April 2012 update

PETITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Thank you to all who signed the ‘We the People’ petition. The total reached was 28,867 on closing. It was only available for signing for four weeks and the minimum signatures necessary was 25,000. It would seem, by the nature of the system set up by the White House,  that President Obama is obliged to address the issue raised. This simple petition was a request for justice for the exiled islanders: petitions sent out by the conservation groups when they wanted support to establish the Marine Protection Area pointedly ignored the indigenous people.  The Chagossians have no hidden agenda and support both resettlement and conservation.

 

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

House of Commons
British Indian Ocean Territory. Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answers 14 Mar 2012
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has responded to any requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in respect of the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration.
Henry Bellingham (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Africa and the United Nations), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North West Norfolk, Conservative)
We have responded to 35 Freedom of Information requests since 2005 on the British Indian Ocean Territory.

(When the Update Compiler mentioned to a fellow supporter that some details about the questions asked would be good, she was told ‘Yes, indeed. The FCO is maintaining its commitment to minimalism as a Parliamentary Questions art form….it doesn’t make an easy bedfellow with surrealism in other areas of their activities re Chagos, but that’s governance in action!’)
British Overseas Territories. Energy and Climate Change
Written Answer 20 Mar 2012
Andrew Rosindell (Romford, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 14 September 2011, Official Report, column 48WS, on the Overseas Territories Strategy, if he will publish the paper his Department prepared on how it intends to recognise its responsibility to engage with the British Overseas Territories.
Gregory Barker (Minister of State (Climate Change), Energy and Climate Change; Bexhill and Battle, Conservative)
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office plans to publish a White Paper setting out the Government’s overall approach to the Overseas Territories shortly.
In advance of this, we will publish online a paper on DECC’s proposed engagement with the British Overseas Territories. I will, on the same day, deposit a copy of the paper in the Libraries of the House.
(No indication is given of how they intend to engage with the only unpopulated Overseas Territory. Actually, Diego Garcia is populated, not by Chagossians but by migrant US service personnel etc.)
British Indian Ocean Territory Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answer 20 Mar 2012
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 February 2012, Official Report, column 525W, on British Indian Ocean Territory, for what reasons the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations do not apply to the British Indian Overseas Territory administration.

David Lidington (Minister of State (Europe and NATO), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Aylesbury, Conservative)
The territorial extent of the Freedom of Information Act is limited to the relevant parts of the United Kingdom, and therefore it does not apply to any British Overseas Territory. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which implement EU legislation not applicable to British Indian Overseas Territory (BIOT), also do not apply to BIOT.

(UKChSA recommends that supporters visit Richard P.Dunne’s Chagos Facts Website which contains information he has obtained over the last two years from the FCO under Freedom of Information requests!

https://sites.google.com/site/thechagosarchipelagofacts)
Public Records (Colonial Documents) Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Ministerial Statement 26 Mar 2012
David Lidington (Minister of State (Europe and NATO), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Aylesbury, Conservative)
In my statement to the House on 5 December 2011, Hansard, column 6WS, about the colonial

administration  files held by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), I informed the House that the first batch of files would be available at the National Archives (TNA) in April 2012. I am pleased to be able to confirm that those files will be open to the public from 18 April.
This first batch will include files from Aden, Anguilla, Bechuanaland, Brunei, British Indian Ocean Territories, Sarawak, Seychelles and Malaya as well as the first tranche of papers from Basutoland, Bahamas, Kenya and Cyprus.
Following the schedule approved by Professor Badger, the independent reviewer for the migrated archives of colonial administration files, the remaining files will be released progressively over the next 20 months. A timetable has been published on the FCO’s website. The aim is to have all the material available for public view at the National Archives at Kew by the end of 2013.

(The following morning, Dr. Philippa Gregory was interviewed on the BBC ‘Today’ programme to discuss what this means re the Chagossians. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian said: The extent to which successive British governments set out to hoodwink  Parliament and the public over the decision to give the US a military base in Diego Garcia and force out the islanders is laid bare in files released on Wednesday.)

