[Coral-List] Petition - Let the Chagos Islanders return home
RichardPDunne at aol.com
Tue Sep 28 06:26:01 EDT 2010
The Labour Party (UK) Friends of the Chagos have published a Petition to
the Prime Minister
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to revoke the Orders in
Council and make provision in the current MPA proposal that will allow
the Chagos Islanders to return to their homeland."
If you wish to read more and sign go to:
Richard P Dunne
The detail and background is :
LET THE CHAGOS ISLANDERS RETURN HOME
Published by Kieran Roberts on Aug 19, 2010
Category: Human Rights
Region: United Kingdom
Target: Prime Minister of the
United KingdomWeb site: http://labourfriendsofchagos.blogspot.com/Background
In the early 1960s, the US government, concerned about Soviet expansion
in the Indian Ocean, asked the British government to find an uninhabited
island where the US could build a naval base. Returning the favour, the
US would be willing to give $14 million in research and development fees
for Britain’s Polaris missile program.
The first island located was Aldabra, near Madagascar. Aldabra fitted
the bill in terms of it’s location and vitally it was uninhabited.
However, the island was a breeding ground for a rare species of tortoise
and their mating habits may have been affected by a military base.
Looking for an alternative, the US decided on Diego Garcia, the largest
island in the Chagos Archipelago. This had the benefit of leaving
tortoise mating undisturbed but the island was home to 1,800
Chagossians, or Ilois, who had inhabited the islands for over 200 years.
The Chagossians were employed, grew their own food and fished and had
built their own stores and a church. However, the courtesy for tortoises
evidently didn’t apply to human beings. The government soon began a
campaign to deal with the “population problem” to “maintain the pretense
there [are] no permanent inhabitants.” This appalling attitude persisted
and rather than seeing Diego Garcia as the society it was, it was
regarded as a nuisance, summed up by the British diplomat Dennis
Greenhill who said: “unfortunately along with the birds go some few
Tarzans or Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully
being wished on to Mauritius.”
They were “wished on to Mauritius”, as well as the Seychelles and the
UK. This began in 1968 when residents who left Diego Garcia merely to
visit Mauritius were refused return to the island. They were stranded in
Mauritius, without any assistance in resettling or any compensation. To
this day, the Chagossians in Mauritius still live in poverty. Soon
after, the Americans began to arrive and the rest of the indigenous
population were forced to leave. Only allowed to take clothes, their
homes and possessions had to be abandoned and their pets were killed
amidst threats that if they did not leave, they would otherwise be
“bombed” and wouldn’t “be fed any longer.” All this was with the full
knowledge and approval of Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey.
The inhumane treatment was compounded by the compensation later given to
the Mauritius government. The £1.4 million only covered the debts
incurred from resettlement and when it was dealt out to 595 Chagossian
families, it was years later and significantly reduced by inflation.
Another £6 million was paid in compensation but when the Chagossians
claimed for it, they were required to endorse a renunciation form,
written in English though they speak Creole, that forfeited their right
to return home. This wasn’t even translated for them.
Injustice after injustice, finally in 2000 it was ruled that the forced
removal was illegal and the right to return to the outer Chagos Islands
was returned. This slight progress was then reneged when Jack Straw
issued two Orders in Council in 2004 and the right to return was take
away again. Even as soon as April this year, the Foreign Office proposed
plans for a Marine Protected Area in the Chagos Archipelago that erects
a barrier to any return to the islands. The outright dismissal of their
That’s the story. Tragic, inhumane and unlawful. We desperately have to
make amends and the best place to begin is by changing our policy on
Chagos and campaigning for their right to return. To achieve this, we
need your support.
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