Sunday, 8 July 2012

Support the Chagos Islanders

This week, I signed a new e-petition from the UK Chagos Support Association, which calls on the British Government to allow the return of the Chagos Islands to their original inhabitants.. The petition can be found at:

The Chagos Islanders were forcibly evicted between 1967 and 1973 so that the British Government could lease the largest island, known as Diego Garcia, to the United States for the construction of one of the biggest military bases in the world.

The expulsion of this community has been condemned many times as one of the “most shameful episodes in British post-war history” and the consequences of their exile has been very severe. Many families continue to live in terrible poverty in the slums of Mauritius and many have lost loved ones, with suicides being particularly common.

The islanders have won a number of victories through the court system, but the last Labour Government refused to end the injustice. In 2004, Tony Blair even invoked a royal prerogative, which did not need the support of the House of Commons, in order to ban the islanders from ever returning to Diego Garcia and the surrounding islands.

In 2006, in a damning verdict, a High Court ruling even condemned the actions of the British government as “repugnant.”

The Conservatine and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government also has yet to right the wrong perpetrated by previous Labour and Tory administrations.

One member of the UK Chagos Support Association recently wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, drawing a parallel with th UK’s strong support for the right of the occupants of the Falkland Islands. It was as follows:

“I read today your warm and sympathetic words for the inhabitants of the Falklands Islands in offering them this country’s unwavering support in order that they may live in peace and freedom. There has indeed been a British settlement on those islands for 170 years. And as you say, generations of islanders have striven hard to secure a prosperous future for their children. Your commitment to stand up for the Falkland Islanders in the future as in the past must give them great comfort.

“A pity then that your government and its predecessors have dealt with the inhabitants of another archipelago in a completely different way. These islands have belonged to Britain even longer and were settled at least 25 years before the Falklands. I refer to the Chagos Islands.

“In the 1960s, our “friends”, the Americans, wanted to establish a huge military base in the Indian Ocean. Britain offered Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands. The fact that there was a population of over 2,000 people who were no doubt striving hard to secure a prosperous future for their children, was given no consideration. Unlike the Falkland Islanders, most of whom are of British descent, the Chagossians are a mix of African (freed slaves), Indian and Malay. Their right to live in the country of their birth, to be supported by the colonial power which owned their homeland was totally disregarded. The way these people were treated was totally shameless, indeed criminal.

“Mrs Thatcher, whom I believe you admire, sent warships to the South Atlantic to defend the Falklands Islanders and their home. The exact opposite was the lot of the Chagossians. Agents of the British government told them lies, intimidated and physically maltreated them, killed their stock and their dogs, and forcibly evicted them – on British warships. For the past 45 years they have lived in shanty-town refugee camps in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

“I consider the treatment of these people to be one of the most appalling actions ever taken by a British government and certainly the worst in my lifetime. I am ashamed of my country. It is probably too late to give the Chagossians back what they have lost but don’t you think that as heirs of this repellent behaviour and this situation you have some responsibility to make amends as best you can?”

1 comment:

glynbeddau said...

Thanls Dick I have signed it.