[Coral-List] Chagos MPA Dismantlement

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Tue Sep 21 05:31:34 EDT 2010

  Dear Listers and Ted

Ted Morris's post seems to be the product of an over-active imagination 
and bears little resemblance to anything I have said on Coral List or 
the facts more generally.

I would be happy to respond to all of his points if he could 
re-construct his post based on what I have actually written. All of this 
is freely available to him in the Coral List archive. I will however, 
answer two points:

"The incessant clamoring of politically active folks in the UK to 
disassemble the Chagos MPA."

Who is doing this? Certainly not those who support the rights of the 
Chagossians nor the exiled islanders themselves. What evidence does Mr 
Morris have in support of this contention? What attempt is being made in 
the courts to do this? - the case in the ECtHR predates the MPA and has 
nothing to do with it - the Judicial Review sought by a Chagossian 
(Olivier Bancoult) is on the basis that the Consultation Exercise was 
flawed because of the failure to reveal relevant information by the 
Foreign Office.

My views and those of Mr Morris's "mostly-European partisans" are 
summarised in an earlier post (from 26 January 2010) which quotes from 
the Marine Education Trust Petition which I signed and which was sent to 
the Foreign Secretary in Feb/March :

The position of a growing number of influential figures, coral reef 
scientists and others is to _"fully support the UK Government’s efforts 
to protect the Chagos archipelago through the declaration of a Marine 
Protected Area within the territorial waters and Environmental 
Preservation and Protection Zone/Fisheries Conservation and Management 
Zone."_ BUT _"We do not support any of the three broad options proposed 
in the consultation documents, however, because full no-take protection 
of reef areas would provide no means for resettled islanders to utilise 
their marine resources for subsistence or income generation. Communities 
and Marine Protected Areas coexist across the world, and there is no 
reason why the islanders could not be successful stewards of their coral 
reef environment."_ AND _"We urge you to work with the Chagos islanders 
and the Government of Mauritius to devise an MPA solution that makes 
provision for resettlement and that protects Mauritius’ legitimate 
interests. This could be achieved through, for example, zonation that 
permits the sustainable use of marine resources in specific reef, lagoon 
and open ocean areas."_

Does that represent a "dismantlement" of the MPA?

"If the Chagossians - British Citizens - are to return, let them occupy 
the non-military side of the Diego Garcia atoll. It is, after all, a 
British Territory, and certainly the UK could arrange for that to happen."

Mr Morris should ask his own (the US) government why they restrict 
access to Diego Garcia. Judging from what US officials have repeatedly 
said about re-population of even the outer islands there is certain 
paranoia as evidenced from letters produced by the UK Government in the 
House of Lords case in 2008.

In his judgement (2008) Lord Hoffman noted that "There was no question 
of their [Chagossian] return to Diego Garcia, which the United States 
was entitled to occupy until at least 2016." later he continued: "In 
addition, as Mr Rammell told the House of Commons, the government had to 
give due weight to security interests. The United States had expressed 
concern that any settlement on the outer islands would compromise the 
security of its base on Diego Garcia. A representative of the State 
Department wrote a letter for use in these proceedings, giving details 
of the ways in which it was feared that the islands might be useful to 
terrorists. Some of these scenarios might be regarded as fanciful 
speculations but, in the current state of uncertainty, the government is 
entitled to take the concerns of its ally into account."

Lord Binham: "It is clear that in November 2000 the re-settlement of the 
outer islands (let alone sporadic visits by Mr Bancoult and other 
Chagossians) was not perceived to threaten the security of the base on 
Diego Garcia or national security more generally. Had it been, time and 
money would not have been devoted to exploring the feasibility of 
resettlement. The United States Government had not exercised its treaty 
right to extend its base to the outer islands. Despite highly 
imaginative letters written by American officials to strengthen the 
Secretary of State’s hand in this litigation, there was no credible 
reason to apprehend that the security situation had changed. It was not 
said that the criminal conspiracy headed by Osama bin Laden was, or was 
planning to be, active in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In 1968 and 
1969 American officials had expressly said that they had no objection to 
occupation of the outer islands for the time being."

Lord Carswell: "Criticisms have been advanced of the validity of the 
reasons advanced on behalf of the United States for wanting to keep the 
whole of the Territory free from settlement, but even if it might be 
said that the concerns expressed appear exaggerated, the fact remains 
that the US clearly desired to keep a large clear area around the base."

Lord Mance gave a more detailed description of the evidence in the 
letters from US Government officials dated 21 June 2000, 16 Nov 2004, 
and 18 Jan 2006. In the first of these the Assistant Secretary of State 
for Political-Military Affairs described the central defence role played 
by Diego Garcia and the advantages of its strategic location and 
isolation, saying amongst other things that "“the settlement of a 
permanent civilian population on the islands of the Chagos archipelago, 
even those at some distance from Diego Garcia, would seriously diminish 
that isolation and as a consequence erode the island’s nearly 
unparalleled strategic importance”, referring then to the introduction 
of settlements on the outlying islands as putting “Diego Garcia more 
easily within potential reach of hostile states or terrorists operating 
by boat”. Finally, he observed that the United States might in 
“currently unforeseeable circumstances” one day require use of the outer 
Chagos Islands for defence purposes, something to which it would in that 
event be entitled under the inter-governmental agreement between the 
United Kingdom and the United States. By 2004, the stance in the 
original letter of 2000 had become "even more cogent" and that "“an 
attempt to resettle any of the islands of the Chagos Archipelago would 
severely compromise Diego Garcia’s unparalleled security and have a 
deleterious impact on our military operations” and that “we appreciate 
the steps taken by Her Majesty’s Government to prevent such 
resettlement”. The 2006 letter was equally strident including the 
statement that the United States was moreover seriously concerned that 
repopulating the outer islands “would provide terrorists the cover and 
concealment to establish permanent operating bases from which they could 
monitor island operations with minimum risk of counter detection”.

