Malaysian PM Rebuked for Threat to UK Gay Ministers
November 2, 2001
119 Farringdon Rd., London EC1 3ER England
Nicholas Watt, political correspondent
Britain issued a rebuke last night to the veteran Malaysian prime minister,
Mahathir Mohamad, after he threatened to expel gay British ministers if they
visited his country with their partners.
In a terse statement, the Foreign Office said: "Jack Straw strongly
considers that peopleís private lives are private." His remarks were
seen as support for Ben Bradshaw, the openly gay Foreign Office minister,
whose portfolio includes Malaysia.
Foreign Office sources insisted that Mr. Bradshaw, who met the Malaysian
high commissioner to London within weeks of his appointment in June, would
continue to cover the country.
The diplomatic spat flared up after Dr. Mohamad threatened to throw out gay
British ministers if they "come here bringing their boyfriend". In
an interview with Radio 4ís Today programme Dr. Mohamad, who had his former
deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption, said that
homosexuality was unacceptable in his predominantly Muslim country.
"The British people accept homosexual ministers but if they ever come
here bringing their boyfriend along, we will throw them out," he said.
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights activist, said his comments were not
surprising in the light of Malaysiaís poor human rights record. "In
Malaysia, a consenting gay relationship is punishable by up to 20 years jail
plus flogging and this is probably one of the harshest penalties for gay
relations anywhere in the world," he said.
Mr. Tatchell warned that the prime ministerís remarks showed the nature
of some of the countries involved in the international coalition against
terrorism. Some of Britainís "allies" were "very unstable,
very unreliable friends.
"It does appear that the Malaysian prime minister does appear to be
dictating to our government who it should send as its representatives,"
Supporters of Mr. Ibrahim rejected the charges against him, insisting that
he was imprisoned after he dared to challenge the prime ministerís
authority. Dr. Mohamad claimed that the due process of law had been followed.
"We canít have a deputy who is homosexual, not in this
country," he said. "So we had to take action. In this country a
homosexual is not acceptable as the prime minister."
Malaysia has condemned the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York.
But Dr. Mohamad, who is under pressure from opposition Islamist parties, is
refusing to support the bombing of Afghanistan.
"We do not believe that attacking Afghanistan is going to help,"
he said. "If we are seen to be going all out unthinkingly supporting
America we will lose support, even from our own people. They have to find the
roots of the problem. People donít blow themselves up for nothing. They must
be thinking about something."
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