the Disillusioned kid: May 2005
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Uzbek Revolution? Part 3.

Having waffled on over the last two days about lots of abstract philisophical-type stuff which may be unintelligible to anyone but myself I feel it is time to return to the real world and more specifically the crisis in Uzbekistan. While I have tried to follow developments in the country for the last year or so exam revision unfortunately got in the way of me being able to say much of consequence about the murder of demonstrators in Andijan at the time.

I shan't bother to run through Uzbekistan's recent political history again, beyond recalling that the country's president, Islam Karimov, rose to power during the days of the Soviet Union and has remained there through the utilisation of measures familiar from the dark days of state socialism. If you're interested in the background, try searching this site (using either the Google search in the top left corner or the Technorati search to the right). Alternatively check out George Monbiot's article on the country which originally fuelled my interest in developments there and remains perhaps the best introduction to the Karimov regime and the hypocrisy of western foreign policy towards it. Anybody looking for something more detailed and less polemical could do far worse than checking out this article by Michael A. Weinstein looking at the country's geostrategic interest to the great powers (as part of what Ahmed Rashid called "the New Great Game").

The protest in Andijan appears to have been triggered after the trial of 23 men in the city's court. The prosecution accused them of being members of Akramia, apparently a branch of Hizb-ut Tahrir (HUT), a group who wish to see an Islamic caliphate set up accross Central Asia. Galima Bukharbaeva reporting for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), however, suggests that "for the thousands of people waiting outside the courtroom, the sentence was a foregone conclusion." The defendants and their supporters insisted that they were succesful businessmen innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, indeed they argued that "Akramia" didn't even exist and had been concocted by the authorities.

After hearings on May 10-11 the court adjourned to consider its verdict. According to those who had been outside the court, National Security Service (SNB) personnel started arresting those who had been their immediately after the hearing. They even confiscated cars belonging to relatives of the defendants which had been parked nearby. Arrests continued through May 12 and that night it was decided that people would try to get their firend and family members released. Bukharbaeva reports, "They started at the traffic police offices, and as numbers built up they moved towards a military unit based in the city, where they forced troops onto the defensive and seized Kalashnikovs." Later they headed towards the SNB's headquarters in the Andijan region. Apparently there was gunfire as SNB personnel sought to hold off the crowds, with around thirty people being killed according to "protest leaders". At one in the morning, protesters stormed the Andijan regional government building which they managed to take and hold until armoured personnel carriers rolled in the next evening.

Protesters expected that the authorities would respond with force and had improvised barricades out of furniture and even safes dragged from the government offices. Inside men prepared molotov cocktails. Supporters numbering between 10-30,000 came to the street outside and young people who joined the protest organised themselves into an informal militia and policed the roads into the city-centre in a five-kilometre radius. The APCs appeared out of nowhere in the early evening. While the first column passed by without engaging the demonstrators the second opened fire, without evn stopping to take aim, sending protesters, intrigued passers-by and journalists running for cover. Helicopters circled above, presumably picking out targets.

According to eyewitnesses, in the aftermath of the initial assault vodka was distributed tlo soldiers who then proceeded to move amongst the dead and wounded summarily executing anyone who was still alive. The following morning authorities apparently carted of most of the bodies in three trucks and a bus, although Bukharbaeva and Matluba Azamatova report that a number of bodies remained in the city centre and the main square which were awash with blood, while "body parts, brains and other internal organs along with personal items and children’s shoes were scattered within a radius of two to three kilometres of the square where the shooting began."

Karimov of course sought to underplay the whole thing insisting on May 14, "We do not shoot at women and children," and giving official casualty figures as 9 dead and 34 wounded. He claimed that the uprising had been orchestrated by HUT (as he does most acts of violence and dissent in Uzbekistan), insisting, "They wanted to repeat the Kyrgyz [March revolution] scenario in Uzbekistan. Their actions were managed from the territory of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan." This version of events is disputed by those who attended the rally who insist that it was not overtly religious. Indeed Kabuljon Parpiev, one of the "protest leaders" insisted that the demonstration was not even making political demands. Shortly before the government assault he told reporters, "We only want freedom, justice and protection of human rights. Also, we want the release of Akrom Yuldashev [the man accused of forming of forming Akramia] from prison."

