May 2007 update

  • The big news this month is that the Court of Appeal has upheld the quashing of royal orders passed by the Government in an attempt stop the Chagos islanders going home. We hope that incoming prime minister Gordon Brown will turn over a new leaf, and that the Government will drop the endless appeals and delay tactics and finally do the right thing this time.

  • Overseas territories minister Lord Triesman gave a talk in April at the London School of Economics on public diplomacy, promoting “good governance”,
    democracy and creating a positive image for the UK. Following this set piece there were questions from the audience, including two on the situation in Ascension Island. The audience were stunned when he refused to answer them, claiming the matter was sub judice. As there is no court case involving Ascension at this time, it seemed the minister might have confused it with Chagos.

    When this detail of geography was raised with Triesman after the talk, he said he could not discuss Ascension as issues surrounding rights of abode were linked with the ongoing Chagos case. Considering how the people of Chagos are being treated, this is astonishing and worrying for all Overseas Territories.

    The last question, from Chagossian Jean-Paul Selmour, was: “Knowing that
    Britain is the champion of human rights, what will be the future of those
    Chagossian people who have been deported from their native Diego Garcia (and
    other islands)?” Although Selmour has an accent, the audience understood him.
    Lord Triesman, however, said: “I’m not sure I heard the last question,” and
    launched straight into an irrelevant monologue about the Human Rights Council instead of asking for the question to be repeated. The session was then swiftly wrapped up. Perhaps we were naïve to expect anything more than a cop out.

  • Allen Vincatassin of the British Indian Ocean People’s Party was interviewed at
    length recently on Sound Radio 1503AM by Mubara Zamani of Nubiart, which focuses on African arts and current affairs. This was part of a series covering African regions and territories where there are ongoing struggles for independence and land restitution.

    Allen also tells us that the “Women with a Future” group in the Diego Garcian Community for Voluntary Service goes from strength to strength. Participants are starting to communicate in English and are planning to embark on a project that will help them work together to raise money for themselves and also for good causes.