May 2012 update

PARLIAMENT

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 29th meeting on 16 May.

The Group discussed the position on the various legal cases.  They noted that there was no news on when the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg would deliver its judgment though July looked possible. The Information Appeal had been listed for hearing by the Information Tribunal in early July.

The Chagos Islanders’ Judicial Review on the Marine Protection Area was also expected to begin in July. Members thought that if the judge found the MPA unlawful it was a simple matter for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take account of Chagossian interests by designating a coastal area for local fishing. This had been proposed before the MPA was proclaimed by many contributors to the FCO Consultation, including the APPG in its submission of 10 February 2010. Whether the MPA was lawful in international law would be decided by the Arbitral Tribunal established under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to hear the case brought by Mauritius, though this could take another year or so. In the meantime it was clear that the MPA remained a largely paper exercise although a full no-take fishing area had been imposed. The Group noted the FCO press release on the 2nd anniversary (1 April) of the MPA and that the FCO was optimistic that in future they could “involve more of our neighbours in developing what is an asset for the whole world”. The Group thought this referred to Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles. They also noted that the management plan was now into its third year of drafting but assumed it could not be finalised until the legal cases had been resolved.  Members were pleased to see in the press release that the FCO would shortly be launching an environmental education programme for Chagossians and hoped that this would include those living in Mauritius since it was they who were the most likely to want to return.

The Group considered Lord Howell’s answer of 27 March to Baroness Whitaker’s question on whether, in view of the recently announced MPA for South Georgia and Sandwich Islands, which contained a sustainable fishery zone, the FCO would amend the BIOT MPA to recognise the fishing rights of Mauritius and the Chagossians, in accordance with UNCLOS. The Group felt that Lord Howell’s answer that the FCO had no plans to do so and that the MPA was “fully compatible with UNCLOS” might not be the view of the neighbouring states, or of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

 

The Group considered the various answers to Parliamentary Questions about the costs to the tax payer of 12 years of Chagos litigation. They were keen to know the total cost, including diplomatic and legal staff costs. From the information so far gleaned, they thought it could well be in the order of £3.5m or higher, but costs were still being incurred.

Recalling its own proposal for UNESCO world heritage status the Group was pleased to note that a draft resolution for consideration by the 5th session of the World Conservation Conference of International Union for Conservation of Nature in September called on the UK and Mauritius to jointly nominate the Chagos Archipelago for World Heritage Listing and to develop a management plan with the active participation of the Chagos Islanders.

The Group took note of the petition to President Obama, which had collected 28,700 signatures, calling upon the President to redress the wrongs against the Chagossians by providing relief in the form of resettlement on the Outer Islands, employment and compensation. They looked forward to his reply. Members noted that 2014 was the deadline for the UK to renegotiate the 1966 Agreement with the US. They expected the FCO to begin discussions with the US this year.

 

The recently released 2011 FCO annual report on Human Rights and Democracy was considered. The Group noted the statement  in the section entitled ‘Promoting Human Rights in the Overseas Territories’  that “The UK Government’s long-standing objective is for the Overseas Territories to abide by the same basic human rights standards that British people expect of the UK Government”, but that there was no mention of  the human rights of the exiled people of the Chagos Islands.

The Group agreed to the request from the makers of the documentary “The Queen and Us”, which will consider the use of the Royal Prerogative in respect of Chagos, to interview the Chairman and film the start of the next APPG meeting.

The next meeting (also the fourth AGM) will be on 11 July.

David Snoxell

Coordinator of the APPG

LESLIE’S LETTER

Back in March, our very own star letter writer and supporter Leslie Jones, met with his MP Ed Davey at a local advice session, following which a letter was submitted on his behalf to the Foreign Secretary William Hague.  Earlier this month the Minister for Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham MP, wrote back to Ed Davey with the following reply:

Thank you for your letter of 12 March to the Foreign Secretary on behalf of your constituent, Mr Leslie Jones, about the British Indian Ocean Territory. I am replying as Minister for the Overseas Territories.

Successive Governments have expressed regret for the way the resettlement of the Chagossians was carried out in the 1960s and 1970s. This Government has repeated that feeling and does not seek to justify many of things that were done at that time, and it is right that the Chagossians were subsequently compensated for their loss.

But this Government, like its predecessors, is not prepared to permit the resettlement of the Chagos Islands. The reasons for this policy, on the grounds of feasibility and defence security, are clear and compelling and have been considered by the British courts very carefully.