In the aftermath of the assault a number of Andijan residents fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Although the Kyrgz government quickly sought to close the border they did allow the refugees to wait on a nearby strip of neutral land between the two countries and apparently beyond the reach of Uzbek security forces. Many of the fleeing Andijans report being attacked by Uzbek forces as they tried to get into Kyrgystan and a number insist they will not return until Karimov is deposed, although Kyrgyz officials say they cannot rule out the possibility of refugees being sent home.

This run through of events hardly brings us up to today and is very limited in its scope. There have also been protests in other towns and cities including Korasuv, where reports suggest 500 people gathered, 80 of whom were arrested. Unfortunately I can't hope to cover everything going on in the country, indeed there is much it is difficult to find out. Whether this is the beginning of the end for Karimov remains to be seen. We can only hope.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Election Coverage

I've finally gotten around to rejigging my template so that the election coverage stuff is gone, but for anyone who's interested or missed it the first time around I append all the links below. Emjoy!
Don't Just (Not) Vote
Election Fraud 2005
IWCA Oxford
Not Apathetic
Political Debate
Stop the Warmongers
The Anarchist Case
Tory Poster Generator

The Meme Machine vs. The War Machine

Continuing the pretentiously academic tone from yesterday this post will focus on memetics, the study of evolutionary models of information transmission (although I'm sure you knew that already). More specifically memeticists are concerned with the study of memes and the way they are propagated through societies.

The term meme was originated by biologist Richard Dawkins in his best-selling book The Selfish Gene (specifically in Chapter 11, available online here). In it he sought to suggest that the logic which leads to natural selection of genes could be applied to any other "differentially surviving replicating entities." The specific "replicator" he chose to discuss was the meme:
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. As my colleague N.K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: `... memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking -- the meme for, say, "belief in life after death" is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.'
This process echoes natural selection and biological evolution insofar as memes can be considered to compete. Those which have features which make them more succesful in the "meme pool" than others are more likely to replicate and so will be spread further than others.

In recent years memetics seems to have been a boom area of study. There has been extensive scholarly debate on the topic across a range of fields, academic conferences, books and even a scientific journal on the topic. Anyone seeking to find out more could do worse than checking out UK Memes Central maintained by Susan Blackmore one of the leading thinkers in the area and author of The Meme Machine.

Now some of you may be thinking that this is all very interesting, while remaining at loss to explain what it has to do with anything at all, let alone any of the matters more usually covered here. The connection, I suggest, is that most of what I write can be seen as an attempt to spread memes or meme-complexes (defined by Principia Cybernetica's Memetic Lexicon as "a set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship" and perhaps exemplified by religion). The definition of a "memetic-engineer" offered by Principa Cybernetica as, "one who consciously devises memes, through meme-splicing and memetic synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others," sounds very much like what I and many of my comrades engage in on a regular basis. Indeed one could argue that such memetic engineering lies at the very heart of all politics.

A good example of a radical meme would be the "Not in My Name" slogan which emerged in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. This appeared on placards at demonstrations across the world and was taken up by a number of campaigning groups in different countries. Marxism is perhaps a good example of a radical meme-complex, while its inumerable variations (Leninism, Maoism, Trotskyism, Gramscian, Autonomism etc.) is perhaps illustrative of the role mutation can play in the process of memetic evolution. (Principa Cybernetica suggest that these different interpretations may also constitute a range of different sociotypes of the original memotype, but even I'm getting lost by this point.)

What interests me is how this insight (whether we see it as an accurate description of the spread of ideas and the evolution of culture or merely as a useful analogy) is whether there is any way the process can be manipulated by radical memetic engineers once they become aware of it. Several of the definitions on Principia Cybernetica point to overtly political roles for memes. A "vaccine" for instance is a "meta-meme which confers resistance or immunity to one or more memes, allowing that person to be exposed without acquiring an active infection." They suggest that conservatism (with a small 'c') is a good example of this as it protects the "host" by encouraging them to "automatically resist all new memes." Unfortunately they have nothing to say about how these defences might be surmounted, which must be possible as there are examples of numerous instances of people shifting ideological stance (although I'm prepared to concede that people more often shift towards conservatism than away). Another idea which is of interest, to me at least, is the idea of an "infection strategy" which is "any memetic strategy which encourages infection of a host." Examples include the villain vs. victim strategy and a sense of community, which perhaps recalls my comments yesterday on the role of identities in radical politics.

