September 2004 update

This has not been a good summer and we don’t just mean the weather. The Orders in Council of June 10 were seriously bad news – undemocratic is probably the mildest word that comes to mind. It is shocking that the government can treat the High Court with contempt – completely reversing the November 2000 ruling with which they agreed at that time. They are putting themselves above the law.

Subsequently, Bill Rammell (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) gave two main “reasons” to the House of Commons (which had not been consulted) – both entirely spurious. The climate change excuse is hardly convincing whilst the US is actually extending its base facilities. His other excuse, that the cost of resettlement would be prohibitive and on-going has never been investigated. In any case, how expensive would it be to re-build the destroyed village on Diego Garcia and let the re-settled islanders do the non-military jobs on the base? Currently, the US flies in other nationalities to do this work. The security argument, mentioned by Bill Rammell, is weak given that the US has a base on Cuba, a communist country.

The Early Day Motion 1355, deploring the UK’s treatment of the Chagossians is still “on the table” for MPs to sign.

Jeremy Corbyn MP secured a debate in Westminster Hall on July 7 where he and Tam Dalyell made an excellent case on behalf of the Chagossians. Alex Salmond, John Grogan, Tom Brake and Gary Streeter were all very supportive and Kelvin Hopkins drew the inevitable comparison between “Island Clearances” and the Highland Clearances in Scotland at the beginning of the 19th century (as has been said so often before: all very different from the way the UK treated the Falkland Islanders).

After the Orders in Council, Mauritius threatened to leave the Commonwealth in order to take action against the UK regarding the Chagos Archipelago (BIOT). However, our government changed the rules to prevent ex-members of the Commonwealth, as well as current members, from going down this road.

The appeal hearing for compensation in the High Court was also a great disappointment. Why should there be a statute of limitations when a government has behaved in an inhumane and unethical way?

Mr Rammell recently flew to North Korea where he discussed human rights abuses – we suggest he sets them a good example by restoring and properly compensating the rightful inhabitants of the Chagos islands.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Paul Foot who was a good friend to our cause as well as countless others. He fought long and hard against injustice wherever he saw it and will be much missed.

We are very pleased to have some GOOD news. John Pilger is making a documentary for ITV to be screened on October 6. Please encourage everyone you know to watch this – perhaps simple posters could be put up at work or in churches? Mark Curtis is writing an information booklet which will be available, free, after the programme.

Graham Macklin has written an article for the BBC History Magazine which will probably be published in November.

We are in contact with a wide range of people, both old and young, British and not, who express an interest in the cause – the fight goes on!

On a more parochial level, we are pleased to say the quiz sheet has been selling well and we continue to make useful donations to the different Chagossian groups. Could all quiz entries and money raised be in by the end of October please?

On 27 November we will be manning a stall at the Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Shipley, Yorks from 10am until 4pm to raise funds and provide information for anyone interested.

Finally, we were relieved to hear our excellent web-master survived Hurricane Frances intact – not a comfortable experience for him!

Please, please continue to nag your Members of Parliament to support us with this work.

With thanks and best wishes from all the committee,

Celia Whittaker