October 2009 update

  • The Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group meets again on October 13th after the long recess. Taking a slightly longer view, it would be appreciated if supporters follow George Beckmann’s example and write to their MPs and to the party leaders suggesting that “Justice for the Chagossians” be included in the party manifesto for the next election. This issue, as the APPG shows, is humanitarian and crosses all party lines. George Beckmann starts with a brief summary of the history of the Chagossians then writes:

    “It is vital to terminate this injustice, which is a blight on the integrity of the British people. Last December, the UK government celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but, astonishingly, was blind to its flagrant breach in the case of the Chagos Islanders.

    I believe that repatriation will happen if there is sufficient political will. This can only come about by informed pressure from the British people. I therefore appeal to you to include a pledge in your forthcoming Manifesto, declaring your Party’s support for the right of the Chagos Islanders to return.”

  • The petition to Number 10 closed on 23rd September with a highly creditable 870 signatures and we now await the Prime Minister’s reply which, hopefully, would allow the exiled islanders to return to their homeland without delay!

  • News from Olivier Bancoult and the Chagos refugee Group in Mauritius:
    1) Trip to USA (5-14 October)
    I have been invited by the Washington University Law School to give some talks on the Chagossian plight and struggle. Will also aim to have open dialogues with appropriate members of the Obama administration as well as interested members of Congress in order to seek a just solution to end our hardships.
    2) Activities
    a) Sports day for children on Sunday 04 October at Port Louis where we had a cross country and a cycle racing.
    b) Indoor games tournament – domino and “carrom” for children during the second week of October.
    Carrom is a board game that is played similar to pool, only using small disks on a wooden playing board instead of balls on a fabric-covered table. Instead of a cue stick, players, use their fingers to shoot. It’s a popular game here.
    3) CRG Training and Resource Centre
    a) The roof was concreted on 15 September.
    b) Thanksgiving prayers were offered on 20 September.

  • Richard Gifford (UK lawyer for Chagossians) and Professor David Vine will be accompanying Olivier and it will certainly be a full schedule including appearing on Africa Now! a radio interview, talks to university groups, a screening of John Pilger’s “Stealing a Nation” and much more. His very first event, on the evening of his arrival in Washington, will be in the Martin Luther King Memorial Library “Meet Olivier Bancoult: Homeland Lost to Military Base.” Presented by DC Public Library and TransAfrica Forum’s Arthur R. Ashe Jr.

  • News from Fatima Nourrice, secretary to the Committee of Chagossians from Seychelles:

    “The Chagossians from Seychelles have been meeting on a regular basis since late 2008.We formed our committee on the 11th July 2009, to work as on off-shot of the one in the Seychelles. Our main aim is to offer support in everyday circumstances to our fellow Chagossians as they move to the UK. We meet on a monthly basis within our members home, from Croydon to Crawley. It gives us the opportunity to mingle within ourselves over a cup of tea and cookies, as well as relive the aspect of harmony shared by our ancestors on the Chagos islands. We are currently planning a pot-luck on the 31st October 2009.”

  • News from Allen Vincatassin and the Diego Garcia Group in Crawley:
    “On the 16th of September the Diego Garcians and other Chagos islanders in Crawley celebrated the 7th Anniversary of their arrival for settlement in the UK. The event was marked by a celebration at which Laura Moffatt the local MP said, that the expulsion of the islanders was a terrible dishonour, but our arrival in the town has enriched lives and improved the town. The Leader of West Sussex County Council, Mr. Henry Smith, said ‘You have blended into the wider community of Crawley in the most remarkable way’. Allen gave a presentation on the achievements of the past seven years, and said ‘Diego Garcia is very far away but you must not lose hope, return is a personal choice, as a people I believe we need to be prepared’. Allen also announced that there will be another visit to Chagos beginning next year. The children brought the atmosphere of the islands by their Sega performances.
    The Diego Garcia Dancers performed at the Hawth theatre in front of Kesia Obama (Step Mother of President Barack Obama) at the launching celebration of Black History month in Crawley. Sylvio Lynx, Mylene Augustin and the group gave an outstanding performance. The event was attended by the Mayor, the local MP, Allen Vincatassin and other dignitaries under the theme ‘Yes We Can’. The Diego Garcian leader was invited to have coffee with Mrs. Kesia Obama. Allen said, ‘I feel humbled to meet and chat with the step-mother of President Barack Obama on this Black History Celebration, and this has inspired me more, to say that we must never reflect on our exile or pursue our future on the basis that we are being judged by the colour of our skin.’
    There will be an exhibition about Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomon islands from the 12th of October until the 23rd. A Diego Garcian Cultural Evening is programmed for the 15th of October at 7.30pm, at the Hawth studio in Crawley, where there will be the launching of the ‘Road to Crawley Project’ on the islanders life in their homeland and their move to the UK. This will be for the local archive.
    Allen plans to lobby Ministers and MPs across the board, for the safeguard of the rights of Diego Garcians and their future generations. A campaign will be launched in the months to come.”

  • News from Hengride Permal and the Chagos Island Community Association: the proposed demonstration in Trafalgar Square this month has been postponed.

  • News from George Wuethrich and the Swiss Group:
    “Ton Vie, the Chagossian singer and composer of Peros Vert (Green Peros – see July Update for youtube link if I remember well) is coming in Geneva for a concert on October 24 organized by Nicole’s daughter Priscylla and our committee. Typical Mauritian & Chagossian food (Serrage Poulet – Chicken in coconut milk) and drink (Baca – fermented pineapple) will be available.”

  • Sadly, due to ill-health, Ann Stewart, Chair of this Association will be retiring at the end of the year. She will keep her interest in the cause and intends to help the new Chair to settle in when her successor is elected.

    Any supporters who feel they have a little time and the necessary computer skills to take this on, or any committee position, please contact us on one of the following e-mail addresses:
    ann-stewart3@o2.co.uk, rochevenor@hotmail.com, celiawhittaker@chagossupport.org.uk

  • By contrast, a salaried job opportunity:
    Pew Charitable Trusts needs an Outreach Manager for their Global Ocean Legacy project. (London £40-50k)

    “The position offers the unique chance to play a fundamental role in creating the one or more of the largest highly protected marine reserves in the world. GOL is looking for someone to establish, coordinate and manage the public outreach in the UK…. to promote protection of irreplaceable marine ecosystems; particularly the Chagos Archipelago – a remote and isolated group of more than 50 individual islands with vast and widely dispersed reefs, including the biggest atoll structure in the world.”

    Responsibilities, apparently, include a campaign website, video, and written materials for the public and press; mobilising public support for the protection of the Chagos Archipelago including, as appropriate, rallies, public events and other demonstrations of support. For full details visit the link in our covering e-mail. However, you will find nothing in the job description about consultation with the Chagossians or any acknowledgement that they exist and wish to return. Being sensitive to environmental issues is good but what about sensitivity towards the people who were exiled from their own land over forty years ago and still want to be custodians of their own environment? UKCSA regrets that the Chagossians do not have that kind of money to promote their cause.

  • Professor David Vine’s book “Island of Shame” (The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia) featured in the New York Review of Books earlier this year when Jonathan Freedland wrote about it.

  • Dates for your diary:
    1. Richard Gifford will be speaking at Southampton University on November 5th “The Chagos Islanders – Do They Exist?” This will be a public lecture so please contact us for more details if you wish to attend.
    2. UKCSA will have a stall at the Bradford Peace Fair, Victoria Hall, Saltaire on 21st November and both the Treasurer and Update Compiler will be there.