When I started writing this I had hoped that I would be able to make some startilingly original assertions about how activism should be carried out in light of the meme hypotehsis. Unfortunately it dawned on me in the process of writing that this wasn't in fact the case. While I think that a memetic approach potentially very useful in helping us to understand the way ideas spread and become succesful, I don't think that it has anything new to tell us about what we can do to spread our ideas more effectively. In fact, this whole post seems a little pointless, although it can be seen as my own small contribution to the propagation of the meme meme.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Me, Myself and Identities

Regular readers may recall that a few weeks ago I was involved in a debate with Alex Gregory (formerly of Sleep of Reason, now the purveyor of about the relevance of class analysis in the modern, post-industrial world. This got me thinking about questions of identity and its role in radical theory and praxis (broadly, the translation of theory into practice). Now that I've got some more time I thought I would set out some of my conclusions here and see what responses it generated. This is a theory in development and I'd welcome and and all helpful comments.

My thoughts on this matter are greatly indebted to an article by Simon Tormey comparing the politcal-philosophy of French "postanarchist" Gilles Deleuze with the practice of the Zapatistas (available as a pdf here), although any incorrect assumptions or conclusions are entirely my own. Tormey analyses Deleuze's critique of representation which he argues "hinges on the availability of a means of conceptualising similarity or Sameness in the midst of what he sees as constitutive ontological difference." This is clearly heady stuff and not exactly easy-going (although it's nothing compared to the material by Deleuze which I've tried to read which, despite containing many interesting ideas, borders on the unreadable), but fortunately he explains the problem in terms even I can understand.

Consider three apples. What is it which makes them all the 'same'? It is there approximation of an ideal apple which does not exist beyond the conception we have in our mind. We cannot understand things for what they are, but only through the mediation of a system of thought which allows us to distinguish apples from pears or oranges. In short, 'appleness' is not something inherent to the things to which it is applied, but a human construct. It is at this point which I diverge from Deleuze who believes that categorisation of things does violence to their "univocity of being" (their uniqueness) and as such bases his political strategy (insofar as he can be said to have such a thing) on a continual, ongoing assertion of difference (described as "becoming minoritarian" in A Thousand Plateau written with psycho-analyst Felix Guattari).

I would argue that while Deleuze (and Hume who he is following) is right to see that sameness and therefore identities are human constructs I question whether they are neccesarily bad things. Of course they can be damaging insofar as they force people to conform to a certain way of living or acting (recall here David Blunkett's talk about the need to instill 'Britishness' in immigrants), but can we really exist without such a system? If we did not have categories like apple or tree or dog and cat, could we hope to communicate in any meaningful, useful sense? I think not and I think that identities can also, at least potentially, play a useful role.

In light of the foregoing I think that the best way to view identities, particularly for anyone seeking to challenge the status quoe, is as a tool. Like any tool they can be used constructively and destructively. (I can use a hammer to construct a spice-rack, I can also use it to smash someone's skull in.) Those living in countries occupied by foreign military forces often turn to nationalism as a way of strengthening coherence amongst the native population in order to challenge their occupiers more effectively. Similarly the propagation of "class conciousness" has long been central to socialist strategy in order to make the working-class an effective challenger to the bourgoisie. The feminist conception of "sisterhood", the assertion of "gay pride" and the assertion of racial identity amongst ethnic minorities as a counterpoint to majoritarian racism all point to similar concerns. On the other hand, there is a long history of bigotry, oppression and chauvinism associated with nationalism. A history which reached its apotheosis with the rise of Fascism in Europe in the 1920s-1940s. Similarly Andrew Anthony points to the more negative aspects of a strong racial identity amongst ethnic minorities in 21st Century Britian.

