[Coral-List] Chagos Marine Protected Area - UK Government drops case in ECtHR and will uphold the right of the expelled Chagossians to return.
RichardPDunne at aol.com
Wed Sep 15 11:50:51 EDT 2010
On Monday I reported the letter by the Secretary of State for Business,
Dr Vince Cable, which had appeared in the New Statesman. His words, as a
Cabinet Minister in the Coalition Government, were music to the ears of
the exiled Chagossians and a real hope for the future of the Chagos MPA,
with the leader of the Chagos Refugees Group in Mauritius, Olivier
Bancoult, stating: "It's something very positive and we are delighted.
The content of the letter are crystal clear.."
The New Statesman was then contacted by an official from the Department
of Business, informing them that the letter from Dr Cable had been "sent
in error by his constituency office" and that another letter, saying
something different, would be sent as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, a Parliamentary researcher in Dr Cable's Westminster Office
contacted me to apologise for the "regrettable, administrative mistake".
Incompetence, or does this signal a rift in the Coalition Government
over the policy in Chagos? Dr Cable has been a active and strong
supporter of the Chagossian cause. Will this "administrative mistake"
chide fellow Cabinet Minister, Foreign Secretary Hague into action?
Since coming into office 4 months ago, the Chagos problem has been under
review, but then the Foreign Office have never been known for speed.
David Snoxell, former British High Commissioner to Mauritius (2000-04)
who is co-ordinator of the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group,
commented on the Cable letter debacle: "Chagossian hopes have been
raised and dashed several times over the last decade - but never before
in a single afternoon."
So where does that leave us now? Unfortunately back at square one. The
MPA has been declared, but is under legal challenge in the UK courts,
which if successful may result in a ruling that the consultation process
was unlawful. The British Government would then have to start over
again. The Chagossians case still has to be heard in the ECtHR, and if
successful could win them the right of return. The Foreign Minister of
the Maldives, Dr Shaheed, has written to the former Foreign Secretary,
David Milliband, contesting the northern part of the proposed MPA which
overlaps into their Exclusive Economic Zone, and impacts the rights of
the Maldivian fishermen. The Mauritius Government meanwhile still claim
sovereignty over the Chagos after it was illegally detached from the
former British Colony.
Should we be surprised? Probably not. Misinformation and insincerity
seem to be the currency where the Chagos is concerned. Until earlier
this year the Foreign Office enforced an exclusion zone around Diego
Garcia out to 12 nautical miles until it was pointed out that the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) only permitted 3 nm.
Hardly reassuring from a government department which proposes an MPA
whose enforcement also potentially contravenes UNCLOS.
For now, the MPA is stymied, the Government contains to spend money on
legal fees (including those of the Chagossians which they also pay), and
is now tendering for the new BIOT Patrol Vessel which may not have a job
to do until these legal challenges are settled. For a government that is
'financially broke' this does not seem prudent.
The one shining light in all this are the benefactors who are willing to
help support conservation efforts in the archipelago. Let us hope that
the Government does not upset them as well.
Richard P Dunne
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