October 2006 update

  • Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) leader Olivier Bancoult came to London for the screening of John Pilger’s award-winning film Stealing a Nation at the Barbican last month. Richard Gifford, the CRG’s solicitor, was also there. We were able to sell a lot of postcards to help raise funds and we made a lot of new contacts.

  • Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP (Lib Dem, London) attacked the British Government for its inhumane and immoral treatment of the Chagossians saying: “The duplicity, mendacity and hypocrisy of successive UK governments, including the present one, is a complete scandal. I defy anyone who learns the history of this – and the ongoing dishonesty and defiance of the courts by this government – not to feel ashamed to be British.” She pointed out how chancellor Gordon Brown made grand speeches about the meaning of Britishness and home secretary John Reid pontificates on how people should behave, and wondered: “How can they hold their heads up in the knowledge of their disgraceful abandonment of these British citizens?”

  • Olivier also met up with a delegation of Pan African leaders from a number of organisations whilst in London. Esther Stanford, speaking for the Pan African delegates said: “We are united in spirit, community, truth and justice and we are very confident that we will become much closer as we see this as one struggle.”

  • Dr Laura Jeffery has written an article for Political and Anthropology Review entitled Historical Narrative and Legal Evidence: Judging Chagossians’ High Court testimonies.

  • An article in The Guardian on 28 September reported the case of a Liverpool house owner who fought John Prescott’s plans to demolish her home, along with about 500 others, to build a dual carriageway and flats.

  • Elizabeth Pascoe successfully argued that the houses were in good condition and the compulsory purchase order would break up a supportive community, A High Court judge ruled that the order was a breach of her human rights because the state had tried to take her home by a process which was not ‘according to law’. It’s a pity that judge wasn’t in the Chagos Archipelago about four decades ago.

  • Cumbria’s News and Star, 23 September, tells how the Keswick Peace and Human Rights Group, set up a year ago, are now taking up the Chagossian struggle for justice. It is good to see a growing awareness of the islanders’ plight.

  • KBS, the South Korean state broadcaster, have been in touch with us as they are planning to do a programme about the Chagossian struggle.

  • There is now a second Chagossian group in Crawle: the Chagos Island Community Association, chaired by Hengride Permal. The older group, chaired by Allen Vincatassin, is the British Indian Ocean Territory People’s Party. Allen reports that he is preparing a dossier for the Prime Minister’s Office, after having attended a meeting where the PM was present. He has also been asked to sit on the steering committee of Age Concern. The group plan to participate in a Black History celebration on 21 October.

  • The annual general meeting of this association will be at the Friends Meeting House, Skipton Road, Keighley on 29 October at 2pm. All are welcome.

  • We will have a stall at the Bradford Peace Fair at the Victoria Hall, Saltaire on 11 November. Come for a good day out and buy goodies for Christmas.

  • Dr Ralph Rayner Csi, CmarSci, FIMarEST will deliver a lecture on “The History, Science and Politics of the Indian Ocean Chagos Archipelago” on Wednesday 29 November at the City Conference Centre, 80 Coleman Street, London. This will weave together the history, science and politics of the Chagos Archipelago and will be illustrated by underwater photographs. He says “I’d like those who attend to take away a feeling of wonder at the spectacular beauty of coral reefs; thoughts about how to deal with complex and conflicting demands on even the most remote parts of the planet; and perspectives about how and whether the rights of small minorities should be, or can be, defended against big government.”
    The evening starts with tea at 5pm with the lecture beginning at 5.30 followed, at 6.45, by a reception. The event is free of charge.
    Places can be reserved online at www.imarest.org, by emailing sarah.alexander@imarest.org or by telephoning 020 7382 2636.