While there is not going to be a change of policy, there has been a change in attitude. The Foreign Secretary and I have met a number of Chagossians leaders over the last year. We are organising visits to the Territory for Chagossians and the most recent visit took place in November last year. Additionally, we are working with a group of non-governmental organisations to develop an environmental education programme for Chagossians.

The use of the British Indian Ocean Territory (including Diego Garcia) is regulated by a series of bilateral agreements (Exchange of Notes) between the UK and US within the context of broader US-UK defence arrangements. The 1966 Exchange of Notes provide that the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory, including Diego Garcia, shall be available for an initial period of 50 years i.e. until 2016 and continuing thereafter for a further period of 20 years unless terminated by either Government in the period 2014-2016. There is no lease. There have been no formal discussions with the US about the possibility of terminating the agreement or changing its terms but we will, of course, continue to consult closely on our mutual defence needs.

We will continue to keep looking at the issue involved and engage with all those with an interest.

Henry Bellingham MP

 

There is much that is downright wrong in this letter – Chagossians have not been properly compensated, most of the judges consulted have rejected the Government arguments of feasibility and defence security etc. But it is the hypocritical tone that is most objectionable: ‘expressed regret’, ‘change in attitude’, ‘have met a number of Chagossian leaders’ – this is pure smokescreen. Occasional tea and sympathy is not good enough and Mr. Davey needs to question his fellow Secretary of State rather more closely.

 

LEGAL NOTE

Richard Gifford tells us the legal team is working even harder  since the Chagossians were granted Permission to proceed with a Judicial Review of the Marine Protection Area. (Reminder – Chagossians are not against preserving the environment but are against the way it was sneakily applied, complete with no-take fishing zone, and without consultation.)

As a result of the Association’s probing the background to the 2002 Feasibility Study there are now Information Appeal proceedings to be heard in July which have resulted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office finding a file they denied they had.

GREENPEACE

On May 10th the Oxford Amnesty Lecture was given by Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International and chaired by Baroness Kennedy. ‘Green Rights are Human Rights’ was the title of the lecture which addressed the direct link between human rights and environmental protection.

This was significant for Chagossians as Greenpeace had supported the petition for the Marine Protection Area which has done so much harm to the Chagossian cause as they had been air brushed out.

 

Sidney J. Holt, an important founder of fisheries science and long term supporter of Greenpeace, decided to write to Mr. Naidoo, resigning from Greenpeace:

I have worked with and served in a variety of ways Greenpeace International and Italy and UK for 30 years (including, briefly, as Board Chairs of both the UK and Italian offices, and one of the original Soci Fondatori for Italy and close friend and associate of David McTaggart and other ‘stars’ among the founders of Greenpeace.)

He expressed his shock that Greenpeace had given its support to:  the scam by the UK Government of declaring a MPA for the Chagos archipelago – excluding the ecologically destroyed Diego Garcia – which was devised by the Colonial authorities to help prevent the Chagossians returning to the homes from which they were evicted to make way for a US nuclear weapons and air-base.
Everyone interested in the Indian Ocean region and military policies and ‘green’ activities has known about this for many years, with suspicions being confirmed by internal message leaks.
Frankly I think your support for the UK-US actions is a total betrayal of the fundamental idea of Greenpeace as being concerned with both the ‘environment’ and Peace and People. Greenpeace seems to have lost its way utterly.
I am withdrawing all my support for and connections with Greenpeace, publicly, until such time as there may be issued a public retraction of your support for the Chagos scam, and a positive decision to back the return home of the Chagossians and then their decision about the protection of the marine environment there, not decisions by the Pentagon, the FCO and a crowd of self-seeking British ‘ecologists’.

 

Mr Naidoo replied (extract): I fully agree with you that the Chagossian people have suffered, and continue to suffer, a huge violation of their human rights. While it is true that Greenpeace does support the creation of a Marine Protected Area in the region, we have specifically and vociferously done so on the basis that the Chagossians be given full rights to return to their home and to be consulted about the management of their waters. In all of our official submissions on the subject, we insisted that “the marine reserve should be established without prejudice to the rights of the Chagossians.”

That may be the case, Mr. Naidoo, but Greenpeace did not mail all supporters to tell them about the Chagossian situation, or ask for consideration of their plight to be added to the CEN petition before encouraging your members to sign. Chagossian supporters may recall that this Association was so shocked by this that we took it up with Greenpeace HQ in London – to no avail.

