Poster and Leaflet Campaign to Shut Down U.S. Military Base at Diego Garcia
in Republic of Mauritius
As from 18 July, 2013 posters have been pasted up in strategic points of Mauritius, as well as in poor neighbourhoods of Port Louis, where the past struggles of Chagossians have been the most lively. One poster, black lettering on yellow paper, says SHUT DOWN THE DIEGO GARCIA BASE! with, in smaller print above the main slogan, the words “The UK-USA lease has been illegal for 50 years! Enough is enough!” This refers to the fact that as from 2014, the 50-year UK lease for the Diego Garcia Island to the US for its military base, is up for re-negotiation. The other poster reads, in black on pale green, “Government Must Bring the UK before the ICJ at The Hague.”
The poster campaign is signed “The Diego Committee”, which groups together five organizations: LALIT, Confederation of Private Sector Workers, the United Baie du Tombeau Committee, the Movement for the Progress of Roche Bois, the Women’s’ Liberation Movement. Together they have launched a new wave of protests against the military occupation of part of Mauritius.
Prior to the poster campaign, and in preparation for it, the Diego Committee had distributed leaflets in five neighbourhoods carefully chosen as being the areas where people have been involved in sporadic struggles over the past 40 years against the Diego Garcia base and for the right to return to Chagos, as well as for the re-unification of the country after its illegal dismembering by Great Britain in the 1960s. The aim of the campaign is to put the Diego Garcia and Chagos issues back on the agenda of the Government, in particular at this moment in history when the illegal lease of Chagos by UK to the USA (thief to receiver of stolen goods) comes up for re-negotiation in the year 2014, which is nearly upon us.
The contents of the Leaflet (translated from Mauritian Kreol) follow:
The UK-USA Diego Garcia Lease is Illegal! Shut Down the US Military Base!
RE-UNIFY THE REPUBLIC OF MAURITIUS! PROPER REPARATIONS FOR ALL CHAGOSSIANS!
The Ramgoolam Government has criminally neglected the Diego Garcia issue, and this since Independence. Navin Ramgoolam took the dossier out of the hands of his Foreign Minister Arvind Boolell, and set up a Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office to look after the issue. He announced that he has a “secret” strategy. Today it is high time he made public this secret strategy. In any case, there is no place for secret strategies in diplomacy against imperialist powers.
2014 is a crucial year. This leaflet will explain how.
In October, 2010, knowing that the year 2014 would be vital, an International Action Conference on Diego Garcia was organized by LALIT. At the Conference, five resolutions making up the “Grand River Declaration” were voted, and submitted to Government.
The Ramgoolam Government has acted upon only one of the resolutions. It has put a case against the UK before the UNCLOS Tribunal to declare illegal its Marine Protected Area declared in 2010 around Chagos on the grounds that the UK is not a “neighbouring state”. At the Lalit Conference, a resolution had denounced this Marine Park set up by a colonial power in the middle of an area already polluted by the nuclear base it hosts. Wikileaks later came up with proof that the British State had set up the “Marine Protected Area” primarily in order to keep Chagossians and the Mauritian State out, all the better for the US to keep its military base. On 20 December 2010, the Government did take this one action, even if a “country move”: it put in a case against the British State under the Law of the Sea Convention.
But that is all it has done. Now, let us look at what the Government has NOT done.
The Government has not yet hauled the British State in front of the ICJ at The Hague!
The Navin Ramgoolam Government still refuses to put in a Case at the ICJ over Britain’s illegal annexation of Chagos including Diego Garcia. Ramgoolam ought urgently to seek an “Opinion” from the International Court of Justice. Instead, the Government pretends that because it cannot expect a binding judgment, that it is useless to go to the ICJ. But an ICJ opinion has immense moral force. And this is why the British do not want to be hauled before the ICJ. We call on Ramgoolam and Boolell to give immediate instructions to Milan Meetarbhan, the Mauritius UN representative, to put a Resolution on the Agenda for the UN General Assembly 2013 to support a case before the ICJ. An “Advisory Opinion” which is very likely to be in Mauritius’ favour, will change the balance of forces in favour of Mauritius and endanger the base.
Government is delaying acting under the new Pelindaba Treaty!