The question then is whether we can make use of a multiplicity of identities (class, race, nation, gender, sexuality etc.) as a useful tool for challenging oppression, while ensuring that we do not lose sight of the fact that they do not have an existence independent of the systems of thought which created them and that they do not actually become a problem which we must turn our attention to once the original source of oppression is gone (or greatly weakened). Is this possible? Is it even sensible to try? I think the answers to those questions are maybe and yes, but I'd be interested to see what anybody else thinks.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I know it's last minute, but...

Unfortunately I can't get to this, but if you can, please consider attending:
Demonstrate against the Uzbek massacres - Uzbek Embassy, London, 12 noon, Saturd

*Support Uzbekistan's democratic opposition.

*Demand justice for the hundreds murdered by Karimov in Andizhan this week.

*Call for an end to Western support for this brutal regime.

12 Noon - Saturday 21st May 2005 - Assemble at the Uzbek Embassy, 41 Holland Park Road, London W11 3RP

This demonstration has been called by a group of UK-based Uzbek dissidents, and is supported by Craig Murray, Britain's former Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Uzbek Revolution? Part 2.

The Socialist Worker (weekly organ of the Socialist Workers Party) is not by any means one of my favourite sources of news, but it does have its moments. Consider this report on the situation in Uzbekistan, which includes the follwoing remarks from outspoken former British Ambassador to the country Craig Murray:
"This line that people in Uzbekistan should protest peacefully is ridiculous. How? There’s no free media there and political parties are banned," he told Socialist Worker. "The idea that the demonstrators included Islamic terrorists is bollocks. The US hasn’t put any backing into the democratic opposition in Uzbekistan. Nor is it setting a time scale for greater democracy or calling for elections as it did in Ukraine and Georgia."


"I’d like a revolution to spread, but I fear it won’t," says Murray. "I spoke to people in the capital of Tashkent. Many had no idea that anything had happened. This was 48 hours after headlines across the world media."
On the same topic and in lieu of any serious anaysis of my own (again due to time constraints) I highly recommend you read this brilliant piece by Martin Samuel in The Times. As ever, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting should be one of the first ports of call for anyone hoping to find out about developments in Uzbekistan.

Where Next?

The story of the Chagos Islanders seeking a new life in the UK (more on which here, here and here) goes on:
BAILIFFS could be sent in to force exiled Diego Garcians out of council-funded accommodation.

The Garcians are sitting tight in council accommodation in spite of a mutual agreement between legal teams that should have seen them move out on Monday.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has been footing the bill for 33 islanders since their arrival in the borough last autumn. It has cost them more than £55,000.

The group originate from the Chagos island of Diego Garcia but were moved to Mauritius after their homeland was made into a military airbase by the British Government in the 1970s.

The High Court ordered the council to house them while a review is undertaken of their situation, and they were given accommodation in bedsit flats at Atkinson Court, Horley.

After a lot of legal wrangling, an agreement was reached three weeks ago between the council's legal team and lawyers representing the Diego Garcians that the islanders would move on May 9. However, only 14 have moved out and the remaining 19 have refused to go.

Joan Spiers, leader of the council, was incensed, saying they had reneged on an agreement reached between the council and their lawyers.

"I am appalled," she said. "We have treated them incredibly well. But I believe they are taking advantage of the council tax-payers in this borough.

" Now the council must go to court to get them removed.

A council spokesman said: "We have to show we have grounds for eviction and get the court to agree them.

"There are two dates involved - one for eviction and one for the bailiffs to move in. Hopefully we can combine the two and do it all on the same day."

Mrs Spiers expressed her dismay at the situation and the delay in moving them out.

She said: "They have had six months free board and lodging and now we have to go to court and get a bailiff to evict them."

Allen Vincatassin, community leader of the Diego Garcians, could not be contacted at the time of going to press.
I found this story (like so much of my information on the Chagossians) via the Chagos Discussion list and I can but agree with the originator who suggests that "the Council should bring the UK government to court for dumping their problem onto the Council."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Uzbek Revolution? Part 1.

With exams looming, I still don't have much time to post. I couldn't not comment, however, on events in Uzbekistan, a country which has been an ongoing focus here for sometime.