 

Bernadette Dugasse (assistant Secretary of UKChSA), Iain Orr and Anthony Cheke were able to attend the lecture. Anthony opined that Mr. Naidoo was firmly under the impression (from Greenpeace UK?) that the Chagos MPA was the usual one that allowed for sustainable fishing by local residents but that is not the case. Mr Naidoo took exception to Iain’s suggestion that Greenpeace was allowing itself to be used by Her Majesty’s Government (and specifically David Miliband). Iain was not implying Greenpeace was in anyone’s pocket but that it had made a huge misjudgement and was being used (confirmed by Wikileaks) as part of a deeply cynical ploy to bring the powerful environmental lobby in on its side. Baroness Kennedy asked Mr. Naidoo if he was concerned that Greenpeace had allowed itself to be used by the British Government, but he did not respond directly to that, preferring to say that Greenpeace supported the Chagossians (how, exactly?) and how firmly it was opposed to the terrible legacy of British Imperialism.

Kumi Naidoo is a much respected and honourable man and so perhaps, now that he is more aware of the Chagos situation, we can expect more open and up-front support from Greenpeace.

 

More on the theme of Green Rights and Human Rights, Update has received this from Dr. Nirmal Shah, Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles: It’s astonishing in this day and age that we need to remind Greenpeace that the (IUCN/UNEP/WWF/etc.) paradigm of effective protected area management includes people as much as biodiversity –“Parks and People”. How this essential concept, accepted since the fourth World Parks Congress in 1992 has been swept under the carpet to allow this MPA to be set up but also to gain international support from the likes of Greenpeace is beyond me. The archaic world view of fencing in protected areas, which we thought had been abandoned, has reappeared with a bang. It just shows that all the work that IUCN and others are doing in protected area management adds up to nought – a real downer for someone like me who is still working at the coalface of conservation and PAs. Greenpeace needs to know that the precedence of the Chagos MPA has huge ramifications and repercussions for protected area work everywhere – if a first world government marginalises stakeholders in the set up of a protected area then how do we expect poorer countries to do the right thing? Wearing my other hat of Honorary Consul of Mauritius in Seychelles I would like to highlight the fact that support from regional governments of the Western Indian Ocean is missing – in fact the MPA has created animosity and suspicion in countries which previously wholeheartedly supported international environmental initiatives.

 

NEWS FROM THE GROUPS

CRG Mauritius

The Mauritian PM, Navin Ramgoolam was present for the renaming of the Chagos Centre which became the Lisette Talate Centre on May 16.  The Chagos Welfare Fund Board had decided to rename the centre in honour of the pioneering Chagossian, who sadly died earlier this year.  She may no longer be with us, but her legacy lives on, and thanks to this wonderful gesture, the future generations of Chagossians who have grown up in exile in Mauritius will always be reminded of the tremendous contribution which this wonderful dedicated lady made.  Gone but most certainly never forgotten.  Also present at the ceremony was the Social Security Minister Mrs Bapoo.

 

CRG leader Olivier Bancoult will be addressing members of the Pan African Parliament on 22-23rd May.  We hope to be able to bring more news on this next month and hopefully his speech, which will be highlighting the plight of the Chagos community, will be well received.

 

Crawley area.

Marie-France writes:

We had a really good turn up for our Fundraising at the end of April. We were selling Mauritian food, we had face painting, and BINGO. Also at the end of the evening we had some performances from Chagossian Musicians.
I took the opportunity to thank all the Chagossians for their help in any way and their support. It was really a good moment to see everybody on that day. It was absolutely pouring down, but this didn’t stop anyone from coming.
We helped two families who were in difficulties, one from Mauritius whose child was having an operation and the other family’s house was destroyed.

Young Nelson Bertrand and Anne-Gaelle Jean have received replies from Buckingham Palace to the letters they sent to the Queen. The Queen’s Senior Correspondence Officer says that their letters will be sent on to William Hague at the FCO – so they can look forward to getting the same letter as Ed Davey, printed near the beginning of this Update. (As, indeed, have many supporters!)

