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The British government acting like a lapdog to the United States and ignoring the interests of its own people? Sadly, it’s not a new phenomenon. Barbara Panvel reports on a shameful episode in British history which still hasn’t been resolved.

What a contrast between the behaviour of one person and the conduct of his government - a David and Goliath situation.

Ten years ago a friend, who had been on holiday with her husband, wrote about meeting some farmers and fishermen in Mauritius who had been forcibly deported from the Chagos Islands:

"This group of islands was once part of Mauritius but was kept by Britain as a military base in the 1960s. The island of Diego Garcia was given to the United States who constructed an airbase and deep-water port in the coral reef.

"The people living in this island and all the others were sent to Mauritius without work, homes, possessions or compensation. Richard was astonished to discover that these unfortunate people are still British nationals.

"He has now launched a case in the High Court, relying on the 'No banishment from the Realm' clause of the Magna Carta, the most ancient guarantee of civil rights still in force today."

Richard gave his legal services free of charge and in 2000 the High Court ruled that the expulsion was illegal but the UK government appealed.

Last month the Court of Appeal decided that the Government’s removal of the people on the Chagos Islands was unlawful and an abuse of power.

They can now return to any of the islands except for Diego Garcia. This will continue to be one link in the chain of US military bases and staging areas occupied in fifty-nine countries.

A Parliamentary Early Day Motion welcomed the decision. It described the islanders’ removal as disgraceful, and called on the Foreign Office to invest in rebuilding the islands instead of wasting more money on court cases designed to deny the human rights of the islanders.

Good to see that it was signed by local MPs John Hemming, Lynne Jones and Rob Marris.


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