Dear Sisters and Brothers of LALIT,
We send our firmest solidarity to you for your International Conference for Action to Close the Diego Garcia Military Base and are only sorry that we cannot be there in person to support you.
We deplore the cynical move by the British Government to confound their initial imperialistic claiming of the Chagos Islands by now declaring the area a "Marine Protected Area," without bothering to consult the original inhabitants of the Islands, the Chagossians (Iloisians). The Chagossians, whose home Chagos was for over 150 years, were forcibly evicted by the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and early 1970s so the U.S. could construct a military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia. Over 2,000 people were forced off the island to Mauritius to make way for U.S. military personal and civilian contractors.
The declaration of the area as Marine Protected means that, even if the Chagossians were allowed to move back to their home, they would not be able to survive, since fishing has been their main livelihood. We see this as an attempt to use environmental groups who are naturally delighted with the protection of what has been called a "biodiversity hotspot of global importance"--one that is home to over 220 coral species and over 1,000 reef fish--against an indigenous human rights movement. We completely reject such a despicable strategy and instead call for the immediate closing of the U.S. base, the return of the Chagossians to their home, and a new marine protection area pact to be made in full consultation with the Chagossians.
That the U.S. military base at Diego Garcia houses and services U.S. nuclear submarines is a danger to the entire area, including the coral reefs and fishes that we, as well as environmental groups, hold dear.
We are confident than many workers, women, African Americans and others in the U.S. support the closing of the U.S. base, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not supported by a majority of the U.S. population. We agree with your statement that this question "seems to draw together so many themes and struggles, and to interconnect them: decolonization, anti-militarism, anti-nuclear, the environment and ecological issues, the women's struggle (women have been at the forefront of this struggle in Mauritius for decades), the anti-war movement as a whole, the 'No Bases movement,' anti-imperialism, and of course, all the economic issues that underpin all of this."
Your upcoming conference sounds amazing, very thorough, with workshops covering all the needed areas for such a complex subject. We hope it is the beginning of the end of the occupation of the Chagos Islands and the U.S. base there.
The Struggle Continues.
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