January 2010 update

  • Following the proposal last year to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the Chagos Archipelago, a workshop considering the socio-economic issues around this took place at Royal Holloway, University of London on 7 January. The workshop was hosted by Professor David Simon, head of geography at Royal Holloway, and organised by the Marine Education Trust, with the aim of bringing together participants from marine centres, universities and NGOS, as well as Chagossian, government and marine industry representatives, to discuss socio-economic obstacles and opportunities in the context of a possible Chagos MPA. Conservationist David Bellamy said he was “delighted” the event was taking place. The Chagossians “have a crucially important role to play in the future of the Archipelago,” he said. More next month on the outcome of this meeting.
  • Please make your views about the proposed MPA known to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband by writing to him at the FCO, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH or by visiting the FCO website and leaving your comment – before February 12th.
  • After ignoring the indigenous people in its scheme for a Marine Protected Area, the Chagos Environment Network (CEN) has made a nod in the direction of the Chagossians. Two scholarships funded by Chagos Conservation Trust have been made available by Coral Cay Conservation to UK-based Chagossians wishing to learn how to scuba dive and about the importance of coral reefs. No doubt those scholarships will be made available to those Chagossians intending to return to their homeland where this training can be put to good use. A great deal more in the way of respect for their human rights should be forthcoming.
  • An Indian news agency reported last month that Mauritius has officially asked London to freeze the MPA project. Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam told reporters on his return from the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago that he voiced his objections to Gordon Brown unequivocally. “During a meeting with British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, I made it clear to him that discussions on a protected marine park around the Chagos ignoring exiled Chagossians’ right of return and Mauritius’ sovereign right over the archipelago are out of the question,” Ramgoolam was quoted as saying.
  • Dr Sean Carey recently had an article published both in New Statesman and the Mauritian Express last month entitled ‘Holding Colonial Power to Account’ – it can be read online here.
  • In an answer to a question from Labour MP Tom Watson about the recent Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting, Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant said that he “had had open and frank exchanges with the Overseas Territory leaders ….on a wide range of subjects….” and that they had agreed on many things including “to recommit to the principles of good governance” and “the importance of respect for human rights.” This begs two questions: who were the leaders of BIOT at the meeting? And what about respect for the Chagossians’ human rights?
  • A reminder: the AGM of this Association will be on January 31st, at Pizza Express in Pimlico, London SW1V 2PB (click here for Google Map). The meeting will be in the downstairs room from 2pm and David Snoxell (co-ordinator of the Chagos APPG, formerly High Commissioner to Mauritius and Deputy Commissioner of BIOT) will give a short talk on Chagos developments in 2009 and prospects for 2010. Please let us know if you plan to be there to give us an idea of numbers.
  • A Chagossian family in Blackheath are in need of some basic necessities of life – beds, duvets, wardrobe, table and chairs. The family do not drive so, if anyone in that area could donate anything, it would be a great help if they could be delivered. Please let us know if you can help.