 

Gas blast in Essex

Last month a Chagossian family of four had a lucky escape when a gas explosion destroyed their home in Essex.  There were no injuries but the family lost everything, although miraculously the family pet, a hamster, survived!  The fire service praised Clarel, the father, for his courage saying: ‘The chap in the first floor flat who got his family out did really, really well. He is a hero.’ Sadly, they have lost everything except, remarkably, the pet hamster which was found safe and well in her cage. UKChSA was able to make a modest contribution, thanks to your donations, and Clarel wrote to say how grateful they all are, thanking you from the bottom of their hearts.  

 

PRESS AND MEDIA.

Rather an eclectic selection this month.

Letters to The Guardian (UK) on 23rd April in response to the release of archival colonial files.

Your special report (18 April) on the release of recently discovered colonial files highlighted the deportation of the Chagos islanders to make way for a US base on Diego Garcia in the early 70s. The London-based files, released in 1999, provided the evidence on which the High Court ruled in November 2000 that the expulsion was unlawful and that the Chagossians should be allowed to return to their homeland. These additional files will provide further insights into the way the FCO perpetrated the subterfuge that the people were contract labourers from Mauritius and Seychelles where they were to be “re-located”.

 

The release is timely, as the European court of human rights is currently considering the case. It is to be hoped that the court will take account of these documents and also the WikiLeaks concerning the designation of the Chagos Islands marine protected area in 2010, before reaching its judgment.
David Snoxell, Coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

 

The recent release of documents by the Foreign Office is a welcome step towards greater transparency in government. Perhaps now the government may also feel able to comment upon the WikiLeaks revelations, for instance that the marine protected area created around the American military base of Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean was primarily put in place – not to safeguard the environment – but was a cynical move to prevent the return of the Chagossian people who were forcibly evicted in the 1960s?

 

According to the cable from the US embassy in London, Colin Roberts, for the Foreign Office said: “There would be ‘no human footprints’ or ‘Man Fridays’,”  and that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents.

This “Man Friday” phrase is repeated in the documents released last week, when FO officials joked among themselves about their policy to remove 1,500 British subjects from their homes, to lie to the UN committee concerned with the health and wellbeing of such communities, and deny to the press and public that the evacuation was taking place.

 

The jovial and clubby tone about the forced deportation of a people and their continual struggles against poverty, racism and homesickness is troubling to read in documents from the 1960s. Can the government confirm that the tone has changed today and that the WikiLeaks cable is an invention? Or – even more important – would the government change the policy and the tone and allow the Chagossian people to return to their homes?
Philippa Gregory, Patron, Comité Chagos (Guardian on line)

 

Elena Landriscina was a guest columnist for Jurist recently and wrote an article entitled ‘Accepting Responsibility for the Displacement of the Chagos Islanders’. This is an extract: The US government has evaded accountability for the forced removal of the Chagossians, even while simultaneously claiming a commitment to human rights. In response to the class action lawsuit, Bancoult v. McNamara, filed by UNROW in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the US government invoked the political question doctrine to bar the court from examining the Chagossians’ claims of forced relocation, torture, racial discrimination, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and common law torts. The court dismissed the lawsuit on political question grounds, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the dismissal.

 

Redress for the Chagossians from the political branches is long overdue. At the Special Subcommittee hearing, the US Department of State claimed that the US bore “no legal responsibility” towards the Chagossians. Many in Congress did not believe this at that time. On October 20, 1975, Senator Culver remarked, “no amount of rationalization by our State Department can alter U.S. responsibility for uprooting the native residents of Diego Garcia in order to make way for a military base.”

 

BBC2 ‘Indian Ocean’ with Simon Reeve was recommended by the critic in the Times (UK) on 29th April, saying: Fruitbat is a delicacy in the Seychelles, Simon Reeve’s guide tells him… If the sight of Reeve dissecting small wings and legs sounds upsetting, it is actually relatively cheery….in Mauritius, he meets with former residents of Diego Garcia, displaced when the British government sold their home to the Americans to use as a military base – which is less palatable than curried bat, all told. This series is still available on iplayer.

The lady interviewed in the programme about her long, sad exile was Rita Bancoult, mother of Olivier Bancoult, leader of the CRG. (Having met her, and knowing her history, I can confirm that Rita may look elderly and frail but she is an amazing lady of great determination and courage. C.W.)

 

Sunday Times Rich List. (UK)  29th April

Entitled ‘Love is the drug on high seas,’ there is a photograph of a former Miss UK and her husband, sixth in the list, with their fabulous yacht. They have assets of £7,400 million.