According to reports peaceful protests gathered in the city of Andijan on Friday in an anti-government demonstration which may have numbered as many as 10,000. While in itself a positive response, the government response was much less so and saw troops open fire on demonstrators, killing as many as 500 according to a doctor in the town. Islam Karimov sought to blame the violence on the protesters who he accused (as is his wont with any dissent) on Islamic fundamentalists, hoping to frame the killing as a justifiable part of the west's "War on Terror". There were subsequent reports of violence between armed men and government forces in the nearby town of Tefektosh.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw responded to events by calling for democratic change in the Central Asian republic, asserting "there has been a clear abuse of human rights, a lack of democracy and a lack of openness." The country's foreign ministry were dismissive of Straw's remarks, suggesting that he did not have the whole story and that the shooting of protesters had never happened.

Meanwhile, the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan demonstrated just how spineless he is compared with his predecessor (the incorrigible Craig Murray) by calling on "all sides" to "show restraint" as if this was an even contest in which both sides were equally in the wrong. Imagine if Slobodan Milosevic had retained enough control over his armed forces to have them fire on protesters during the bloodless revolution that removed him from power. Would the British government have called on "all sides" to "show restraint" then? Of course not, it would have been universally deplored (quite rightly) and used as further evidence to justify the NATO bombing of Serbia.

Lenin points to the contrast between the way this uprising, against a friendly regime, and the rose, orange, chesnut and ash "revolutions" in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgzstan have been greeted by our social superiors. "This, " he notes, "is one revolution that won't be branded." He's right of course Uzbek resistance to the brutality of the Karimov regime doesn't fit into the neo-con scheme which serves as a reminder of how vacuous so much of the rhetoric about "freedom" really is.

No doubt more will follow as and when I have time.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


The UK Chagos Support Association have put their May update online. It recounts many of the stories and developments which I have followed here, but also contains further information which may be of interest to anyone following the story.

Firstly they confirm that Lord Triesman is indeed Bill Rammell's successor as I speculated yesterday.

They link to this interesting article from Black Britain about the Chagossian's succesful judicial review.

They report that Marie Lisette Talate, a longtime campaigner for Chagossian rights, who appeared in John Pilger's 'Stealing a Nation' Documentary (to be reshown on July 21 at 11pm on ITV1 in case you missed it the first time around), has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. They reprint a letter from Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult in which he explains, "Her nomination is included among the “1000 Women for a Nobel Peace Prize”, a group dedicated to seeing 1,000 women recipients of the prize to represent the many different types of women peace workers throughout the world." Her picture and story will appear in the forthcoming “1000 Women for a Nobel Peace Prize” book.

They have some comments on LibDem policy vis-à-vis the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is much more forgiving than I was when I reviewed their statement and offers an interesting comparison with the incumbent government:
Before the general election, the Liberal Democrat’s Policy Unit sent out a letter deploring the treatment of the Islanders by successive British governments. Whilst they regret their displacement, they go on to say “it seems to be unrealistic and impractical for the islanders to be resettled now back on Diego Garcia after so many years.” (Bit defeatist – where there’s a will, there’s a way and we could make some practical, constructive suggestions.) They go on to say that “Her Majesty’s Government can go some way in repairing the damage by providing the Chagossians with the apology they deserve, adequate compensation and assistance for those islanders where they are currently located, and the opportunity to return, for visits to loved one’s gravesides for example.”

Compare this with the Foreign and Commonwealth Annual Report 2004/5 (page 139) “The year has not been without problems….We have defended successfully a legal challenge from the Chagossian people of the British Indian Ocean Territory who had sought compensation and assisted resettlement…”. So, despite saying they “regret” what happened in the past when writing to us, the FO sees fit to gloat about successfully defending a legal challenge…. A complaint, on the same page, is that Argentina won’t authorise charter flights over its airspace which “may slow down the development of the tourist industry in the Falklands”. Lucky Falklanders to be still on their islands and to have a government trying to help develop their tourist industry!...
As ever, they close with some ways of getting involved, but also report that they hope to set up a system with one active supporter in each constituency. Anybody reading this who's interested in helping out should drop them line.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bye Bye Bill

Due to constraints on my time and a general disinterest, I haven't written much (if anything) about the results of last Thursday's elections. One tit-bit which may be of interest to regular readers is the fall and rise of "Busy Bill" Rammell who was until the election, in John Pilger's words,"the junior Foreign Office minister responsible, it seems, for most of the planet", a remit which included the Chagos Archipelago (known to the British Government and almost nobody else as the British Indian Ocean Territory) and also Uzbekistan, both recurring interests of this blog.

