November 2004 update

This is the first update of the “Post-Pilger” era! We, on the committee, were delighted with the programme and the fresh interest it has created. The booklet issued after the programme, by Mark Curtis, is excellent and can be obtained from “Stealing a Nation” PO Box 3646, Colchester CO2 8GD at a cost of £2.50. (Cheques made payable to ITV)

We have many new contacts and are grateful for people’s interest. We hope everyone is badgering their MP and MEP to help with the cause. As we have said before, print off anything useful from the web site to spread the word amongst friends, relatives and colleagues. Our webmaster, Robert, has also put up a useful petition – see www.chagossupport.org.uk

I cannot mention everyone who has contacted us but, amongst others, we have heard from the following :
A young student whose father came to the UK before she was born. She is now planning to study the Chagossian situation as part of her university work and will be visiting Mauritius at the end of the year.
A man from the Netherlands who will, hopefully, raise awareness amongst the European Members of Parliament from his own country.
An oral historian who would like to make a record of the exiles lives and experiences in their own words.
A runner in next year’s London Marathon who will consider giving us his sponsor money.
Both Irish and Scottish viewers of the programme who see the Chagossians being treated in the twentieth century as their forebears were in earlier times.
A journalist from a magazine aimed at black women.
A mountaineer who is working his way through the highest peaks in every country in the world – and is well on his way to completing this enormous venture. He would like to attempt the highest point in each of the UK Overseas Territories after that. Diego Garcia may not be very high but it might be difficult to get to.
A generous couple in Scotland are offering people the chance to donate to the cause at their joint birthday celebration.
A journalist who was writing an article on Black History Month

One gentleman, who contacted us, is so incensed at the way the Islanders have been treated by our government that he has driven fairly long distances to visit them at Crawley. He was able to assist them in practical ways when they went to London to demonstrate. A group of nearly 80 took their protest to Downing Street where they waved their passports in the air and chanted “Give us our islands back.”

There have been debates in the House of Commons this week about who should be looking after the newcomers from Mauritius – the local councils or central government. It seems, because Chagossians are British citizens, they are not entitled to the same treatment as refugees or illegal immigrants. A government spokesman said that “applicants are eligible for assistance (who) have become homeless through no fault of their own”. Illegally exiled islanders should qualify then, shouldn’t they? We are of the opinion that any cost should be met by central government, which caused and perpetuate this problem, and not by local councils. A government, incidentally, which recently spent £45 million refurbishing offices for the Department for International Development. (Emails of the debates can be forwarded on request)

Laura and David, two young people who have spent time on Mauritius, were able to help as translators between the Islanders and local council officials. They had both learnt Creole whilst over there studying.

Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagossians on Mauritius, is flying to London later this month for meetings with lawyers, supportive MPs and the Foreign office. We hope for some positive outcome from this visit.

BBC History Magazine this month has an article by Graham Macklin and is available in newsagents now. New Statesman had an article by John Pilger on 18 October. This could still be available in larger libraries. There have been many items in the national papers since “Stealing a Nation” was broadcast. Generally, these were very supportive. The exception was Mark Lawson who seemed to think it more important to criticize Pilger’s style than comment on the content! On the website are two excellent pieces by “Disillusioned Kid”.

Many wrote simply asking how they could help and how to make donations. We know
everyone cannot afford financial help but for those who can, cheques are made payable to
the Association and sent to the Treasurer or any of the committee. We use the money in a
variety of ways to help where necessary. Talking of money, we shall be manning a stall at
the Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Shipley on Saturday 27 November from 10.00 until 4.00 We will be selling craft and other items and providing information about the Chagossian cause.

Our Island Quiz raised a very useful amount of money and the winner is Mr.P.Arnold of Milton Keynes. If anyone would like a list of the answers, please contact me.

One friend who has been with us since we started, has now set up an eco-friendly holiday enterprise in India : Kerala. I can forward details to anyone interested.

Please contact us with any useful ideas or suggestions – all welcome. Of course, if there is anything you want to know, we will try to help.

Best wishes,
Celia Whittaker
Secretary