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Sabahans want 10 foreign stripper tourists charged in native court
Published on: Wednesday, June 10, 2015
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Kota Kinabalu: A group of 10 foreign tourists who posed naked on Mount Kinabalu had flouted local customs and should pay for their breach in Sabah's indigenous court, a local native leader said Tuesday. Some upset Sabahans have also linked the recent quake that killed 18 to the allegedly indecent act and want the bare-naked Mt Kinabalu tourists to pay "sogit" to appease the spirits of the mountain.

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"They committed the act of breach here. They should face our native court and pay the 'sogit' here," Ranau Native Chief Taip Rashman said.

"Sogit", which means "to cool down" in the local Dusun language, is a form of compensation to appease the aggrieved party according to native customs and can take the form of money or livestock.

"The sogit is imposed on wrongdoers for the purpose of appeasing the aggrieved. It means to cool down the community at large," said Sabah lawyer Priscilla Ruth Marcus. Taip said the charges will be based on the Native Court Enactment 1995, but added that they were yet to be decided as his counterparts in the Native Court Council were still discussing the case.

"We will study what laws are appropriate and can be used in this instance," he said, adding that this is the first time such an incident has happened here.

The native courts are special to the indigenous peoples of East Malaysia and governed by the Native Courts Enactment 1992.

The indigenous courts typically deal with social and community-based disputes such as adoption of children cases, family disputes and local land matters.

If charged for indecency under Section 294 Penal Code in civil court, they could be jailed for up to three months or fined, or both.

Police have yet to announce any arrests but the Canadian Foreign Ministry has reportedly confirmed two of its citizens have been barred from leaving Malaysia after they were suspected of being part of the 10 tourists who stripped on Southeast Asia's highest peak.

While not common, foreigners have been hauled up before Sabah's indigenous courts previously though the nudity charge would be the first, said a native law practitioner.

"It is possible that the foreigners will be brought to the native court in Ranau to be charged. It depends on how the Attorney-General's office sees the case. They can also just charge them for indecency in civil court," Marcus said.

"But perhaps the aggrieved would like to charge them in native court because their nudity is a breach of native customary laws," she added.

Marcus, who is one of just about 20 advocates for the Native Court of Appeal in Sabah, said the case would be the first of its kind in the State, adding that many people were eager to see how it pans out.

She said she has seen several cases involving foreigners and non-natives, including assault, slander and sexual harassment that could have been tried in the civil court but were heard in the native court instead.

Native customary laws, similar to common law, are built on broad and generally accepted principles.

There are variations of customs from district to district and even within a district itself. The variations are more pronounced in respect of certain aspects of customary law such as adoption, marriage and succession.

It was earlier reported that Sabah's tribal priest or bobolian said that the appropriate punishment for the western tourist who had desecrated the grave of their ancestors was 10 heads of buffaloes.

"To appease the mountain protector, the 10 western tourists who stripped and urinated on Mount Kinabalu should be fined 10 head of buffalo, according to local customs," Tindarama Aman Sirom Simbuna said.

Claiming that the tourists' actions had angered the spirits and guardians of the mountain, he said they should be made to pay a compensation, which was costlier than the usual 10 heads of chicken or pig, but less than buffaloes.

"According to local beliefs, the spirit of the mountain is very angry. The tourists who angered the guardian of the mountain should pay for their mistakes by giving 'sogit'," he said.

The local Kadazan and Dusun communities believe that Mount Kinabalu is the resting place for spirits of their ancestors and disrespecting the mountain will result in bad incidents.


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