‘The Bertarelli’s have three children and Kirsty, 40, juggles family life with charity work and a music career. The songstress, who has supported Simply Red, combines the two in Green, a musical appeal to protect the environment. Her main role is with the Bertarelli Foundation, driving its British projects. One is the Chagos marine reserve in the Indian Ocean, a partnership with the British government.’

UKChSA included news of the Bertarellis and their financial support of the MPA some time back. Despite lengthy correspondence, we have failed to discover whether or not they actually know the true story of the Chagossians exile.

 

MATCH OF THE DAY

On Saturday 5th May the Chagos Islands national football side took on the principality of  Sealand in a historic friendly played in Surrey.  Amy Taylor for Surrey Advertiser:

AN ASSORTED bunch of footballers made history last weekend, as the first international match seen in Surrey was played at the ground of Godalming Town FC.

The little-known teams from the Principality of Sealand and the Chagos Islands competed on Saturday (May 5), with an assortment of amateur players and former professionals making up the two sides.

An international football team is something of a coup for Sealand, a nation which lies just six miles from the east coast of England and is not recognised as independent by the UK Government.

Founded by Major Paddy Roy Bates in 1967, it has a population which has yet to exceed four – the members of the Bates family – but thanks to help from Scottish journalist Neil Forsyth, who is also the self-appointed Sealand FA president, a team was formed.

Playing for the North Sea territory was former Southampton and Bolton defender Simon Charlton, ex-Manchester United player Dave Gardener. Gordon Smart, the showbiz editor at The Sun, and actor Ralf Little, of Royle Family fame.

The match against the Chagos Islands – located in the more balmy conditions of the Indian Ocean – was Sealand’s first and was sanctioned by the Nouvelle Fédération, responsible for all non-Fifa nations.

The well-supported team from the Chagos Islands turned up with drums and enthusiastic fans, and the game was broadcast to a global audience of listeners via the BBC’s World Service.

Both national anthems were played before the match – Sealand’s is an instrumental symphony composed by Basil Simonenko – and a presentation was made by Prince Regent Michael of Sealand and Herol Mandarin, president of the Union Chagossienne de Football.

The Chagos team, wearing orange and blue, took an early lead and their practised teamwork was clear.

By half time they were 2-0 up thanks to Mervin Bjuhan and Miguel Mandarin, but the Sealanders came out all guns blazing for the second half, with Ryan Moore nodding in the team’s first goal.

It was not to be Sealand’s day, however, with the Chagos team winning 3-1.

The match attracted nearly 200 supporters, many of whom enjoyed it so much that they asked whether such a game would be held locally again.

Organiser Ed Stubbs, who worked as match reporter for Godalming Town during their 2009-10 season, said: “Hopefully next summer we’ll be able to have a small tournament – we’ve already spoken to some countries.”

A brief video can be found here thanks to the BBC, it does seem to lean quite heavily on the Sealand story but there is some excellent footage from the match and includes images of the Chagos supporters- http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17981522

FEEDBACK

Feedback already about Charles Sheppard’s article ‘Seawater inundations in the Chagos Archipelago at high tides, and shoreline erosion.’

 

David Evans who has worked on the islands and walked the areas discussed by CS is distinctly under impressed by his reliance on anecdotal material and gleanings from other studies with little or no supportive data to support his statements about rates, the Chagos as a whole or what it all means to the big picture. After many criticisms of the piece, our correspondent ends:

It is ironic that Sheppard presented this statement in the conclusion: “Erosion could be viewed as being nothing new, therefore. However, it is clearly accelerating, both on Diego Garcia and on northern atolls.”

 

Because that was exactly the thought that I had, not only that erosion itself is nothing new (which I agree does not mean it should just be dismissed) but that the concern raised about it is nothing new (on “natural” grounds and on Climate Change-Sea Level grounds).

 

I also find it amazing he can say “it is clearly accelerating” without presenting supportive non-speculative evidence of this or any sense of at what rate it might be accelerating. The concept is multi-dimensional, highly dynamic, and almost abstract as it is. It’s meaningless without some sense of a baseline and relatable visualization of rate (beyond the anecdotal and speculative “evidence” he provided for DG).This issue deserves a better treatment.

 

Richard Dunne writes: Charles Sheppard’s account ‘Seawater inundations in the Chagos archipelago at high tides, and shoreline erosion’ was given recent prominence on the Chagos Conservation Trust website as its latest ‘News’ item. Whilst this is an interesting photographic account with comparative photographs taken at several sites on Diego Garcia and one on North Ile Diamante, Sheppard’s accompanying text lacks rigour.

