the Disillusioned kid: Not a lot of NaCl
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Not a lot of NaCl

Regular readers will be familiar with the saga of the Chagossians who have been - not to put too fine a point on it - royally shafted by the British Government for the best part of forty-years. Evicted from their island homes in the Indian Ocean (right) to make way for an American military base they have been prevented from returning by the unending machinations of the British state. The islanders are not even allowed to return to the Chagos Archipelago to visit their ancestors' graves.

To be unduly fair to the British government, they have been promising for sometime that islanders would be allowed to visit these graves. The only problem is that these promises have hitherto amounted to diddly-squat. The idea has been bounced around by the British government for longer than I care to look-up, with periodical announcements promising that it will happen. Soon. Honest. While in the real world the Chagossians inch towards their own graves, still unable to pay their respects to their ancestors.

In November 2004, Bill Rammell (left) then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of something or other who's remit covered the so-called "British Indian Ocean Territories," claimed that islanders would be allowed to make such a visit, even that some would be allowed onto Diego Garcia, the site of the aforementioned US base. In January 2005, however, he announced that the visit would have to be cancelled, ostensibly because of Mauritian interference. In February he insisted that a visit was still on the books. Those of you with a sound head for dates will be cogniscent of the fact that this was almost a year ago. Needless to say the visit still hasn't taken place.

You'll excuse me then if I greet the news (which materialises in my inbox courtesy of the Chagos Discussion List) that plans are afoot for a visit to finally take place with a not inconsiderable pinch of sodium chloride. Apparently, the Chairperson of the Ilois Welfare Board in the Social Services. (Ilois is patois for "islander" and is commonly used as an alternative appellation for the Chagossians) has received the following from the Prime Minister of Mauritius' office:

The proposed visit of members of the Chagossian community to the Chagos Archipelago is being, in principle, scheduled for end of March -beginning of April 2006.

The number of passengers from the community to be accommodated on the trip is one hundred, and it has been decided that the group will be constituted as follows:
i. 85 persons from the Chagos Refugee group and
ii 15 persons from the Seychelles Chagossian Community.

In this connection, I am directed to request you to submit to this Office, the list of Chagossian passengers from Mauritius and Seychelles who would undertake the trip.
Note in particular the weasle-words "in principle," which might be bureaucrat-speak for "we hope" or "all being well (as long as those shady Brits don't fuck us around again)." Of course, I hope that this time things actually work out and the visit takes place, perhaps even becoming the fist of many such trips. What I hope for and what I expect, don't always correlate, however.

It is worth mentioning in passing, because its easy to lose perspective, that even if the visit does go ahead it will hardly begin to put right the multitude injustices done to the Chagossians. Nor for that matter will it make life any more confortable for the "detainees" reported to be incacerated on Diego Garcia at The Presidency's Pleasure. The imense difficulties which have been faced by the Chagossians and there supporters in securing even one measly visit do not bode well for the chances of challenging the fundamental issue of the base's existence, but in order to continue in the spirit of hope outlined above, let's not dwell on that.

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