February 2006 update

  • The court hearing challenging the Orders in Council which ban the Chagossians from returning to their islands ended on 19 January, and we are now waiting for the judges to give their verdict.
    The government’s QC suggested that the population left the archipelago voluntarily, and denied that the UN had been misled. This was easily countered by incriminating government documents of the 1960s “denying the competence of the UN” and “maintaining the fiction” that there was no indigenous population. A UK speech to the UN at that time proclaimed the rights of the Falklanders to self-determination – whilst fudging the true status of the Chagossians.

  • The Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) hopes that a few Chagossians will be able to make the long-promised and oft-postponed visit to their ancestral graves in March or April. The party will be made up mainly of Chagossians from Mauritius, as well as some from the Seychelles and Switzerland.

  • We are grateful for all donations received towards renovating Chagossian homes on Mauritius. The money goes towards materials – all the work is done by Chagossians themselves. The more money we receive, the more homes they can make weatherproof.

  • Allen Vincatassin continues to work hard with the group settled in Crawley, and plans to start a course for the spouses who will need to take the new “Life Test” to obtain British citizenship.

  • We have been told about a New Federation Board for football set up for nations which do not exist to have their own world cup. Amongst such nations are the Sami (Lapps who are scattered over northern Scandinavia and Russia), Tibet, Roma (European gypsies), Zanzibar, Monaco and Chagos. If you can tell us more about this, please do.

  • We have had lots of feedback about the film made by Prince Philip during a visit to Diego Garcia in 1940, which we mentioned in our last update. One writer summed it up like this:

    “It would be funny if it wasn’t so desperately tragic : the Queen, who denies them their homeland, could, if she wishes, watch one of the few films of the Chagos Islanders. This was made – before her government exiled them – by her husband!”

    If anyone knows the Duke, would you ask him if the film could please be shown to a wider audience?

  • John Pilger, maker of the acclaimed Stealing a Nation film about the Chagossians, has a new book to be published by Bantam Press in June called Freedom Next Time. In this he describes how people battling to free themselves often glimpse freedom only to see it taken away. His publishers say:

    “In South Africa, India, Palestine, Afghanistan and the forgotten Chagos islands, Pilger’s vivid eyewitness reporting and tenacious interviews with the powerful blow away the secrets and lies of our rulers and turn a searchlight on to events consigned to shadows by an unrecognized, yet virulent censorship.”

    Visit johnpilger.com to find out more.

  • This brings to mind the government’s duplicity at the present time in their dealings with Ascension Island. Although they have not been settled on their island as long as the Chagossians, they are being given a similar high-handed treatment – reneging on promises made and ignoring the wishes of the people. This letter from The Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2006, sums it up pretty well:

    “Ascension Island, a small volcanic outpost of the British Empire, is about to become yet another blot on the record of the Government. The St.Helenian people, British citizens who mainly man this working island, are to be deprived of a PROMISED right of abode there and forced to leave what for many of them have become their homes and businesses…
    In the late 1990s, the government agreed to Ascension having its own council, with a view to building up the island’s infrastructure, and encouraging tourism and private enterprise. Many invested their life savings in a shop, garage, bakery etc. believing the Government would keep its word over rights of abode and property ownership, which had not existed before.
    Now the government, without consultation with the island council, has stated that it deems it inappropriate to grant these rights. How can we treat loyal British citizens in this cavalier manner? Is this to be another Diego Garcia, where people were ridden over roughshod?
    Having worked on the island and grown to love it and its people, we are thoroughly ashamed of our government.”

    Sue and Neil MacFall
    Tattershall, Lincs

  • An interesting article in the Royal Gazette of Bermuda discussed the placing of a US base on that island during the Second World War. The site first chosen by the USA and the UK would have ruined any future tourism industry. Fortunately, a last minute compromise was reached after a delegation of Bermudan politicians flew to London for talks. The author says “it is interesting to speculate on whether the British and Americans would have agreed to such a last minute compromise if the Bermudan population had been all black. Bermuda had a significant white minority even during those times. The political leadership in 1940s Bermuda was, in fact, a white political leadership”
    He goes on to compare the Bermudan’s happier fate to that of the Chagossians – black, poorly educated and with no political clout, “man Fridays” as the FCO called them. “The Chagos people have still not received justice for this great crime of taking their homeland from them and they remain true victims of the Cold War,” he writes.

  • Please keep up the pressure on the Foreign Affairs Committee (directly or via your MP) to look into the Chagos and Ascension issues. The secretary of that committee sent us a bundle of photocopied, self-justifying paperwork that the Foreign Office had sent him. If you receive the same, please point out that asking a malefactor to justify his action is only getting one side of the picture. Both sides need to be looked at to discover the truth, and that is what the Foreign Affairs Committee is for.

  • A letter to Lord Triesman, complaining that the cruel, inhumane and duplicitous treatment of the Chagossians is still continuing (and that now they seem to be starting down the same path with the Ascension islanders) is still waiting a reply. You may have better luck.
    One wonders if there is a hook at the front door of the Foreign Office where they hang up their consciences and moral sense when they arrive for work.

  • Channel 4 News has an online forum where issues can be raised: community.channel4.com, as does the BBC: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point
    If enough people raise the same subject they may do a news item about it!

  • Please encourage people to visit our newly re-vamped website and to get their MPs on board.
    As usual, we welcome feed-back from supporters.