[Coral-List] Petition - Let the Chagos Islanders return home

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Thu Sep 30 16:55:58 EDT 2010

  Dear Listers and Ted

I thank Ted for drawing everyone's attention to his website and his 
personal account of the Chagossians. I cannot verify its accuracy, as 
indeed I did not verify the accuracy of what Kieran Roberts, the author 
of this petition has said.

The words of the petition (which is NOT of Mr Bancoult's making as he 
asserts) to which I drew peoples' attention contains no 
misrepresentations, it simply asks that the Orders forbidding the 
Chagossians any right of abode be revoked, and that provision be made 
for them in the proposed MPA.

There are some excellent accounts of the whole affair, not least of 
which is one written by an American, David Vine (Assistant Professor of 
Anthropology at the American University, Washington) entitled "Island of 
Shame" (Princeton University Press 2009).

I would wish however to correct Ted's constant assertion that I support 
just one Chagossian faction. I do not. I support the rights of all the 
Chagossians who wish to be granted the right to return, even if they do 
not choose to exercise it. That includes for example the Diego Garcians 
and Mr Allen Vincatassin, who now lives in the UK and leads the Diego 
Garcian Society. Mr Vincatassin position (as he has told many of us) is 
that for him and his fellow Diego Garcians, the right to return is an 
individual decision, and those who wish to return would only wish to do 
so when that becomes possible (ie Diego Garcia ceases to be an American 
Base). Diego Garcians, understandably do not wish to live on the other 
islands. Where Mr Vincatassin differs is that they would not wish to see 
Mauritius gain sovereignty over the territory, which is a different issue.

The desire to be granted a right of abode in their own country therefore 
appears to be widely held across the Chagossian communities, not solely 
by a single 'faction'. What in truth is preventing the return of the 
Diego Garcians (and the other Chagossians) is the fact that the US 
occupy their island as a military base and do not want them there or on 
any other island in the Chagos.

Neither is the concept of protecting the coral reefs of the Chagos, and 
the right of abode mutually exclusive as Ted Morris opines.

Richard P Dunne

On 30/09/2010 20:10, Ted Morris wrote:
> Dear Coral List,
> The petition presented by Mr. Dunne is filled with inaccuracies to the point
> that it presents an entirely mythical account of the Chagossian experience
> since 1962.  Many of the claims made by the petition were found to be
> without merit in various British Courts between 1999-2004 (in fact, the
> court used the term "it is not credible..." when evaluating the 2003
> testimony of Mr. Bancoult, the leader of the Chagossian faction supported by
> Mr. Dunne).
> This is not to say that consideration of compensation for the displaced
> Chagossians should be considered complete, but there are other options to
> right the wrongs of the past than the reoccupation and subsequent disruption
> of the ecology of the outer islands of the Chagos.  This includes assistance
> integrating into British society and employment and housing for families on
> Diego Garcia (capitalizing on the infrastructure and needs of the US base
> there).  A significant number of the Chagossian people (generally those
> based in Crawley near Gatwick Airport) prefer these solutions.  Mister
> Bancoult's group (based in Mauritius) is the group posting the petition.
> There is always more than one side to the story, and before you sign the
> petition offered by Mr. Dunne, you may want to consider more information
> than that provided in his posting.  Should anyone be interested in a
> relatively short essay, completely documented, detailing the actual
> conditions in the islands and the Chagossian experience in general from
> 1962-2008, please see http://www.zianet.com/tedmorris/dg/chagossians.pdf.
> If you would like to read a chronologically arranged list of the entire UK
> Court findings (244 pages long), please see
> http://www.zianet.com/tedmorris/dg/chagossiancasefacts.pdf.  If you would
> like to see a series of photographs, including several illustrating the
> living and working conditions of the Chagossians on Diego Garcia in 1971
> (taken by Lieutenant (Chaplain) Sellers, US Navy), please see
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/39156180@N06/sets/72157619303642402/.  There is
> a great deal of other information detailing the facts (as opposed to the
> claims) of the Chagossian experience on the web, if one takes the time to
> search for it.
> The Chagos is one of the last "untouched" coral environments in the world,
> and repopulation of the Chagos would require that that environment be
> exploited to provide a living for the settlers.  This would destroy the
> value of the Chagos environment as a control for the vast majority of the
> world's coral environments which are damaged or threatened in numerous,
> human-caused, ways.
> The Chagos MPA really is as important to the world as the Brits say it is,
> and the resolution of the Chagossian tragedy must be concluded by other
> means, without resettlement of the archipelago.
> Ted Morris
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Richard Dunne
> Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 4:26 AM
> To: Coral List
> Subject: [Coral-List] Petition - Let the Chagos Islanders return home
>    Dear Listers
> 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:
> http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/let-the-chagos-islanders-return-home.htm
> l
> Richard P Dunne
> ***************************************************************
> The detail and background is :
> 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
> rights continues.
> 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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