 

House of Lords

Marine Environment: Protected Areas
Written Answer 27 Mar 2012
Baroness Whitaker (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Howell of Guildford on 28 February (WS 114-5) announcing a sustainable use marine protected area in South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands containing a sustainable fishery zone, whether they will amend the Chagos Islands/British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area, designated on 1 April

2010, to include a similar zone recognising the traditional fishing rights of Mauritius and the Chagossians, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
We have no plans to change the British Indian Ocean Territory marine protected area which is fully compatible with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea obligations.

(Note from Update Compiler: a very confident answer given that the UNCLOS Tribunal is examining this issue.)

 

House of Commons
British Indian Ocean Territory Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answer 16 Apr 2012
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total cost to date is of legal expenditure in respect of defending actions brought by Chagos Islanders in respect of the British Indian Ocean Territories.

Henry Bellingham
Since 2001, the total cost to date of legal expenditure defending actions brought by the Chagossians in respect of the British Indian Ocean Territory is £1,826,365.25 including VAT.

(Update Compiler: This is strange as a similar question about five years ago – before the House of Lords case – elicited the answer ‘£2,171,000’! The true cost could be in excess of three million pounds by now.)

 

The following item could come under Parliament, Media or Feedback but here goes!

Leslie Jones, a star letter writer and supporter, wrote an open letter to his MP, Edward Davey which was published in the Surrey Comet:

As someone who in the past has voiced his support for the plight of the Chagos Islanders at the hands of the British government over the last 40 years I am writing to you with a heavy heart.

After years in opposition the Liberal Democrats and your good self have an opportunity to correct many wrongs in society which your party did not cause.

It was Labour and the Conservatives who have oppressed the Chagos Islanders, but now the Liberal Democrats are in a Coalition government. We expected action by bringing pressure to bear to correct a great injustice.

So where is that action? Have all the promises and sympathy been forgotten. The only thing I see that has changed is that compassionate Liberal Democrats now share in the power that continues to oppress the Chagos Islanders.

So let me remind on your own words made in the New Statesman (1/7/2008) where you are quoted as saying:

‘The government must cease this endless waste of taxpayers’ money and do what is right by the Chagossians. The spectacle of David Miliband’s lawyers invoking 19th century colonial laws to defend the indefensible is frankly sickening. This is not a legal matter, it is one of principle. The Chagossians must be allowed to go home. Together with the scandal of secret US rendition from Diego Garcia, the abuse of these islands is a shameful stain on Britain’s global reputation.’

Fine words indeed from an honest politician I respect. You are now in government, and in the Cabinet so stop this waste of taxpayer money! Stop being sick! Have those principles of fairness! Do what is right! Don’t be party to the indefensible. Correct this wrong by bringing pressure on the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to end this injustice now!!

Leslie Ian Jones

Mr. Jones then met Mr. Davey and has written to UKChSA with the outcome:

Last week I went to Edward Davey MP’s local advice sessions where I showed him a copy of my petition to The Queen and my open letter to him published in Surrey Comet. At this meeting Ed promised he would write to William Hague. He has kept that promise and sent me a copy. I might be wrong but this might be the first time in this Coalition Government that a serving Secretary of State has written to another Secretary of State regarding Chagos. His letter reads:

‘I am writing to you on behalf of my constituent, Leslie Ian Jones. Please find enclosed a copy of his Authorisation to Act form, which permits me to contact you on his behalf.

Please find enclosed a petition to the Queen about the way the UK has treated the people of the Chagos Islands over several decades. My constituent has copied me the petition and asked me to write to you to find out what the Coalition Government’s policy is towards the Chagos Islands and its inhabitants. I have personally, always felt that we ought to do far more to rectify the history of this case, and to seek a more just outcome than the current situation. I am therefore keen to understand the FCO’s position, particularly in the run up to the negotiations over the lease, which is due for renewal in 2016.

 

I would be grateful if you could provide me with a detailed reply.

Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.’

Leslie concludes: As and when I received a copy of that, hopefully detailed reply, from William Hague, I will forward it on to you.

UKChSA thinks it is important for all supporters to try and keep up this kind of pressure or apathy will rule.

 

UNITED NATIONS

Last month we included an item which recorded how Argentina (in a discussion re the Falkland Islands at the UN) held up Chagos as an example of how Britain does not treat her citizens in a democratic and fair way. (No comment necessary, it’s self-evidently the case.)

