the Disillusioned kid: Lalit Go Down Under
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lalit Go Down Under

Thanks to Dave Riley for this from Australia's Green Left Weekly:
Ram Seegobin, a leader of the Mauritian socialist organisation Lalit (meaning “struggle” in Creole) addressed a meeting here [i.e. Perth - Dk] on March 30 and spoke at a Fremantle showing of The Control Room on April 1. The meetings were organised by the Socialist Alliance with around 80 people in total attendance.

Seegobin said that Lalit's major current campaign aims to force the closure of the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia, situated in the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Rented to the US by the British in 1965 in an underhanded deal just before Mauritius became independent, the island has been used as a base for bombing Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lalit's campaign demands Mauritian sovereignty for the Chagos Archipelago, the right of return and reparations for the evicted inhabitants, the closure of the military base and its conversion into a tsunami warning system.
It's heartening to see the Chagos issue being picked up Down Under and 80 people is an impressive turnout for such a little-known cause.

Lalit's demands are probably worth commenting on briefly. While I have no problem with any of them in principle and particularly appreciate the call for the base to become a tsunami warning centre (the base has seismic detectors which reportedly picked up the tremors which caused the Indian Ocean Tsunami, but the base had no ability to contact anybody to warn them), it is worth bearing in mind the comments of Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult. In August 2000 (I'm not 100% sure about the year, but that appears to be correct) he told Mauritius News, "We are fighting for our rights, and I am concerned with our rights and our own interests," a position which - perhaps unsurprisingly - drew applause from his compatriots. "All the time that Mauritius has been talking to the British Government, the Mauritius Government never bothered to bring in the islanders or to consult with them. Why should we worry about Mauritius." This is not to suggest that the Mauritian sovereignty claim should be dismissed out of hand (as I've said before, independence for the Chagos Archipelago seems unrealistic), but rather that those of us campaigning around the issue should be wary of making it the central plank of our case.

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