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ISLAND FLING

06-04-2010

British Indian Ocean Islands

Successive British governments have behaved disgracefully towards the residents of the Chagos Islands. Andy Goff chronicles the shameful history.

The Chagos Islands, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, form the constituent parts of The British Indian Ocean Overseas Territories.

This was created in 1965 to facilitate giving independence to Mauritius whilst retaining British sovereignty over a group of islands that were of strategic importance to the United States of America. The group includes the island of Diego Garcia.

Secretly leased by the Wilson Government in 1966 and once described as a ‘modest naval communications facility’, Diego Garcia is one of the four largest expeditionary, American bases outwith the USA.

The Chagos Islanders were removed from their island idyll by the British Government and have been fighting their case to be allowed to return ever since.

That the British Government was complicit in an act violating United Nations Resolution 1514 (all colonial peoples have an inalienable right to independence without conditions) is despicable enough.

That successive British Governments have fought the case through various legal challenges is also despicable.

But that the current British government proposes to exclude the rights of the islanders to return by making it a ‘protected area’ – thereby giving the local flora and fauna greater protection than was afforded the indigenous population - is an act beyond despicable.

One can imagine the machinations of the Foreign Office oik that came up with the idea just as the case is going forward to the European Court of Human Rights. “Well done, old boy. That should knock it into the long grass, what?”

I wonder if, like the Falkland Islanders, the population had been white instead of black we, as in the British, would have been so eager to hand over control to the Americans?

I should mention that Britain did benefit from a $14million discount off Polaris in exchange but as that was illegal it wasn’t talked about much.

The history of British actions over The Chagos Islands is a litany of deceit, lies, intrigue and conniving. We should be ashamed of those actions and it’s time Britain put things right and allowed the Chaggosians back to their homeland.

For further reading try John Pilger’s Freedom Next Time ( Blackswan), The Chagos Support Association and The Guardian and a paper presented at Warwick University in 2004 by solicitor Richard Gifford.

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