THE Sultan of Brunei has brought in tough new Sharia laws which may see gay people and adulterers punished by being stoned to death, provoking international condemnation and a call to boycott the luxury hotels he owns.

Brunei is probably not on the radar of many Scots unless you work in the oil and gas industry or financial sector. Located on the north side of the island of Borneo, it is covered mostly in rainforest but its vast offshore oil and gas reserves have given the country one of the highest living standards in the world, though most of its wealth is concentrated in the hands of the Sultan and his extensive family.


IMAGINE a country where the King is also Prime Minister, commander-in-chief and head of the established national religion. Oh, and also Minister of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Head of Customs and supreme commander of the Armed Forces and inspector general of police. He’s also Chancellor of three Brunei universities. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah reigns and rules as an absolute monarch. A Muslim, since 2014 he has presided over the introduction of Sharia laws including yesterday’s confirmation that Brunei will now have a penal code that may see sex between two men and adultery between men and women both carry a punishment of stoning to death, while sex between two women is punishable with 100 lashes and years in jail.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Counting the various United Arab Emirates and including the Vatican City, there are perhaps a dozen absolute monarchies in the world, but only one other that sees all power vested in one person, that being the Islamic Sultanate of Oman.

The Sultan of Brunei is one of the world’s richest men, but unlike the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said al Said – who formerly served with the defunct Cameronians regiment and is in poor health due to cancer – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah shows no signs of flagging and if anything is becoming more extreme in his views which affect every facet of life in his country. Like the Sultan of Oman, he attended Sandhurst military academy.


THIS is one that the Empire cannot be blamed for. Although Brunei was a British Protectorate for almost 100 years from 1888, the country has been fully independent since 1984 and the Sultan has been on the throne since his father abdicated in 1967. He is the world’s second-longest reigning monarch after our own Queen Elizabeth.

The Sultan ascended to the throne at the age of just 21 and at first showed no signs of wishing to Islamicise his nation – as we shall see, his personal conduct was to the contrary.

It is only in the last decade that the ageing Sultan, now 72, has promoted the adoption of Islamic laws, and that has generally been welcomed in a country with a population – less than that of Edinburgh – which is 78% Muslim.

The Sultan has enjoyed almost a “most favoured son” status with Westminster Governments of whatever colour, and he treasures his connections to the Royal Family, though he probably won’t be getting an invitation to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle very soon, even though his British residence at Binfield in Berkshire is just ten miles from Windsor.

Interesting point. The Sultan was twice honoured with knighthoods by the Queen – he is a Knight Grand Cross of both the Order of the Bath and the Order of St Michael and St George – and he is also an honorary air chief marshal in the Royal Air Force and an honorary admiral of the Royal Navy. A case for honours removal? Brunei is also a member of the Commonwealth. Oh dear.


NOT with himself or his family. A billionaire since his twenties, the palace the Sultan built is said to be the world’s largest private residence and he once bought up the world’s largest collection of classic cars. For his 50th birthday he built a new stadium and paid Michael Jackson a reported $17 million to play three concerts. He and his brother Prince Jefri, who have both been married four times, have also been the subject of lurid allegations of sexual misconduct over the years.


GEORGE Clooney is fronting up this latest campaign, but boycotts were tried back in 2014 when

the Sultan brought in Sharia laws, and nothing seems to have happened in Brunei where criticism of the royal family is punishable by jail terms.

It will be interesting to see how the world’s various governments react.

Let he who is without sin throw the first stone?