if you’re that f*cking dumb and you don’t know anything about plate tectonics, geology? … You haven’t even heard these f*cking words?
He then proceeded to read death threats and comments in Malay with a mock Malaysian accent, though ending the video by saying many “good people” in Malaysia had sent him messages of support in private.
— Emil Kaminski (@monkeetimevideo) June 10, 2015
Sabah is still suffering aftershocks, including a 3.7 earthquake Wednesday.