February 2007 update

  • This month’s main news is the Government’s appeal hearing, which finished on Friday 16 February. We are now awaiting the judges’ verdict.

    The Government was appealing against last May’s decision by the High Court to overturn secret Privy Council orders passed by the Foreign Office to stop the Chagossians from ever returning home. The Chagossians had been given the right to return in 2000, when the High Court declared the original eviction order of 1973 to be unlawful. The orders in council were used to bypass parliament and overturn that court decision.

    At the opening of the case there was a lively demonstration of support outside the court building, and a demo at Downing Street also. There were media representatives including reporters from the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and the US.

    Much of the argument hinges on whether throwing people off their homeland is compatible with the aim of maintaining “peace, order and good governance” – which Orders in Council are supposed to be used for.

    The Foreign Office’s QC argued that the Queen should have no restriction on her authority to govern. But Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, representing the Chagossians, argued that throwing people off their islands in secret can hardly be called “peace, order and good governance”, and that there is no precedent for using Orders in Council for such a purpose.

    A decision is expected some time in the next few weeks.

  • While in London for the hearing, Chagos Refugee Group chairman Olivier Bancoult had meetings with many people including Foreign Office representatives, Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Having managed to get a statement from David Cameron on the Chagos issue, we look forward to hearing what Tory shadow foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has to say about it after his visit to Chagossians in Mauritius.

  • Letters from David Snoxell and Daniel Simpson highlighting the ongoing injustice against the Chagos islanders appeared in The Times this month.

  • New BIOT rules for yachties visiting the Chagos islands seem to have left them with nowhere to moor their boats. The designated mooring sites seem to systematically exclude any sand patches – making it impossible for all but very large ships to anchor. This, combined with increased fees, which must now be paid in advance, has led yachties to assume they are no longer welcome.

  • In Crawley, the Chagos Island Community Association, led by Hengride Permal, held a march there on 10 February to demonstrate both for their right to return to their homeland and for more support from the council in the meantime. This was very lively and well-attended by Chagossians and supporters.

  • Allen Vincatassin’s group has started a programme for women, with regular speakers from the local authority and other organisations. Recently the police gave a talk on safety and crime prevention. They are also being helped and encouraged to speak and write in English.

  • If you are interested in seeing the film made during the war on Diego Garcia, please telephone John Loader (who was there at the time and does the commentary) on 01434 604208. We highly recommend it.

  • Paradise Lost – The Story of the Chagossians will be on BBC Radio 4 at 11am on 7 March and available to hear online afterwards.

  • This Association now has a blog at chagosuk.blogspot.com. We’ll be keeping it up to date with all the latest news on the islanders’ struggle for justice, and we welcome comments.