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British Parliament and Chagos: ostrich puts head in sand

15.01.2018

On the 16 January, as if the United Nations International Court of Justice at The Hague is not right now taking submissions from UN Member States on the legality of the British annexation of Chagos in 1965, a Private Member’s motion will be proposed in the House of Commons. The motion will be put by Conservative backbencher, Henry Smith MP for the Constituency of Crawley, home to many Chagossians with limited British passports. Until the end of January, meanwhile, states members of the United Nations are free to submit written submissions.


As usual, the British State is not concerned even with legality, let alone morality, of its action in dismembering a colony prior to according it Independence, as it did with Mauritius in 1965. Nor is it concerned about the fate of the thousands of Chagossians living there. And even though the UN General Assembly voted 94-15 last year for the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on the legality of this annexation by Britain, Britain continues as if there is no court hearing, or as if legality is of no import to them. The British Parliament literally digs its own head into the sand of Chagos.


The Private Member’s motion, like Mauritian equivalents, rarely leads to a law. It is not presented by “Government” as L’Express article of 12 January maintains, nor is it a real “project de loi”. It is instead an appeal for a future Bill. This Private Member’s Motion, proposes a future “British Indian Ocean Territory (Citizenship) Bill”, which would aim to allow “persons descended from individuals born in the British Indian Ocean Territory [name given by the British state to its new fictitious colony consisting of Chagos and some Seychelles Islands later duly returned to Seychelles] to register as British overseas territories citizens”.


Amongst the type of Private Member’s motions, there is one called “the 10-minute rule”. Henry Smith MP will be using this kind. It means simply that Henry Smith will have the right to talk for 10 minutes, and one other MP will have the right to oppose the proposal for 10 minutes.


So, it is a way of publicizing an issue. The issue is a real one. This Crawley MP is clearly aware of the suffering of his Chagossian-born electors who have taken up the Overseas Territories Citizenship since the judgment of 2000, and who have descendants who cannot come and live with them in the UK. Many Chagossians, after having been uprooted in the years 1965-73, have once again been uprooted, their families literally torn apart, between 2000 and today – all because Britain wanted to give a deadly military base to the USA.


Today when Donald Trump is being exposed every day to be a particularly dangerous Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military that occupies Diego Garcia which is in turn rented illegally from an illegal occupier. It is the very moment when the Mauritian Government, meeting with its legal advisors at this very time, should develop a clear strategy of unifying the three interlinked geo-political aims:


- Base Closure; including land, lagoon and sea ecological clean-up. 


- De-colonization of part of Mauritius still colonized by the UK, i.e. UK’s and USA’s withdrawal from the whole of Chagos, so as to permit the re-unification of the territory and of the people of Mauritius.


- Proper reparations to the people of Chagos and their descendants for the immense suffering that their forced displacement by the UK and USA has brought upon them and their descendants.


Meanwhile, we once again call on the Mauritian Government to set up a Regional Assembly for Chagos, and a Constituency for Chagos.


 


LALIT


13 January 2018


 


NOTES


From UK House of Commons site:


“Private Members' Bills are Public Bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers. As with other Public Bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. A minority of Private Members' Bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly.”


“Ten Minute Rule


Ten Minute Rule Bills are often an opportunity for Members to voice an opinion on a subject or aspect of existing legislation, rather than a serious attempt to get a Bill passed.


Members make speeches of no more than ten minutes outlining their position, which another Member may oppose in a similar short statement. It is a good opportunity to raise the profile of an issue and to see whether it has support among other Members.”