Rammell was the MP for Harlow, but came within a hair's breadth of losing his seat. The constituency was the last to declare, not doing so until lunchtime on the Saturday, 38 hours after polls had closed. The lateness of the declaration was a result of just how close the contest had been. Rammell came within 97 votes of losing and there had to be three recounts. Interestingly his victory seems to be attributable to the decision of Respect candidate Jim Rogers, who had previously been a Labour Party official and councillor, to withdraw at the last minute.

In the aftermath of his victory, Rammell was promoted in Blair's Cabinet reshuffle to the position of Minister of State (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), which certainly sounds very impressive. I'm not entirely sure who's going to be succeeding him at the Foreign Office, although it looks like the position may have been filled by Lord Triesman, whoever he is...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Good News For The Chagossians. For Twice.

Following on from this story, some genuine good news:
EXILED islanders who came to Crawley last year in the hope of starting a new life are entitled to claim benefits dating back to October, a court has ruled.

The group originate from the Chagos Island of Diego Garcia, but were moved to Mauritius after their homeland was made into a military airbase by UK governments in the 1970s.

They hold British passports but until now have been refused access to the benefits system because they are not "habitually resident" in the UK.

The ruling was overturned on Monday last week after the group appealed at a judicial hearing in London.

It means that new arrivals from Mauritius, where more of the islanders are living, can claim job seekers' allowance and housing benefits while they look for work.

Diego Garcia community leader, Allen Vincatassin, said the ruling was fantastic news for the Diego Garcian community. "This is a very big step forward.

"Those who aren't working at the minute are entitled to benefits," he said.
Link via the UK Chagos Support Association (who are also now linking to my recent article on the Chagossians, which is nice of them).

The wait goes on

Regular readers may recall that the Chagossians have been campaigning for sometime to be allowed to visit the graves of their ancestors on the islands from which they were deported to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos Archipelago. It had looked like this might finally happen, but the trip has now been postponed. I don't have the time to do much research, but the British High Commission had this to say (the tip-off for this story came via the Chagos Discussion list):
The British High Commissioner met Mr Olivier Bancoult today, 27 April, to discuss the visit by 100 Chagossians to ancestral graves on the islands. The High Commission and the Chagos Refugee Group have been working closely together on the practical arrangements for several weeks. Co-operation has been excellent and reparations have reached an advanced stage.

The British Government entered into an agreement with the owners of the RTS Sinbad Nui to charter that vessel for the voyage. The British Government had hoped that the journey would begin on 20 April, but the date subsequently slipped to 7 May at the request of the vessel’s owners.

A principal condition for chartering the ship was that the owners would be responsible for securing reclassification of the RTS Sinbad Nui as a passenger vessel. Unfortunately, they have not been able to obtain the appropriate certification in time to undertake the voyage on 7 May. The visit has therefore had to be postponed for the time being. The British Government is working intensively to try and rearrange the visit at the earliest possible suitable date.

This is deeply disappointing for all concerned. The British Government’s commitment to this humanitarian visit is undiminished, and it will therefore be continuing to work closely with the Chagossian communities in Mauritius and Seychelles to ensure that it takes place at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
Mauritian paper l'express reports,
The voyage of a hundred Chagossians to their native archipelago where they will visit their ancestors’ graves has been postponed once again by the British government. The leader of ‘Groupe Réfugiés Chagos’, Olivier Bancoult, however, appears conciliatiory towards the British authorities. He said it is only a “technical problem” and seems sure that he will achieve his aim soon. “A principal condition for chartering the ship was that the owners would be responsible for securing reclassification of the RTS Sinbad Nui as a passenger vessel. Unfortunately, they have not been able to obtain the appropriate certification in time to undertake the voyage on 7 May,” said a communiqué from the British High Commission.
Everyone else seems singularly uninterested in the story.

