Beverly Hills lawmakers take issue to state dept; staff say boycott hurts them
Beverly Hills is demanding that the Sultan of Brunei sell a hotel in the celebrity-rich US city, after he introduced a penal code incorporating Islamic sharia law, officials said on Wednesday.
Stars including Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres and business tycoon Richard Branson have also called for a boycott of the chain that owns the Beverly Hills Hotel. But the head of the Dorchester Collection chain said that would be wrong, and only harm hotel staff.
“The actions you take have to be seriously considered because they will affect the livelihoods of these people,” Christopher Cowdray told Beverly Hills city lawmakers at a council meeting on Tuesday night.
Brunei’s all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last week that he would push ahead with implementing sharia, despite criticism both at home and internationally.
An initial phase officially came into effect yesterday, with a second phase including more stringent penalties, including the severing of limbs for theft and robbery, to begin later in the year.
Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offences like sodomy and adultery will be introduced.
The Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday “condemning the government of Brunei for a series of laws that impose extremely harsh penalties, including death by stoning for homosexuality and adultery.
“This resolution is calling for the [Brunei] government to change their laws or to divest themselves of the Beverly Hills Hotel to separate the fact that our iconic hotel is under their ownership,” added Mayor Lili Bosse.
Bolkiah owns the historic Beverly Hills Hotel as well as the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles through his company Dorchester Collection, which also has branches in London, Paris, Milan and Rome.
The city council said it will send the resolution to the State Department asking Washington to “take appropriate action to condemn the Brunei government’s policies”.
The United States has “relayed our concerns privately to the government of Brunei,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, but it will not follow a growing boycott of the Sultan’s luxury hotel chain.
Beverly Hills’ mayor called the new laws “shocking, inhumane”.
“They must be met with a strong statement of support for human rights of the people of Brunei,” she said.
The Dorchester Collection is reportedly owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, a sovereign wealth fund under the oil-rich sultanate’s Finance Ministry.
The sultan’s support for sharia law has sparked rare domestic criticism of the fabulously wealthy ruler on the Muslim-majority country’s active social media, and international condemnation including from the UN’s human rights office.
But the sultan has defended the implementation of the law, meant to shore up Islam and guard the Southeast Asian country against outside influences.