January 2006 update

  • We’d like to wish everyone a happy 2006, and we hope the New Year will bring some justice for the Chagossian exiles. With the appeal against last year’s Orders in Council having been adjourned to 19 January, we are still waiting for a result. We all hope for a fair and just outcome.

  • Last month, Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam told the Mauritian parliament that he had made a formal treaty proposal to Tony Blair during November’s Commonwealth summit in Malta. He said “I proposed to Tony Blair that we must have a treaty so that Great Britain can use this base. We must have our sovereignty over the archipelago and then an agreement on the base.” Mr. Blair’s response does not appear to be in the public domain. Mr Ramgoolam also indicated that a Mauritian government official would be part of a Chagossian delegation expected to visit the archipelago soon.

  • The Chagos Conservation Newsletter gives lots of information about the research expedition. Dr Charles Shepherd, who is to lead the expedition, points out that these trips do not come cheap. Funding is being supplied by, amongst others, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. One wonders how the FCO has the money to spare, after spending huge sums on legal fees (see below) fighting the claims of the people they denied existed for decades after they exiled them.

    How does the DFID spending money on a scientific trip (however worthy) to uninhabited islands actually help International Development?

    Also, the British Indian Ocean Territory administration are letting the expedition have the Fisheries Protection Vessel as well as providing funding for some of the equipment. We know of no case where BIOT provides funding for the native population exiled from BIOT.

    All of this money, of course, is provided by the taxpayer.

  • Andrew George MP asked several parliamentary questions last year including how much has the government spent in legal costs vis-à -vis the Chagos Islands. Answer: Well over £1 million and ongoing!

    How many US personnel and civilians live on Diego Garcia? Answer: 991 military personnel, 41 British military personnel and 2347 civilians of various nationalities (but no Chagossians).

    No answer will be given regarding bombing flights from DG and some other questions remain, as yet, unanswered.

  • On 23 November 2005 at the Foreign Affairs Committee, Paul Keetch MP questioned FCO Minister Ian Pearson about the use of Diego Garcia for planes carrying out the US’ policy of kidnapping suspected terrorists, known as “extraordinary rendition”. Mr Pearson said that to the best of his understanding, Diego Garcia is considered “UK territory” in terms of their use by the Americans for extraordinary rendition. He said there was no information that Diego Garcia had been used for this purpose and that the US authorities had repeatedly assured the FCO that such assertions in the press were unfounded. He said the FCO is looking into the allegations and seeking answers from the US.

  • Our search for a simple piece of information from the FCO inspired by the Freedom of Information Act continues to be blocked so we shall apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

  • There are some very interesting photos of Diego Garcia here.

  • There are scary similarities between the history of the Chagos islands and current events in Ascension Island. The elected members of the Ascension Island Council recently issued a press release stating their unhappiness with the way the UK government is acting – a face to face summit to discuss the future of the islands appears to have been cancelled and decisions were being made by the FCO (seemingly on the grounds of cost) without the proper involvement of the islanders.

  • Ongoing correspondence with the Commonwealth Secretary General (who was sympathetic to the Chagossians when he visited their homes in Port Louis) has yet to show tangible results. The Commonwealth should be just as critical of the UK’s inhumane treatment of its citizens (Chagossians are British passport holders) as it is of Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe. Can supporters in Commonwealth countries please contact your own governments about this?

  • It seems the Duke of Edinburgh visited Diego Garcia in May 1940 and had tea with the plantation administrator before doing some filming. Wouldn’t that make interesting viewing? Film taken by the Queen’s husband of the islanders decades before her Orders in Council banned them for ever from their homeland!

  • Allen Vincatassin in Crawley continues to work hard on behalf of the group there, helping with housing, job interviews, visa applications, etc.

  • Reverend Mario Li Hing, Chaplain to the Chagos Group in Mauritius and Chairman of the Africa Evangelical Alliance and the Fellowship of Christian Churches in Mauritius, told us: “We spent good time with our dear Chagos friends during the Christmas season. We had a party for 170 children on the 18th December with a full programme and sharing of gifts. Foodstuff was distributed to 170 needy families according to a list prepared by the CRG, covering eight regions around Port-Louis.”

  • Thank you to all who have sent us donations – all money received goes to help Chagossians. We plan to use some money to renovate a Chagossian home on Mauritius. Many of these are made of corrugated metal which is in a parlous state.