the Disillusioned kid: Parliament Not Complete Waste Of Time Shocker!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Parliament Not Complete Waste Of Time Shocker!

Jeremy Corbyn has been a committed campaigner for the rights of Chagossians removed from their homes between 1965-1973 to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia. Last week he was able to secure an adjournment debate on the issue and on the two Orders in Council in the House of Commons which were recently passed which prevent the Chagossians from visiting the island. The debate is now available online. It is long, but well worth taking the time to read. Various MPs (from the three main parties along with the SNP) present thoughtful, considered speeches on the history and background of a major injustice perpetrated by the British Government which continues to this day. There is a huge amount of information presented and a strong case made that something must be done to rectify this injustice.

Among the 'highlights' is Jeremy Corbyn’s opening speech in which he details the suffering he witnessed during a visit to Mauritius when he met several Chagossians and witnessed the conditions in which they live. He goes on to note,
On 10 June this year, which everyone will remember as election day, staff at the Foreign Office were not out ensuring that people were voting. Instead, they were at the palace asking the Queen to sign an Order in Council. When I was told that an Order in Council had been signed, I misheard or misunderstood. I thought that it was a statutory instrument that I would be able to pray against, as I assumed other hon. Members would, so that decisions made by Ministers would be subject to some form of democratic accountability. I had to reconsider, and I spoke to Sheridans' Richard Gifford, the excellent solicitor who has represented the Chagossians for many years. He calmly explained to me that I had misunderstood, and that an Order in Council signed by her Majesty was law. It overrides everything in which we believe about the democratic accountability of the Government.
Note that the Orders were signed on ‘Super Thursday’ which saw local, European and GLA eclections. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was another government attempt “bury bad news”, even though this decision was apparently taken on the basis of legal advice. The clarification of the legal powers and basis of the little-known Order in Council (which I'd never heard of until it arose in this context) is also helpful.

John Grogan notes that one of the reasons cited, in a press relase by Bill Rammel for preventing the return of the Chagossians is
the risk of flooding, I have consulted one or two experts on the level of the land there, and a lot of it is higher than that in East Anglia. We know about flooding in my constituency of Selby, and if we accepted the argument on flooding that the Government are using, half of my constituency would be depopulated. Some outlying islands were inhabited in the past, and some were based on banks that were shifting in storms. There were tall copra trees on the islands and the inhabitants had worked out a mode of living—growing copra successfully, and in some cases raising huts on stilts. The argument does not seem overwhelming to me.
The question also arises as several speakers suggest, that if rising sea-levels as a result of global warming is such a problem on the island, one must wonder if it is really such a good place to be storing very expensive pieces of military hardware like B52 bombers.

Tom Brake's remarks sum up the true significance of the ongoing injustice particularly well:
The issue is a sorry chapter in our past and it is poisoning our present. The Minister can start to repair the damage today; the Chagos islanders deserve an apology, compensation, assistance where they are based currently and a right of return. The Government's claim to be the champions of freedom will sound very hollow unless he can deliver on these promises today.
To most of the world those claims look pretty hollow already, but the reprehensible treatment of the Chagossians merely compounds the point.

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