From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters
Editor’s note: As we go to press, the British Government’s Supreme Court refused to give Diego Garcia back to its inhabitants. They cannot return to their own land, while the British will continue to lease the island to the U.S. for their military base until 2036! Peter Grant, Scottish National Party lawmaker, rightly labeled the move “a return to the days of the arrogant colonial Britain that should have been consigned to the dustbin of history 100 years ago.”
While the British claim that it would be impractical to give the island back to its rightful inhabitants, they did not see the impracticality 50 years ago of forcibly removing the native population by murdering their pets and refusing to let people return from shopping or medical trips, thus splitting up families. (See “Freedom for the Chagos Archipelago!” Sept.-Oct. 2016 News & Letters.)
No doubt Britain is dancing to the U.S.’s tune as the U.S. base on Diego Garcia has supported 50 years of military operations including Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; it has also been used for secret rendition flights of suspected terrorists.
The Chagossians now turn to the international community. The struggle continues.
In the name of LALIT, I would like to thank you very much for the copies of News & Letters with the article on Diego Garcia and the letter of support that we referred to at our Conference. Your support contributed to creating the kind of internationalist spirit that makes victory possible in these struggles.
Our Action Conference on Diego Garcia held in Mauritius on Oct. 1-2 was a success beyond our wildest dreams, and we hope its effects continue to be felt and help get the base closed; the whole of Mauritius, including Chagos, decolonized; and the Chagossians getting the freedom to return home.
Speeches at the Conference covered the “now-ness” of the 50-year-old issue, the history of the struggle against this colonial military occupation, the changing “stakes” over the years, what victory will be, and what dangers face us as we seek this victory.
Olivier Bancoult gave his “Report Back” from the UN, where he was part of the Mauritius delegation alongside the Prime Minister. His report included a revelation that he had been offered money by the British State in a bribe for him to withdraw from the Mauritius delegation. The British High Commission put out a denial, but Olivier maintained he has proof.
We can expect retaliation by the British and U.S. They will do everything they can to get the Mauritian State not to go ahead with the Resolution still on the UN Agenda to bring Britain before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. A mere “Advisory Opinion” has sent both the UK and U.S. into a little frenzy of intimidation. Britain’s defeat at the Tribunal under the Law of the Sea has made both the UK and USA very jumpy, especially as it means the renewal by Britain of its illegal lease of Diego Garcia to the USA for the base can no longer be accomplished legally.
If there is any way you can get this issue into the media in the U.S., we will send you links we have with mainstream journalists who might want to take it up.
—Alain Ah Vee, for LALIT