 

Most noticeably missing from the account, is any mention of the recent comprehensive review of sea-level in the Chagos Archipelago in which we not only looked at how mean sea-level has been changing over the years but also how the extreme levels and storms and wave conditions may have changed. The omission appears deliberate, given that our analysis did not concur with his earlier attempts to characterise sea-level trends or his absurd recent claims that sea-level rise in the Chagos had been accelerating at up to 12 mm per year. Sheppard writes: “The highest high tides are the important ones in this respect, and these may increase at a different rate to the mean rate. Also, climate change and even modest sea-level rise are changing frequencies of various storm events.” Indeed he is correct, but not in the way that is suggested. We found that the highest sea-level is actually rising at a slower rate than the mean sea level, and there is a low level of storminess in the Chagos region with no evidence of an increase over time. In other words, whilst storm driven overtopping and the effects of extreme high tides will always be a problem in low lying islands such as the Chagos, and flooding will always be observed, there is no evidence that the physical factors leading to this flooding are getting worse.

 

When Sheppard considers the erosion which is occurring in the north-west of Diego Garcia he omits any reference to the study by US Environmental Consultants in 1980 to assess the effects of the windward reef coral extraction (it is also not mentioned in the bibliography available on the CCT website). The consultants concluded that the extraction (which Sheppard highlights as leading to reduced wave attenuation) was possibly also reducing the longshore transport of sediment from the south up the western arm of the atoll, leading to a lack of beach replenishment in the north. Perhaps this is the main contribution to the erosion at the northern sites? DG is also potentially a ‘special case’ following the windward reef extraction, the lagoon dredging, and the landfill. As far as I know, none of these operations were accompanied by rigorous (or any) Environmental Impact Assessments. They will all have undoubtedly affected what may be happening today on the island.

 

On one thing Sheppard and I do agree, and that is the pressing need for a proper rigorous scientific study of changes to the island shorelines, not only on Diego Garcia but also in the northern atolls. Hopefully Sheppard will now find the funds to do this and also appoint a suitably qualified expert, and not attempt to do it himself.

 

STOP PRESS DEADLINE DAY EXTRA- SIDNEY HOLT LATEST

Just prior to finalising this months update Sidney Holt wrote a breathtaking article in the Guardian newspaper which was following on from his resignation from Greenpeace last month which was addressed earlier in this edition of our newsletter.  An extract of the article can be found here:

“Greenpeace International is a fine organisation. It uniquely combined the aims of promoting “peace” – including enhancing human rights – and, as an element of that, protecting the green (and blue) environment. Remember the dove with the olive branch, and the campaigns against US atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in the north Pacific and French underwater ones in the south Pacific. When the French secret service sank the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, the ship had been engaged in a humanitarian action: helping move some Polynesians from their homes, where they felt threatened by pollution and explosions.

But Greenpeace seems to have mislaid the “peace” half of its mission. That has been evident for some time to anyone reading its current programme and priorities on its website. This grand drift was on show again at a conference organised by Amnesty International in Oxford last week, where Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo – a man with a proud record of anti-apartheid campaigning – was to talk about human rights and protection of the environment. The context was a hot question about the possible return of the Chagos islanders to their home in mid-Indian Ocean, a British Overseas Territory from which they were all deported in 1971 to make way for a US military base on an atoll, Diego Garcia. That involved moving, it is said, several million tons of coral and destroying the quasi-pristine nature of the world’s biggest atoll, making it suitable for aircraft-carriers. The islanders are now dispersed around the Seychelles, Mauritius and England. Some of the islanders are happy with their UK/EU passports, others want to return home and have been seeking permission through the courts, the House of Lords, and – soon – the European court of human rights.”

The article appeared in the Guardian newspaper on Friday 18 May and can be read in full here- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/17/greenpeace-choose-green-over-peace-chagos-islands

As Update Compiler, it is my pleasure to introduce Clency Lebrasse to you this month. We are currently working together and soon the Update will be entirely Clency’s responsibility. He has been a committed and active supporter almost since this Association was started over a decade ago and I am pleased that I will passing the job on to a younger, fresher mind – with better technology skills too!

As usual, thank you for your support and interest. Thank you, too, to those who have made a financial contribution as the money is well spent where there is real need. We are all volunteers and do not take expenses.