The FCO have now issued a new statement on self-determination in the Overseas Territories, as delivered by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the UK Permanent Representative to the UN. Here are a few selected extracts, the whole being available on the FCO website:

The Government of the United Kingdom has no doubt about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands or South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and their surrounding maritime areas. The principle of self-determination, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, underlies our position on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. There can and will be no negotiation on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such time as the Falkland Islanders so wish. There
is no doubt that the Falkland Islanders wish to remain British and do not want the UK Government to enter into any negotiations with Argentina about their status……
The United Kingdom’s military presence in the Falkland Islands equates to approximately 0.5% of the United Kingdom’s overall annual defence budget. This has not changed and is a small price to pay when compared to the importance the United Kingdom attaches to upholding, respecting and defending one of the key principles of the United Nations Charter and international law[self-determination]……

But neither the United Kingdom nor the Republic of Argentina can negotiate away the principle and right of self-determination for the Falkland Islands people. We should like to remind the Republic of Argentina of their international legal obligations to respect the principle and right of self determination for all peoples, as respectively set out under the United Nations Charter (Article 1.2), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (common Article 1)…..

(You may be interested to know that this year’s UK defence budget is about 47.2 billion Pounds.)

 

MEDIA

After seeing the play ‘A Few Man Fridays’, Sylvia Gundowry (a Mauritian living in the UK) wrote an article for LEMAURICIAN.COM entitled ‘Peace, Justice and Liberty: The Rann nu Diego machine gets underway’. Peace, Justice and Liberty are words from the Mauritian national anthem and she would like to see them applied to the Chagossians too.

Sarmila Bose (Senior Research Fellow in the Politics of South Asia at Oxford) wrote an article for Aljezeera entitled  ‘Chagos: The Heart of an American Empire?’

David Snoxell wrote ‘Breaking the Chagos Logjam’ for the Mauritius Times.

David Vine (Assistant professor of anthropology at American University in Washington D.C.) on the Huffington Post website, compared internet activism campaigns, contrasting the hugely successful new media campaign highlighting the atrocities committed by Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony with the much harder attempt to find 25,000 signatures for the ‘We the People’ website that would oblige the Obama administration to explain its policy towards the Chagossian exiles.

Dr. Sean Carey had an article in the Mauritius Times on 30th March, ‘Diego Garcia – what’s it all about?’

 

Ben Fogle, a patron of UKChSA, made a moving appeal in Le Maurician:                                               The story of the Chagossians at the hands of the UK government is one for which I am ashamed to be British. It is a story of deceit and tragedy that has been described by some as the darkest day in British overseas policy.
It has transfixed me for over a decade and shaken my very principles on conservation and democracy. It is a story of deceit that has left thousands of ‘British refugees’ living in misery for the last 40 years, exiled from their island home by a conniving and unrepentant government.
I have been involved with the plight of the Chagos islanders for a decade, since I became one of a handful of people to illegally visit some of the islands within the atoll. It was eerie walking through the ghost towns. They were frozen in time.
The vegetation had smothered many of the buildings, choking the stones in the graveyard. The sunlight streaked through the stained glass windows of the church and the small copra factory remained largely intact. I was horrified to find dozens of international ‘travellers’ living among the ruins while the islanders themselves remained pariahs, exiled by their own government.
Over the years I have got to know a number of Chagosians living in forced exile around the world. They have little voice, money nor political clout, that is why it is so important that we, the people help them with their campaign by using our voice.
As we have seen in recent years, revolution comes from the people, for the people. It only takes a few of us to create a tide of change.
We fight tooth and nail to avoid animals becoming extinct: surely we owe the same to an island people. In Britain, we all share the guilt over the treatment of these islanders, but wherever we live, we also have the power to change history. We owe it the Chagos islanders to ensure they have access to the most basic human democratic right, to go home. Please sign the petition and help a people in their rightful fight to return to their islands.

