the Disillusioned kid: They're at it again...!
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Monday, February 05, 2007

They're at it again...!

Do these shits have no shame?:
More than three decades after British islands in the Indian Ocean were depopulated to make way for an American base, the Government will ask the courts today to ban the inhabitants from ever returning home...

The High Court has twice given the islanders, known as the Chagossians, the right to return and Britain had initially accepted the ruling when the islanders won their first case in 2000.

But today the Government will try and overturn a second ruling in the Court of Appeal.
Way back when in 2000, the Chagossians won the right to return home in the High Court, which ruled that the order used to expel them had been unlawful. At the time Robin Cook, then foreign secretary stated, "The Government will not be appealing" and declined to defend "what was done or said 30 years ago". Following that ruling the government prevaricated until 2004 when on June 10, "Super Thursday," the day of European, local and GLA elections, the Queen signed two Orders in Council which prohibited the Chagossians from setting foot on the archipelago. These Orders were challenged in the High Court last year and once again, the ruling went against the government, much to their chagrin. That's more or less how we got where we are today.

One might wonder why the government is getting so worked up about a few islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean:
"The evidence points to this being done largely at Washington's request," said Clive Baldwin, from the Minority Rights Group, which is campaigning for the Chagossians. "After September 11 and with the island being used as a base for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military value of Diego Garcia has increased."

Bombers operating from Diego Garcia can strike deep into the Middle East and South Asia. Naval vessels using its harbour can patrol the strategically vital waters of the Indian Ocean and the approaches to the Red Sea. Diego Garcia was a crucial launching pad for the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Some 1,000 American and 40 British military personnel are based there...

A letter of November 2004 from Lincoln Bloomfield, an assistant secretary at the US state department, to Robert Culshaw, a British official responsible for overseas territories, read: "Diego Garcia is a vital and indispensable platform for global US military operations. . . an attempt to resettle any of the islands of the Chagos Archipelago would severely compromise Diego Garcia's unparalleled security and have a deleterious impact on our military operations."
It's worth emphasising here, that although Diego Garcia is the largest island in the Chagos Archipelago, it is but one among sixty and the only one on which there is a military presence. There is no obvious reason why other islands such as Peros Banhos and Salamon couldn't be resettled without having any impact upon the base on Diego Garcia. Indeed, Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult has averred, "We can agree to co-habit with the Americans." (For what it's worth, my own personal opinion is that the base should be shut down, but a more pragmatic solution is at the very least conceivable.) Certainly nobody has suggested that the Chagossians pose any kind of threat to US military operations. Nevertheless, when the US took out a lease of the island in December 1966, they asked for them to be "swept" and "sanitised", a move described in a secret file as part of "a neat, sensible package".

This isn't to exculpate the British state which has consistently, regardless of which party is in power, shafted the Chagossians and frustrated their attempts to achieve justice. Indeed, it is worth mentioning that when then Mauritian PM Paul Berenger visited the US and UK to discuss the issue of Chagos he received a far more cordial response in the States than he did here. One could argue until the cows come home about who is most responsible for the current situation, but frankly it strikes me as fairly irrelevant. Neither of them has been particularly nice. Both deserve a solid kicking.


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