A full hall of working people, urban and rural, Chagossians, young people and those with wide experience, women and men, gathered at the LALIT headquarters, under the banner of the common front, the “Komite Diego” to mark Mauritius’ 50-years of Independence. The aim of the gathering? To place emphasis on the fact that de-colonization, even of the territory of the country, remains incomplete. Chagos, is still colonized, and even remains, 50 years on, under gross military occupation. After a rich debate from the floor, Resolutions on further decolonization were voted.
However, the fruits of 50 years of struggle by Chagossians and others – including LALIT, MLF, OF, MMM, Sahringon, Komite Morisyin Losean Indyin – are that finally the Mauritian State has been forced to propose a formal Resolution before the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Resolution, proposed by the African union as a united block, passed by an overwhelming majority 94-14 , despite shocking pressure put on countries by the USA and UK to vote against. So, this year the United Nations’ Court, the ICJ (International Court of Justice at The Hague) will consider Britain’s action in fracturing Mauritius prior to Independence – despite being forewarned not to do so by the UN.
The Diego Committee is a common front of LALIT, MLF, CTSP, MPRB and individuals, set up after the First LALIT International Action Conference on Diego Garcia in 2010.
The gathering on 12 March was an Exhibition-Film Show-Debate at Grand River North West marked Mauritian Independence. We chose to mark the day by drawing attention to the fact that Chagos, a huge part of Mauritius, with all its Islands, is still under British colonization and US military occupation, 50 years’ afterwards. In turn, this colonization and this occupation is colonization and occupation of Africa. And the UN General Assembly resolution shows the determination, the unanimous determination, to get rid of this colonization and occupation.
The celebration of Independence was thus marked by an exhibition of photographs (that MLF has gathered, and enlarged, most taken by the late great photographer Vel Kadressen, and documents prepared by Patrick Mookeena, including hand-written contracts for various “Dependencies” now part of Chagos that were allotted to Mauritian families in 1885, 100 years before the outrageous “Queen’s Orders in Council” that stole the Chagos from Mauritius. The exhibition was complemented by a “virtual exhibition”, given by Kisna Kistnasamy, and projected for everyone to see, of how to navigate LALIT’s website to get maximum information and analysis on Diego Garcia and Chagos, and of the years of brave struggle to free them. Presided over by Danielle Turner, first Kisna Kistnasamy, introduced the subject and the film, “The Islands are Closed” by Paedar King, for Irish TV.
The debate that followed was surprisingly wide-reaching – from the distant past, right up to the Macron-Modi meeting that coincides with the French and Indian military presence making a mockery of official Independence celebrations, and up to the fact that a US war ship is blithely lying in dry dock in Port Louis right now. Speakers from the floor warned of the militarization of the Indian Ocean with new alliances between India (which used to be champion of a Peace Zone in the Indian Ocean, and the USA and is now the biggest arms importer in the world) and both the USA and UK, and now France. Another speaker warned of the destabilization tactics that we can expect from the British State apparatus, and everyone knows that the timing of the destitution of the President of the Republic, who certainly deserves it, is nevertheless of concern.
The debate ended with Resolutions that came out of the debate and that enrich the two previous sets of Resolutions of the 2010 LALIT conference and the 2016 LALIT conference:
Resolutions of 12 Mars 2018
Demands to the Mauritius Government:
1. Close down the US military base on Diego Garcia! Do not cringe for rent money!
2. Publish the Agreement between the Governments of Mauritius and India on Agalega!
3. Close the Port Louis Harbour, and its dry dock, to all warships!
4. All Government representatives must stop calling Mauritius by its colonial epithet of “L’ile Maurice” and call it by its proper name “Republic of Mauritius” – this is not a question of words, but a cognitive question, one of meanings!
5. Government must set up a Constituency for Chagos, as well as a Regional Assembly for Chagos!
The session ended