In June 2010, Gerald Loftus, a former US diplomat wrote: "The Obama 
campaign put “human security” and human rights at the forefront of its 
change agenda, and since January 2009 the administration has shown 
concern for other downtrodden peoples, from Haiti to Tibet. The plight 
of the Chagos Islanders also cries out for justice, especially from the 
country that insisted on their removal. On a continent that increasingly 
equates U.S. interests in Africa with the existence of the U.S. Africa 
Command, a humanitarian gesture to repatriate the Chagossians would go a 
long way to showing that the U.S. military can coexist with civilians -- 
in this case Anglo-Africans, British citizens all. All it would take 
would be an American admission that a few hundred former copra workers 
and their dependents on islands 100 miles away from Diego Garcia would 
not jeopardize the security of the West. One word from Washington would 
let the British government off the hook, and would put an end to its 
excruciatingly long, legal rear-guard action."

So it would seem that Ted Morris's suggestion is impossible without a 
step change in US policy. Nor is the US occupation of Diego Garcia 
likely to end in the near future. The lease automatically renews in 2016 
for a further 20 years unless either the US or UK Government seeks to 
renegotiate it. Given the massive continuing investment and expansion of 
facilities on the island it is most unlikely that the US would agree an 
early termination.

In all of this, I have one simple request - please can we stick to the 

It is still with the courts to determine the legitimacy of the 
Chagossians right of return, in the absence of any concessions from the 
UK Government. It is prudent in the meantime to avoid alienating them 
further by legislating for an MPA without their active engagement in the 
process. That is regrettably exactly what the British Government is 
still doing.

Richard P Dunne

On 20/09/2010 19:03, Ted Morris wrote:
> Dear Coral-Listers,
> I never cease to be amazed at the incessant clamoring of politically active
> folks in the UK to disassemble the Chagos MPA - both in British courts, and
> in the realm of public opinion, including now in Coral List.
> For example, Mr. Dunne recently claimed to the list that there are
> "sustainable" ways to repopulate and exploit the Chagos.  That is absurd.
> His appeal to the Convention's provisions for "sharing" with local people is
> the equivalent of saying we must re-inhabit and harvest within MPAs.  Who in
> the U.S. would ever dream of doing so within a wilderness area?  But that
> seems to be the only solution proposed by the resettlement advocates.
> Certainly in the Chagos, this will guarantee the loss of what is perhaps the
> world's least damaged marine ecosystem, and, makes me wonder what is behind
> these ceaseless proposals.
> If the Chagossians - British Citizens - are to return, let them occupy the
> non-military side of the Diego Garcia atoll.  It is, after all, a British
> Territory, and certainly the UK could arrange for that to happen.  They
> could capitalize on the infrastructure in place, the base and the MPA itself
> could provide non-extractive jobs that would not disrupt the world's largest
> "wilderness area", and the impact on the 99.9% of Chagos that is not DG
> would be minor indeed, if not completely absent.
> However, the previous proposals by the faction of which Mr. Dunne appears to
> be part (the "Let Them Return" campaign and its successors) propose to
> occupy the entire terrestrial Chagos - a area of less than 36 km2.  Those
> earlier proposals involved the complete exploitation of the terrestrial
> environment of the Chagos (turning it into a monoculture of sugar cane
> plantations and "ecotourism" hotels constructed and operated by the tourism
> industry from Mauritius), the transformation of the fishing industry to ship
> directly from the islands - meaning the creation of industrial facilities
> including seaports and airports - and a sideline of shipping fish and corals
> to the mid-east for the exotic pet trade.
> The mostly-European partisans are conducting what is a full-court press in
> all available media - frankly, it is a brilliant propaganda campaign, but
> the endgame is not clear at all.  I believe that if the resettle&  exploit
> crowd succeed, it will guarantee the loss of the Chagos as an undisturbed
> ecosystem and as an essential barometer of the health of the oceans in this
> time of uncertainty.  In addition, it will return the Chagossians to
> fly-speck islands which have zero infrastructure, and turn them over to the
> commercial interests of Mauritius which will treat them no better than they
> have for the last 40 years.
> There are alternatives to a future for the Chagossians as maids, janitors,
> and cannery workers, while runoff from the cane field fertilizers and the
> dredging of coral heads slowly but surely destroys their homeland.  It is
> high time for people to stop claiming that return to the outer islands of
> the Chagos and their exploitation is a valid option.
> Sincerely,
> Ted Morris,
> An Interested Amateur
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