the Disillusioned kid: Chagos Update
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Monday, January 17, 2005

Chagos Update

The UK Chagos Support Association has its January update online, written by their Secretary Celia Whittaker, and it contains much of interest.

Whittaker reports that the "Association has had many enquiries about the Chagos Islands since the tsunami". This reflects my own experience, In the days after the tsunami traffic to this site increased massively, most of the new visitors coming here while searching for information on the fate of the island. As I've noted previously the island escaped largely unscathed thanks to ocean typography in the area. One thing which I didn't know, but which the update reveals is that "the Chagos Archipelago also survived the Krakatoa earthquake and its after effects without being trashed in 1883." She notes, quite rightly, "It is ironic that islands the Foreign and Commonwealth Office decided (for reasons of their own) were unfit for resettlement by their exiled inhabitants because of 'flooding, storms and seismic activity' survived unscathed."

She reports further, "Pierre Prosper, leader of the Seychelles Chagossians emailed us to say he 'witnessed the tsunami but Seychelles was not hit as badly as those closer to the epicentre. One life was lost and much structural damage. A really sad happening for our region.'"

However, the following is probably the most interesting part of the update:
On December 27th., Olivier Bancoult (leader of Chagossians on Mauritius) visited the office of the United Nations Displaced Persons Resident Representative in Port Louis to hand in a letter for the Secretary General, Kofi Anan. The UN international conference on sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) has just been held in Mauritius.

Whilst there, Bill Rammell of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visited the Chagossian Community. He said "…while I understand there may well be some individuals who may be in need, my observations…tell us that this is not because of their status as Chagossians." Obviously, being forcibly exiled and deserted by the government who should care for you, exposed to new diseases and living in grinding poverty at the bottom of the heap in a society that didn’t want you are not considered a handicap to progress by the Minister.

Once again, he repeats the debatable line that £14.5 million compensation "at today’s prices" has been paid. It would be interesting to know what would be a realistic annual rent to charge the United States for use of Diego Garcia "at today’s prices". Nothing is what they actually pay.

The Foreign Office also says that the ship booked by to take some Chagossians to visit their ancestral graves has been cancelled by the Mauritian government.
I was aware of Rammell's commitment to visit the Chagossian community, but didn't know that this had been carried out, although I subsequently found this article which gives some additional information. As for his comments, I can but echo Whittaker's comments.

Whittaker goes on to note,
A traveller’s club has been advertising trips to the Chagos Islands. “This is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to dive and snorkel in these remote coral atolls….the cost per person is a value-for-money £4250….air-conditioned cabin with en suite and delicious meals etc. etc…” and only four places left. As our Chairman, Paul, says “ It is an extreme affront (for the Chagossians, who live in poverty and deprivation elsewhere) to witness this expensive, luxury cruise taking place to what are, in reality, THEIR islands”. Perhaps the Chagos Conservation Trust who seem to have a hand in organizing this trip, could offer the remaining places, free, to genuine Chagossians. The CCT is interested in conserving flora and fauna, rather than the native population.
This is presumably the trip organised by WEXAS travel which I have previously dealt with at some length here, here and here. I'll avoid making a comment about being there first and instead encourage those of you who didn't write a suitably critical letter to the organisers the first time round to consider doing so now.

Elsewhere in the update Whittaker explains some of the developments the Association has been going through and report that the Chagossian community in Crawley, Sussex "are still waiting for the court hearing to start (which should decide who is responsible for the exiles). Several of the most recent incomers to the area now have jobs and have started courses at Crawley College studying English and Information Technology."

She helpfully appends a list of ways you can help further the cause which you might care to consider:
1.Please encourage your MP to support us and to sign the Early Day Motion 1355 which deplores the treatment of the Chagossians by the government. If enough MPs signed this, the government would have to take notice.

2.Contact your MEPs as well and ask them what they CAN do then get them to do it!

3.Write to Jack Straw at the Foreign Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH

4.Write to Nigel Pickard, ITV Network Ltd., 200 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1 8HF and ask him to repeat the Pilger programme at an earlier time. His email address is and his phone is 0207 843 8000

5.Encourage everyone you know to do all the above as well.
And for anyone interested in the history of the islands Whitttaker recommends getting hold of a copy of Limuria by Robert Scott who "was Governor and Commander-in-Chief over Mauritius and its Lesser Dependencies (Chagos etc) from 1954 to 1959" published in 1961 by Oxford University Press. Not having read this I can't comment on whether or not it's worth getting, but then I write this blog, what do I know about what's worth reading?!

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