Dr Laura Jeffery, lecturer in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University and a Chagossian supporter ever since this Association was founded, also made an appeal in Le Mauricien:

DISPLACEMENT: I am repeatedly struck by the ongoing distress amongst Chagos islanders.
Imagine: you have temporarily left your home, taking just the personal belongings that you expect to need during a brief spell away, but when you try to make the return trip, you are told that the place where you were born and raised has been “sold”, so you can never again return to your home. Or imagine: you are called to a meeting at your workplace, where your bosses tell you that the entire territory has been “closed”, so you will lose not only your job, but also your home, most of your belongings, and the right to live in your homeland. How would this treatment make you feel? How might the resulting trauma affect you for the rest of your life? These “imagined” scenarios are not fictional: they describe what happened to hundreds of Chagos islanders over four decades ago, since when Chagossian families have struggled with the myriad challenges of dispossession and dislocation from their homeland and marginalisation and impoverishment in Mauritius and Seychelles. As a social anthropologist who has worked with the Chagossian community in exile for more than a decade, I am repeatedly struck by the ongoing distress amongst Chagos islanders as a result of their displacement. As a Brit, I am relieved that most of my compatriots react with outrage when they learn that responsibility lies squarely with the UK and US governments. And as a human being, I am heartened that this shocking history can inspire ordinary people to take direct action. Whatever our differences, we should all be able to support the Chagossian campaigns for adequate compensation and the right of return to Chagos. Whatever else you do today, please make sure you sign the petition. Thank you.

As supporters know, the Chagos petition did get more than the required number of signatures thanks, in no small part, to the hard work of the writers listed above.

 

Professor Charles Sheppard wrote for Scientific Blog Network: Conserving Chagos: Pascaline.

As well as being a collection of scientists from around the world, we also have a young trainee member of our team. Pascaline Cotte is 19 years old and is of Chagossian descent, her grandfather being born on Ile du Coin, Peros Banhos atoll. Pascaline was a Chagos Conservation Trust scholar on a recent Coral Cay Conservation programme in Tobago, where she learnt to dive and learnt the basics of conservation monitoring and took part in a monitoring programme out there.
Pascaline tells of her thoughts on the Chagos MPA and being a member of this expedition:
“The MPA, it’s not just good for Chagos but for everyone else too. It’s good to have an example of how other places should be – to know if your place is good or bad. I’m for the MPA, it means no fishing in Chagos, keeping the place good. Places like Chagos are rare.
I feel privileged to be here. Being a member of this expedition is overwhelming because having the chance to work along such experienced scientists at an early stage of my career is a great opportunity for me. Each day I learn a whole new thing. There’s a lot more going on than I expected and it’s been going on longer than I knew.
Also being on Chagos is inspiring because it gives me the opportunity to see the islands of my ancestors, something not all Chagossians can do.
The Chagossian community have mixed views of me being here. Lots of people I didn’t know, knew that I was coming here and asked me about it. Many think it’s for a holiday. I don’t really follow any political views and I don’t speak for anyone. I personally think that there needs to be a raised awareness of the work being done here. I’m very happy to see some heads in the community supporting the MPA. Allen Vincatassin does and I would very much like to see much more people in the Chagossian community
supporting it and not to see it as a barrier to this place but a gateway instead.
Being on Tobago with Coral Cay gave me an idea what I want to do and being here confirmed it. When I get back to England I will do my ‘A’ level Biology and then I hope to go to Uni to do Marine Biology and in the future I might do research out here.”

UKChSA is very pleased that Pasceline is having this wonderful opportunity but saddened that it is not open to all Chagossians to return to their homeland. We think it very important to point out that ALL Chagossian leaders and, as far as we are aware, all Chagossian islanders, support conservation issues. They are not against the MPA per se but they are against its imposition without consultation.  All leaders, except Mr. Vincatassin, are also against a ‘no take zone’ as they would need to fish on resettlement, in order to eat! Strangely, the main island of Diego Garcia, populated by the military and service staff, is exempted from the MPA. You are right, Pascaline, the MPA should be a gateway and not a barrier but you are wrong to dismiss resettlement and the rights of your people as ‘politics’.

 

CHAGOS ENVIRONMENT OUTREACH OFFICER

This letter was received lately by Chagossian leaders and several UKChSA Committee members:

Dear everyone,

My name is Xavier Hamon and I have just started in post as Chagos Environment Outreach Officer at ZSL (Zoological Society of London) on a FCO funded project. The project aims at working closely with all Chagossians in London and Manchester to raise awareness of the natural environment of the Chagos Archipelago, the wonders and diversity of life on the islands and the coral reef, but mainly ways in which Chagossians here in the UK can get actively involved in the protection and promotion of this unique environment.

