the Disillusioned kid: The wait goes on
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Sunday, May 08, 2005

The wait goes on

Regular readers may recall that the Chagossians have been campaigning for sometime to be allowed to visit the graves of their ancestors on the islands from which they were deported to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos Archipelago. It had looked like this might finally happen, but the trip has now been postponed. I don't have the time to do much research, but the British High Commission had this to say (the tip-off for this story came via the Chagos Discussion list):
The British High Commissioner met Mr Olivier Bancoult today, 27 April, to discuss the visit by 100 Chagossians to ancestral graves on the islands. The High Commission and the Chagos Refugee Group have been working closely together on the practical arrangements for several weeks. Co-operation has been excellent and reparations have reached an advanced stage.

The British Government entered into an agreement with the owners of the RTS Sinbad Nui to charter that vessel for the voyage. The British Government had hoped that the journey would begin on 20 April, but the date subsequently slipped to 7 May at the request of the vessel’s owners.

A principal condition for chartering the ship was that the owners would be responsible for securing reclassification of the RTS Sinbad Nui as a passenger vessel. Unfortunately, they have not been able to obtain the appropriate certification in time to undertake the voyage on 7 May. The visit has therefore had to be postponed for the time being. The British Government is working intensively to try and rearrange the visit at the earliest possible suitable date.

This is deeply disappointing for all concerned. The British Government’s commitment to this humanitarian visit is undiminished, and it will therefore be continuing to work closely with the Chagossian communities in Mauritius and Seychelles to ensure that it takes place at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
Mauritian paper l'express reports,
The voyage of a hundred Chagossians to their native archipelago where they will visit their ancestors’ graves has been postponed once again by the British government. The leader of ‘Groupe Réfugiés Chagos’, Olivier Bancoult, however, appears conciliatiory towards the British authorities. He said it is only a “technical problem” and seems sure that he will achieve his aim soon. “A principal condition for chartering the ship was that the owners would be responsible for securing reclassification of the RTS Sinbad Nui as a passenger vessel. Unfortunately, they have not been able to obtain the appropriate certification in time to undertake the voyage on 7 May,” said a communiqué from the British High Commission.
Everyone else seems singularly uninterested in the story.

Update 12/5/05: Via Google Alerts, I found this from l'express:
A date for the Chagossians’ trip down memory lane was announced last week by the British authorities. After an nth postponement, British under-secretary of State, Bill Rammell, told Olivier Bancoult, the leader of Groupe Réfugiés Chagos, that the voyage will take place on 25th October. Olivier Bancoult seems to have resigned himself after the latest date (7th May) was cancelled. He had expressed his discontent to Bill Rammell but had no other choice than to accept this decision. He nevertheless thanked the British government for the steps taken. He hopes that the South African ship will cater for more than 100 passengers.
No doubt more will follow. Watch this space.

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