I am deeply saddened by the events that have recently transpired in Sabah, for a number of reasons.
First, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims of the earthquake. My deepest condolences. To the rescuers, we honour you.
I am fortunate enough to have been allowed to climb Mount Kinabalu, and I will always remember the welcoming porters who tolerate tourists climbing her with kindness and hospitality. I admire the Dusun women who carry giant tubs of water up the mountain to the waypoint, Laban Rata (wearing only sandals!).
The people of Sabah are some of the gentlest people I have ever had the fortune to know. Who would have thought I would meet and marry a Kadazandusun from Tambunan! I am blessed to be part of such a beautiful family. I am in awe of my wife’s spiritual connection to Nature, something that the Western world seems to have lost a long time ago.
Sabahans are compassionate people with a warrior spirit, and have a rich indigenous tradition. Mount Kinabalu is not 'just a mountain'. It holds a place of deep significance, particularly to the natives. They do not ask much of tourists - they know that most will make little or no attempt to learn their language. They tolerate rudeness with a smile and only ask that tourists show some respect to their culture and traditions.
When I found out that Canadians were involved in the recent 'strip down' on the mountain (on May 30 no less--- they are likely blissfully ignorant of the significance of doing this on Kaamatan), I only hoped that they were contrite, and made immediate, public apologies. When I found out that they swore at the porters, and urinated on the mountain, I was infuriated. Canadians have worked hard to build up a good reputation as tourists and travelers, and these few have managed to soil our reputation in the eyes of many Sabahans, perhaps forever. They have continued to show disrespect and are doing more damage to the reputation of Canada than they likely know. When Sabahans say that their lewd behaviour is what caused the earthquake, this may sound 'ridiculous' to some. But it is their belief and we need to respect it.
I hope that the people of Sabah realise that not all Canadians are ignorant. I hope that the people responsible for the disrepectful behaviour are punished to the fullest extent of the law. They should be fined or jailed, and asked to perform community service. Although this will not erase what they have done, hopefully it will make them realize how seriously they have offended one of the last guardians of the natural world as we know it. Siou poh kumaa tulun Sabah.
Written by Chris Quarrie with Michelle Kiob