the Disillusioned kid: Return to Chagos
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Return to Chagos

Remember Halliburton? The construction firm headed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney until July 2000 until he left to join the Bush Campaign has attracted considerable controversy over its involvement in Iraq where it has received various large contracts for "reconstruction" work. It now emerges that a subsidiary of the company, Kellogg, Brown and Root, have been awarded contracts for the construction of detention facilities around the world including, insofar as it is possible to be sure, on the British island of Diego Garcia.

John Pike, director of defense watchdog and analysis group, said KBR is uniquely qualified for building other detention facilities, having been pre-qualified for emergency naval construction projects in 2000.

“KBR was pre-qualified to do that work,” he added. “If the Navy needed something built quickly, they could get them on the phone and just do it.”

“Somebody had to build them,” Pike told RAW STORY. “If it was Diego Garcia for instance, it was quite probable that it would have been built under that contract. I think Diego Garcia would be an excellent location for a detention facility.”

Pike said its location made it an ideal choice for another prison.

“It’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” he continued. “Nobody visits there.”

Pedants might point out that the paucity of visitors is not simply, as Pike implies, a result simply of the island's remoteness, but a consequence of a consciously pursued policy. This policy saw the island's indigenous population removed and prevented from returning through a series of legal machinations including, most recently, the use of little known prerogative powers endowed upon the Monarchy. Which leads me onto a related story which like the one above appeared in my inbox via the Chagos Discussion List.

According to the Scotsman a legal challenge to the use of these powers is being challenged in the courts. The article sugggests that this challenge is being brought by Louis Bancoult, although they surely mean Olivier Bancoult, the de facto leader of the Chagossian community. It reports,
[O]n June 10 last year the Queen made two Orders in Council removing the right of the Chagossians to enter the territory – nullifying the effect of the High Court ruling against the Government [in 2000].

Sir Sydney [representing the Chagossians] said in court today [i.e. Wednesday June 22]: “Having searched the books, there is absolutely no precedent in British history for such an exercise of the Royal Prerogative.”

An Act of Parliament was the only legitimate way to take away the islanders’ right of return.

In the past successive governments had avoided letting the controversial issue of the Chagossians go before Parliament “for obvious reasons”.
Keep your eyes open for further developments in this case, but I wouldn't get your hopes up.

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