I am originally French and I have been working in the conservation/education sector in the UK for two years. I will be shortly joined by Rudy Pothin, who previously worked in the Seychelles where he did a variety of environmental days with local communities. Rudy will be starting next week.

We are very excited to get the opportunity to work with Chagossians and look forward to meeting you all. We are hoping to meet anyone who is interested in working together with ZSL and the project partners (Chagos Conservation Trust, KEW, RSPB and others) to organise fun environmental days accessible to all the community and a skill development training programme for those who shows a desire and commitment to learn more about tropical marine and terrestrial conservation such as coral reef and island ecology, and get practical skills to take part in conservation project on Chagos.

We would love to come down to Crawley very soon, meet the community, being shown around and discuss how you, as a group or individuals, can get involved in this exciting project.

Please let me know when is the best day/time and place to meet with you all.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any questions. The project is at an early stage and everything is possible. I would be more than happy to discuss any ideas with you.       Xavier Hamon

This Association thinks it is a pity that we cannot afford an Outreach Officer to educate ZSL, CCT, PEW, RSPB etc about that threatened species, homo sapiens Chagossia and their human right to return to their own natural environment. Cosmetic gestures and a few visits for selected people are not enough.


THANK YOU TO LUSH, the ethical, hand-made cosmetics business.

A big thank you to Lush’s Charity Pot for a generous donation which will be used to fund a Community Leadership Project in Crawley, help the football team and also for weatherproofing homes in Mauritius. UKChSA is very grateful for this help.

 

NEWS FROM THE GROUPS

Chagos Refugee Group, Mauritius.

Olivier Bancoult, leader of the CRG, has been invited to visit the Pan-African Parliament to explore all avenues of cooperation with the African nations and to discuss how they can support the Chagossians in their struggle.

Herol Mandarin invites everyone to a football match on Saturday May 5th when the Chagos team will be playing the Principality of Zealand at Weycourt, Godalming Town Football Club. Kick off is at 2.30 pm and the price of £3 includes a programme. Good luck Chagos from UKChSA!

 

TELEVISION PROGRAMME

Part 2 of ‘Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve’ on BBC2 on April 29th (8.00pm)

The adventurer’s epic journey continues on the coast of Madagascar, where he goes spear fishing with the Vezo people, whose lifestyle is under threat from their own rapid population growth. On Mauritius, he visits slums that show a different side to the tourist paradise, and he ends this leg in the Seychelles, meeting an Englishman who is turning his private island into the world’s smallest national park. Simon also joins the Dutch Special Forces, training to board pirate ships operating on the high seas.

 

BOOK REVIEW

Birds and Whitewash by Anthony Cheke.

I recently acquired a copy of Peter Carr’s recent Guide to the birds of the British Indian Ocean Territory, aka the Chagos (Pisces Publications 2011).  Now one shouldn’t expect bird books to be overtly political, but one can reasonably expect that, if they include a history of the region under discussion, they might make some attempt to stick to the facts.  This book, written by the “Environmental Manager for the Base Operating Contractor”, does not.

The book starts with eight pages of introductory material covering history and man’s impact on the environment of the atolls.  Given that the islands were administered from Mauritius for the best part of 200 years, the source of the colonisation and plantation management would normally rate at least a mention, but in fact the word ‘Mauritius’ appears nowhere in the book, not once !   Given that little oversight, it is perhaps not surprising that we have the following disingenuous description of the departure of the inhabitants: 

After having discussed the chaotic and gloomy self-regenerating coconut groves and nefarious effects of introduced black rats on seabirds, he goes on to say that

“This rather bleak island condition does have one environmental ray of hope shining through: islands within BIOT, with the exception of Diego Garcia, have been uninhabited for over 40 years.  The coconut industry declined globally in the 1970s, being replaced by the more commercially viable palm oil grown in enormous quantity in Southeast Asia in particular, and the collapse of the copra industry was a factor in the human populations vacating the northern atolls in the middle of the twentieth century [my underlining].  Two plantations, one on Eagle Island and the other in the Egmont islands were vacated for socio-economic reasons prior to that.  In some respects the cessation of maintaining plantations is giving the environment the opportunity to recover to a more natural state…”

