Brunei should pay for intolerance

One thing that the Trump era has made abundantly clear is that, as long as it brings in money, human rights atrocities don’t matter. For example, Saudi Arabia imprisons political activists and people fighting against their women’s’ rights abuses, but they have oil, so our government sweeps it under the rug and continues to fund them.

Foreign policy like this emphasises the uncomfortable truth that the United States does not champion human rights all over the world, especially if it means missing out on millions in oil.

Brunei is a small Southeast Asian country near Indonesia. It has a population of fewer than 500,000 people and a GDP of just $36 billion. Brunei is an absolute monarchy governed by Prime Minister and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

In early April, Brunei made gay sex, rape and adultery punishable by stoning to death.

The outrage was immediate.

Mark Field, minister of state for Asia in the UK, stated, “The UK strongly opposes capital and corporal punishment, whatever the crime. We strongly support LGBT rights.”

Robert Palladino, U.S. State Department spokesperson, said, “We continue to encourage Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture.”

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, condemned this policy a bit more heavily, saying, “Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations. The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.

“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender… Brunei’s Penal Code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights.”

A boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei began with an opinion piece written by actor George Clooney and published in Deadline, in which Clooney states, “They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”

On April 2, Ellen DeGeneres voiced support of the boycott on social media, tweeting, “Tomorrow, the country of #Brunei will start stoning gay people to death. We need to do something now. Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.” The hotels mentioned are The Dorchester, London; 45 Park Lane, London; Coworth Park, UK; The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills; Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles; Le Meurice, Paris; Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris; Hotel Eden, Rome; and Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan. All are owned by the Sultan.

However, if you don’t regularly spend your nights at five star hotels, there are other things to boycott, namely Shell. The nearest Shell location is in Waterloo, at 230 E Ridgeway Ave. There’s another in Shell Rock.

Shell Oil Company is owned by Royal Dutch Shell, which is not just one of the largest oil companies in the world, but one of the largest companies in the world, period. Royal Dutch Shell has been using Bruneian oil since 1913; due to Brunei’s reliance on Brunei Shell Petroleum, it’s been nicknamed the “Shellfare State.”

Around the world, more than 20 million people stop by Shell locations every day. In the US alone, there are thousands of Shell locations. Choosing not to spend money there is an excellent way to remind both our government and that of Brunei that people are aware of this policy, and that they do not approve.

If the U.S. government won’t take action against this cruel and inhumane policy, maybe its people will.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply