TWO Canadians were prevented from leaving Malaysia after they were identified as being part of a group of tourists who stripped to pose for photos atop Sabah's Mount Kinabalu, where a deadly earthquake struck on Friday.
The Malaysian police reported that siblings Lindsey Petersen, 23, and Danielle Petersen, 22, were two of five tourists identified as being part of the group of 10 who undressed at the 8km point of a two-day hike up the mountain on May 30, and posed for photos, according to Canada's thestar.com news website. They did this despite their guide's protests.
The other three reported to the police by the guide were Dutch citizens Eleanor Hawrins and Dylan Thomas, and German Stephan Pohlner. The other five tourists in the group were not identified, reported thestar.com.
On Saturday, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the actions of the tourists for the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that stuck the mountain on Friday, saying that they had "showed disrespect to the sacred mountain" and the tragedy was a "confirmation" of the consequences of their actions. He called also on the culprits to be brought to be charged in court.
"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," he said. "It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly."
Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Nicolas Doire told thestar.com news website that they were aware of the incident, and the embassy in Malaysia would provide assistance to the duo.
The siblings' father Floyd Petersen was unaware of their plight when contacted by thestar.com. But he confirmed that they were travelling in Malaysia together and were not expected to return to Canada for a few weeks.
However, Sabah Immigration told Malaysia's The Star newspaper that it was unaware of the arrest of the five western tourists.
"We don't know," said Sabah Immigration director Nor Alam Khan when asked about an online report quoting Sabah Parks' chairman Tengku Zainal Adlin as telling reporters that the tourists were in police custody in Kota Kinabalu and could be charged in a native court as early as Monday.
When contacted, Datuk Seri Tengku Adlin said he was informed about the arrest by the police.
But the Sabah police were also in the dark over the reported arrest. Two of the tourists, siblings from Canada, were allegedly prevented from leaving the country at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Ranau district police deputy superintendent Mohd Farhan Lee Abdullah and Assist Commissioner M. Chandra also said that they were unaware of the reported arrest and the police had none of them in custody.
Sabah Police Commissioner Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman was not available for comment.
Photos of the naked tourists posted on Facebook went viral and locals believed that Friday's earthquake could be due to their act of disrespecting the mountain.