[Coral-List] Chagos Marine Protected Area - UK Government drops case in ECtHR and will uphold the right of the expelled Chagossians to return.

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Wed Sep 15 11:50:51 EDT 2010

  Dear Listers

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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