Mark Fields

Tory Minister defends 'great friend' the Sultan of Brunei in 'stone gays to death' furore

Foreign Office Minister Mark Fields in Brunei.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Fields in Brunei.

WORDS: Gary Kelly

Conservative Party Foreign Office Minister Mark Fields has defended ‘great friend’, The Sultan of Brunei amid new laws in Brunei which allow a sentence of stoning gay people to death to be imposed.

Speaking in the House of Commons Fields said “The Sultan of Brunei has been a great friend of this country over many years.

“He has, I think, become a little more devout as he has got older, which is one reason why the sharia code—based, of course, on the Saudi Arabian sharia code—has been put in place.

“However, I am hopeful that we can continue to have a positive and constructive dialogue on this issue, with Brunei and with a number of countries that we would like to see making changes in future.”

Fields added: “I very much agree with the sentiment of the House that the imposition of a sharia penal code is a backward step as far as Brunei is concerned, but progress is being made elsewhere and we will continue to work within the broad international community and the Commonwealth to ensure that countries come on board.

“The best way to do that, rather than threatening to kick countries out of the Commonwealth, is to try to hold them close and recognise the strong connections.”

One wonders what ‘hold them close and recognise the strong connections‘ means in practice, especially within the context of the Tory government scrabbling around the planet trying to do trade deals with all and sundry to attempt to offset a potential No Deal Brexit scenario.

Given that 36 of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth continue to criminalise various same-sex acts. Many of those countries being places targeted for trade deals, I would suggest that the likelihood of any pressure being put on the governments in the 36, including Brunei, in support of the LGBTQ community worldwide are slim to none.

The bitter irony of all of this is that the Anti-LGBTQ laws on the books in these countries are a legacy of the colonial era of the British Empire. These are laws imposed on former colonies by Britain which were never repealed. It could be said that without British colonial intervention in many of these now independent countries the Anti-LGBTQ sentiment would be either non-existent or at least reduced.

Do I have any faith that the Tories will place morality over commerce and trade deals? The answer is no, absolutely none. Sadly I feel that nothing will be done from a practical standpoint other than more weasel words in the Commons in the hope that this will all go away so they can jolly well get along with keeping the wheels of industry turning.

The reality that The Sultan of Brunei pays the British government a substantial amount of money to deploy 2000 British troops in Brunei i’m sure is no factor at all in the decisions being made on behalf of LGBTQ people. I’m also abundantly sure the fact the 2000 troops are stationed in the main city for oil and gas production has absolutely nothing to do with the lack of moral action at all. And if you believe that I shall be round in half an hour with a bag of magic beans to sell you.