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Jean Claude de l'Estrac v Navin Ramgoolam on Diego Garcia


Diego Garcia has been on the mainstream media agenda throughout 2010. This will continue.

But last week it came on to the agenda in a curious way, as part of a whole "'nother fight".

Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam has been under attack from the Director of the biggest daily, Jean Claude de L'Estrac, who is also something of a history-book writer. This attack is revenge for the Prime Minister consistently attacking the said newspaper empire, even using State power in order to do this, and for the Prime Minister's recently referring to someone as a "supposed historian", which Jean Claude de L'Estrac thought might mean him. (The reason for the Prime Minister attacking this empire is complicated by the fact that Jean Claude de L'Estrac was, at one point, in line to be proposed as President of the Republic by Navin Ramgoolam, so, in order to understand this obscure conflict would demand a "whole 'nother" article).

Anyway, Jean Claude de L'Estrac on 5 October, 2010 announced in a nowadays rare editorial, that he is such a fantastic historian that he does not only rely on newspapers, but also on things like a certified copy of the minutes of a meeting between British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Mauritian Chief Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, and he quotes from one in 1965 that reads "sir Seewoosagur [Ramgoolam, senior] said that he was convinced that the question of Diego Garcia was a matter of detail; there was no difficulty in principle". And two months later, the Council of Ministers agreed to the excision.

In the context of the present fight between Ramgoolam and De L'Estrac, this is supposed to signal the start of a count-down for a knock-out of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, son of the father of the nation, Sir Seewoosagur, who acted so badly on Diego Garcia.

But these facts have always been known to be more or less like this. And they are relevant, but only to the exposure of Labour Party's politics, which have been consistently like this since Sir Seewoosagur and his mates did their take-over bid on the Labour Party. They were like this even when Jean Claude de L'Estrac was going to get his nomination as President, and was nominated by Navin Ramgoolam as Chairman of the National Empowerment Foundation, which shifted capital around royally.

But the geo-political point, the action that this "revelation" implies, is the same old right-wing one that Gaetan Duval made: don't attack the imperialists, attack their lackey, who is now dead anyway.

The danger of this point, that is to say of using this British plot for no more than fights within bourgeois politics, is that it obscures the need to act NOW, to build up enough power so as to force the Mauritian State to act NOW, and thus to act so as to expose Britain's illegal action.

The unmistakeable fact is that the founding Charter of the United Nations makes it illegal for any colonial power to divide a nation or a territory as a condition for Independence. This is illegal even if the local despot begs for it. And it is illegal not for technical reasons, but it is almost tautological. A colonized country's leader is a "subject" of the Colonial Power. The colonized country and its leader are, by definition, not free. This corner-stone of international law was obviously what prevented Britain, as its Empire fell bankrupt after its over-reach in its colonies and in World War II, from keeping Mount Kilimanjaro and giving Kenya its Independence (not so funny, when you know that a Kaiser gave Mount Kilimanjaro to Queen Victoria not so long before), or keeping the Punjab, and giving India its Independence.

Ramgoolam Senior was not free to go around signing binding treaties with anyone, and least of all with the power colonizing him and the country he was First Minister of. The UN Charter says so. What he said in any minutes, certified or not, has nothing to do with the geo-political needs of today, either. Which Jean Claude de L'Estrac concedes in his article. But many other people go on and on about the responsibility of this dead politician, instead of mobilizing against the present continued illegal occupation by a military base on Mauritian land. In fact, a more pertinent criticism of SSR would be why he did nothing after Independence to protest.

This is why in LALIT we call for the Mauritian Government to get it together to make the Mauritian State, now Independent since 1968, act as if it has sovereignty over Diego Garcia, because it has this sovereignty. Our Conference, as it nears, aims to put pressure on the Mauritian State to act against the US and the UK. There are many ways to do this. Take them to the UN General Assembly in a Resolution. In this Resolution, get a case for an opinion before the UN International Court of Justice at The Hague. Accuse Britain of pirating fish around Chagos. Request UNESCO to make a World Heritage Site out of part of Chagos. Put in a claim for "continental shelf" rights. Call for IAEA Inspections under the new binding Pelindaba Treaty. Or simply, as Prime Minister, just get on the Dornier and go there.