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George Clooney critisized for Brunei ‘warning shot’ remarks

George Clooney critisized for Brunei ‘warning shot’ remarks

George Clooney speaking to Barack Obama

George Clooney came under fire from LGBTI advocates on Friday (10 May) after he called a boycott of Brunei-owned hotels a ‘warning shot’ for countries with similar laws.

In late March, Clooney called for a boycott of nine hotels owned by Brunei after the small Southeast Asian country imposed the death penalty on LGBTI people.

But comments the Ocean’s Eleven made on the US talk show Ellen proved problematic to some LGBTI people, Huffington Post reported.

What did Clooney say?

Pressure mounted for weeks after the Sultan of Brunei announced he would roll out a severe interpretation of Shariah law onto his citizens. This included, but certainly not limited to, stoning gay people.

But the Sultan announced his government would not enforce the death penalty. LGBTI activists and allies wholly welcomed the U-turn.

Clooney discussed the economic activism people used to pressure the Sultan, mainly boycotting the Sultan’s plump business portfolio.

‘It’s not fixed yet … but it’s a huge step forward after this giant leap backwards,’ he told Ellen DeGeneres.

‘It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, who are also considering these laws, that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to see: “Don’t even get into that business.”‘

How did people react?

Not too well. Some LGBTI organizations pointed out that major differences between Brunei and its neighbors.

‘I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground,’ Numan Afifi, president of the LGBTI advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,’ Afifi said. ‘His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.’

Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s prominent activists and founder of LGBTI rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, also questioned Clooney’s comments.

‘Malaysia and Indonesia are larger entities and have some democratic processes that although not perfect, they work,’ Oetomo said.

‘Pressure from within is more possible in both countries, though it is frustratingly slow and protracted.’

So, will the U-turn prove effective?

The Sultan of Brunei’s governmental bloc has been internationally denounced by not only fellow government administrations, but businesses, celebrities, and LGBTI advocates, too.

Brunei itself – a tiny, oil-rich patch of the island of Berneo – has only 430,000 people living there.

Yet, this in no way stopped the immense condemnation of their government.

The boycotts and protests worked, to a degree, at least. The Sultan announced his administration would not enforce the death penalty; the laws, however, were not repealed.

Some LGBTI Bruneian groups felt the Sultan’s moratorium was paying lip service to his international critics. Whipping and imprisonment are still very real threats for the country’s queer populous.

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