Update 12/5/05: Via Google Alerts, I found this from l'express:
A date for the Chagossians’ trip down memory lane was announced last week by the British authorities. After an nth postponement, British under-secretary of State, Bill Rammell, told Olivier Bancoult, the leader of Groupe Réfugiés Chagos, that the voyage will take place on 25th October. Olivier Bancoult seems to have resigned himself after the latest date (7th May) was cancelled. He had expressed his discontent to Bill Rammell but had no other choice than to accept this decision. He nevertheless thanked the British government for the steps taken. He hopes that the South African ship will cater for more than 100 passengers.
No doubt more will follow. Watch this space.

Chomsky on Chagos

Noam Chomsky is something is something of a hero to many on the left, myself including. Now, via the Chagos Discussion list, I've discovered the following exchange about the Chagos Archipelago and the US military base on Diego Garcia (background here if you're not familiar with the story) which is drawn from a question and answer session with the professor which took place during a meeting in India:
Q5: Karthik Ramanathan, a student

We often read in the papers of this Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean. So proudly, the Indian media display it, that the United States is sending its forces into whatever place to bomb Afghanistan. What they don’t write is things like the fact that the American forces in the Diego Garcia base are situated less than five hundred miles away. (I’m not sure about the number because the media never talk about it.) They are situated less than five hundred miles from Indian territory, the Lakshwadeep Islands. Nobody seems to know about it. Nobody knows where Diego Garcia is.

My question is simple: why this media and political complacency towards the presence of American troops? And why do we see no threat from them? Will America tolerate Indian troops situated some five hundred miles from its coast? Nobody seems to be asking that question [audience applause]. The second question is this. The United States, despite all the CIA intelligence and its technology, has not been able to prevent a single person planting a bomb or ramming a jet into its buildings. The question is: whatever technology they develop, can they really dominate the world?

A5: Noam Chomsky

So the first part is about Diego Garcia. That’s just a straight power play. The United States wanted the island as a military base. It wanted it as part of the great system of intervention aimed at the Gulf energy resources. The main U. S. intervention forces, called the Central Command, have been aimed right at the oil-producing areas for many years. It has nothing to do with the Russians or anybody else. That’s, incidentally, conceded now. With the collapse of the Russians, it was officially conceded that they had nothing to do with it. It had to with the fear of independent nationalism, which might lead to movements that would take over the resources of the region for the benefit of its own population. And that’s intolerable, of course.

The prime beneficiaries of those resources have to be rich westerners. The United States, Britain, energy corporations, and so on. As long as governments are in place that accept that rule, like the Saudi Arabian government, they’ll be accepted. But if they aren’t, they’re going to be overthrown.

So Diego Garcia is part of it. It extends from Guam in the Pacific all the way over to the Azores in the Atlantic and it goes through the Indian Ocean and Diego Garcia is a base. Well, okay. It was a ``British island,’’ so the British kicked out the population, and the United States took it over and turned it into a military base. As you know, I’m sure, the population has been pursuing the case through the British courts and won. You know the High Court in England accepted their case and said that the British Government, which technically still owns it, has to bring them back. The United States just said, `get lost’, and Britain got lost. It’s kind of like the World Court case [relating to the United States’ terrorist war against Nicaragua]. So they stay there. But that’s just plain exercise of force.

Nobody knows about it in the United States. If you do a database search in the press, I doubt if it’s been mentioned twice in the last twenty years! So no one knows. Nobody knows about the dispossessed population or anything that’s happened and therefore there’s no protest. You can’t protest something you do not know about.

That’s part of the duty of the free press and the intellectual community: make sure people do not know about things that might lead them to protest. If people knew, they would do something about it and the forces would have to get out of the island, the people would be back home.
The rest here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Drop in, drop out...

Unfortunately I'm still snowed under with work. That said, I have found time to do somethings in the real world (which I try and maintain as a priority), including this and this (which includes a picture of my best side, although you'd hardly know it was me, but unfortunately doesn't include any pictures of me being thrown of the premises of a nearby Tesco for leafletting).

In other news, this also appeared on the Socialist Unity Network site, which is nice.

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