Labour MP and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has called on the British government to suspend Brunei from the Commonwealth until it revokes its new penal code, which makes gay sex punishable with death by stoning.
Thornberry urged UK parliament to take action at a protest outside Brunei-owned The Dorchester hotel in Mayfair, London, on Saturday afternoon (April 6).
Speaking to PinkNews at the demonstration, Thornberry criticised the Sultan of Brunei for “introducing the hatred against the LGBT+ community,” adding: “It’s absolutely wrong.”
“Actions should have consequences,” says Labour’s Emily Thornberry
She continued: “We have to stand up and say it’s wrong.
“But more than that. There also should be consequences.
“Actions should have consequences.
“And it’s my belief that Brunei, I’m afraid, unless the sultan changes these laws, should be suspended from the Commonwealth.”
Thornberry, who is MP for Islington South and Finsbury, said: “We get these great woolly words. But it means nothing.”
She added: “I think we should take the next step, which is we should start talking about chucking them out of the Commonwealth unless and until they change these laws again.”
Hundreds of campaigners surrounded the five-star hotel in Mayfair on Saturday, at one point breaching barriers put up outside the hotel and storming onto the building’s steps.
“We should take the next step, which is we should start talking about chucking them out of the Commonwealth unless and until they change these laws again.”
—Labour MP Emily Thornberry
The demonstration was organised after LGBT+ activists and celebrities—including George Clooney, Billie Jean King, and Ellen DeGeneres—advocated for people to boycott nine hotels owned by Brunei in protest against the draconian legislation.
Brunei implemented the strict Islamic legal system of sharia law on Wednesday (April 3), making gay sex between men punishable with death by stoning and lesbian sex carrying a sentence of 40 whips of the cane or a 10 year jail sentence.
We are fighting the sultan not the people of Brunei, says shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry
Thornberry went on to say that protestors were campaigning against the Sultan of Brunei, who has ruled over the country as both head of state and head of government since 1967, and not its general population.
“We have no fight with decent people in Brunei,” said Thornberry.
“Our fight is with the sultan.
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“He owns properties like this and he has to understand how strongly people feel.
“We are part of a world community. There are certain basic human rights and they have to be upheld.
“Frankly, he is going back on it. And Brunei is not a medieval place.
“It’s a 21st century place.
“It needs to be understand that people need to be able to live their lives and they should not be hated because of who they love.”
As well as The Dorchester, celebrities advocated for people to avoid Brunei-owned hotels including The Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, Le Meurice in Paris, and Hotel Eden in Rome.
The Brunei Investment Agency—a government-owned corporation—possesses the hotels, which also include Plaza Athénée (Paris), Hotel Meurice (Paris), Principe di Savoia (Milan), Hotel Bel-Air (Los Angeles), Coworth Park (Ascot), and 45 Park Lane (London).
The Commonwealth of Nations dates back to 1926 and comprises 53 member states, most of which are former territories from the British Empire.
The demonstration was organised by The Peter Tatchell Foundation and Benali Hadamache, co-chair of The Green Party’s LGBT+ arm, LGBTIQA+ Greens.