the Disillusioned kid: Sovereignty Schmovereignty, Part 2.
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Friday, April 15, 2005

Sovereignty Schmovereignty, Part 2.

I found the following exchange, buried in this report of representations to the Commission for Human Rights on the rights of internally displaced people, thanks to Google's News alerts system. I think it is instructive as to the reality of Mauritian policy vis-a-vis the Chagossians (more on the back story to this here for those of you unfamiliar with it):
MIKE SUTTON, of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the Government of the United Kingdom had, between 1965 and 1973, intentionally and systematically displaced the established indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Their forced removal was done to facilitate the leasing of the islands to the United States for use as a strategic military base. Since then the displaced Chagossians had been abandoned to a life of poverty and social marginalization, and had never been adequately compensated for their losses; nor had their efforts to regain control and resettlement of their islands been realized. The United Kingdom had in effect a pocket of colonialism inoculated from international human rights scrutiny, and was selectively dismissing international law and human rights. The Commission should instruct the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples to investigate this issue.


IQBAL LATONA (Mauritius), speaking in a right of reply in reference to the statement made by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that the Chagossians were full-fledged citizens of Mauritius and derived their status as citizens from the Constitution. The Chagos Archipelago had always been an integral part of the territory of Mauritius, and it had never relinquished its sovereignty over the Archipelago. It reaffirmed that there were no indigenous peoples on the islands, and all those who had gone to inhabit and work there came from Mauritius. The Government had always expressed concern about the manner in which the Chagossians were displaced from the Archipelago, and had taken numerous initiatives to safeguard the welfare of the Chagossians whilst supporting their right to return to the Chagos Archipelago. The Government had always and would continue in its endeavour to pursue all actions within its possibility to exercise the enjoyment of its sovereignty over the Chagos Islands.
In short: the Mauritian government not only don't really care about the Chagossians, they don't even admit that they exist. Their assertion that all the islanders went there from Mauritius is simply not true. Many of them were descended from slaves who were brought from Madagascar, Mozambique and Senegal. The population did have close links with Mauritius and went there to trade, but had developed their own culture and language in the course of their time on the islands.

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