The American desire for an ethnically cleansed base, and British acquiescence in this, played no part at all – indeed the people on Diego Garcia (i.e. the southern atoll) apparently vanished by magic !   Indeed one would hardly know there are any Americans there – the United States gets a few passing mentions, the first not until page 8, and as is usual in these ‘insider’ publications, the vast mega-base is disarmingly referred to throughout as a ‘military facility’.  Given that there are far more Americans, and indeed Filipinos, on DG than UK personnel, and that the token Brits probably have to ask the Americans for permission to do almost anything, the Yanks’ low profile in this book is astonishing – not even a mention in the acknowledgments !   Oh, and there was a thriving internal demand for coconut oil in Mauritius in the 1970s, and the Seychelles were still exporting at full tilt in 1970 – the international collapse of demand was actually later…, and quite unconnected to the forced exodus of the Chagossians.

This isn’t the place to consider its qualities as a bird book – suffice it to say that it has nice photos and covers the present avifauna well enough – the author has been active around the Chagos since the mid-1990s).  However the author’s reading and interpretation of past material leaves a lot to be desired.  Since there is information on, for instance, seabird colonies, in general works on the Chagos from the 19th century through to Robert Scott’s Limuria from 1961, it is odd that Carr appears, from his bibliography, to be unaware of anything written about the area before 1959, about anything at all, apart from one zoological paper in 1886.

Finally, this book was sponsored by Birdlife International and the RSPB, as well as Charles Sheppard’s Chagos Conservation Trust – indeed the flyleaf says “Published by Pisces Publications for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds”.  Greenpeace & Avaaz, who supported the strict Marine Protected Area, are thus not the only ‘right-on’ and environmental organisations to be seduced by the lure of nature’s paradise of uninhabited islands, not seeing the wood for the (coconut) trees.   Would the RSPB support the eviction of the entire population of, say, the Isle of Wight or Anglesey, for a US base, and then later argue that the people should never be allowed to return ?  Of course it has happened in UK on a smaller scale within the last century – the odd village lost to reservoirs, and Imber to the military on Salisbury Plain?  But they too deservedly remain contentious to the evicted villagers 60-70 years later.  As Wikipedia notes of Imber: “The entire civilian population was evacuated in 1943 to provide an exercise area for American troops preparing for the invasion of Europe during the Second World War. After the war villagers were not allowed to return to their homes. The village, which is still classed as an urban entity, remains under the control of the Ministry of Defence despite several attempts by former residents to return. Non-military access is limited to several open days a year” – does that sound familiar ?

Non-birders may not have spotted the pun in my title: ‘whitewash’, in addition to its political sense, is also used by bird-watchers to describe the streaks of whitish birdshit under cliff nests of large predatory birds and vultures…  The real McCoy, guano, was once a major export from Diego Garcia, from just the area now occupied by, er, ‘Down town’.                                                   Anthony Cheke

 

FEEDBACK

One supporter has wondered why, if the government can pass special emergency legislation to allow all shops to open on a Sunday during the Olympic Games, they cannot use the same method to sort the problem with passports for Chagossians?

We are still getting enthusiastic emails about the play ‘A Few Man Fridays’. Minority Rights Group Intl. have an item on their blog where two interns, John Lubbock and Sofia Nazalya discuss the performance they went to see. They concluded that the play did a great job of illuminating the Chagossian culture, and emphathising  with a group of people who have suffered such injustice. It’s impossible, they say, not to sympathise with so basic a desire as wanting to return home.

 

In a previous Update, we reported that Hugh Robertson MP had said, in answer to a question in the House of Commons, that a member of the Royal Family, to celebrate the Jubilee, will visit all Overseas Territories, there will be medals etc. On closer inquiry, it would appear that this does not include the Chagos Archipelago (BIOT) as there is no plan for a visit which would, of course, have had to be to Mauritius, Seychelles or England as the population is in exile. Will he now tell Parliament that the Chagossians are going to be excluded?