the Disillusioned kid: Yes Minister
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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Yes Minister

The UK Chagos Support Association have just posted this report (as a Word document) on their website. It originates from Mauritius and recounts visits by Bill Rammell and Don McKinnon to the Chagossian community living on the island earlier this month. For those who are unaware, Bill Rammell is a Foreign Office Minister whose purview extends to what the British government call the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and what everyone else calls the Chagos Archipelago, while Don McKinnon is the Commonwealth Secretary-General (and incidentally hails from New Zealand). Both men were in Mauritius for a UN conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

McKinnon's interest in the plight of the Chagossians is encouraging and consistent with some of his previous statements criticising the action of the British government on the issue. Rammell is similarly consistent, but in a less than heartening way. He treats the Chagossians with the contempt which has characterised UK policy about the islanders for more than forty-years. The (unknown) author of the report describes him as "unprofessional, undiplomatic, and condescending" and latter alleges that "it was almost as if he wanted everyone to know that Chagossians and this meeting were great inconveniences for him." Elsewhere the author notes that Rammell "took about a half-dozen questions, but provided no real answers and no new information" and recounts the Minister's assertion (which I've commented on previously) "that Chagossians live no differently than some Mauritians, and it is clear to him that their poverty and their life in these communities has 'absolutely nothing' to do with the fact that they are Chagossian."

Clearly a visit by a British Minister is a significant development in the Chagossian struggle, but alone it will change nothing. If we want to move the situation on we are going to need to step up pressure on the British government to which end you might care to consider some of these steps.

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