With the Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa having come into force recently, Foreign Minister Boolell should have already acted to put the US on the defensive about stocking nuclear arms on Diego Garcia which is African territory. Boolell should formally request UN Inspections for illegal nuclear arms, under this Treaty. He must also come up with a public statement as to where we are in the setting up of the AFCONE Commission under the Treaty, a Commission on which Mauritius has been elected to sit.
The Government must begin to exercise its sovereignty!
The Government is continuing to refuse to assume sovereignty. For example, it refuses to organize an official visit on the Trochetia. Minister Aimée does not even reply to the letter sent by the five organizations in the Diego Committee, a letter formally requesting him to state how to get permission to visit the Chagos, including Diego Garcia, given that it forms part of the Republic. The Government does not enforce its fishing rights either. Nor did it even oppose the shameful “rendition” and torture of prisoners that went on at Diego Garcia, Mauritian territory. The Government is not working consistently at the re-unification of the country, so cruelly dismembered by the British.
Instead of preparing to welcome the British Royal Family …
Instead of Navin Ramgoolam bragging about preparing for a visit from the British Royal Family for the Commonwealth Summit in 2015, maybe he should be seeking support from other Commonwealth leaders to put the British State on the defensive about its illegal occupation of Mauritius.
Government does not even protest against military occupation nor against a nuclear base!
The Ramgoolam Government does nothing against the military occupation of part of the country. It just pretends this is not the case. Instead it colludes with the USA when this occupying power is using part of our country as a springboard for perpetrating acts of war on countries we have never declared war on.
Government still sets up no Chagossian Regional Council!
It is the duty of Government to set up regional democracy structures for Chagos. Even when Electoral Reform is firmly on the agenda, there is never question of a Chagos Regional Council. We call for the immediate setting up of one. The new Local Government Act, we recognize, does refer to the possibility of one. It just needs to be set up.
Meanwhile, the head of the Indian Ocean Commission, Jean-Claude de L’Estrac continues to maintain that “Old Man Ramgoolam sold Diego”, thus propagating the absurd notion that a handful of political party leaders (Ramgoolam, Duval and Bissoondoyal were no more than that) plus a private sector boss, Paturau, were somehow authorized to sell part of a country not yet born. It is a ridiculous stand to take. It is a stand that echoes the anti-Independence propaganda of the PMSD of the early ’60s. It also happens to be the political line that plays right into the hands of the US and UK. It is a sell-out line if ever there was one. In sharp contrast, Jean-Claude Mahoun, the Seychelles representative, has a more dignified position. The Seychelles, with some Mauritian help, did claim and did get back its own islands, also stolen in the same UK conspiracy as the Diego Garcia one and bundled into the same British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT) “figment”, together with Chagos.
At the same time, the Olivier Bancoult strategy of endless litigation in the British Courts begun in 1998, has reached a final dead end. It has bumped into what the French call “Raison d’Etat” . The petition last year to Obama has also been exposed publicly as the dangerous game it always was. But today, the Mauritian Government can no longer hide behind waiting for the denouement of Bancoult’s cases.
We, the people of Mauritius in general, must put our strength together with the voices of Chagossian Mauritians, to act against the military base that is the root cause of all the suffering of the Chagossians, as well as being the root cause of the dismemberment of the country.
Meanwhile, the USA doesn’t stand around twiddling its thumbs. It is working at penetrating Mauritian society. It has increased its financing of NGOs in an attempt to get their silence and their collusion in its imperialism. It is sending American soldiers into class rooms with toys for little children, trying to hide its true military interests. It funds Public Speaking contests amongst the youth of Rodrigues. It even infiltrated the Ministry of Youth and Sports and runs joint “leadership” courses for some hundred youngsters. It has even acquired influence in the Press, in this key moment when the 50-year lease on Diego Garcia is up for renewal. For example, recently Nad Sivaramen was named Editor in Chief of the entire La Sentinelle press empire. He has denied working for the CIA, the US secret service. But what is undeniable is that he did work for the Centre for Strategic Studies which is financed directly by the Pentagon itself, that is to say the US Ministry of Defense, and this is in his own CV. He worked there from June, 2008 for 5years + 2 months, which would appear to being us to July 2013. Before this, according to his Linked-In CV, he even worked for the U.S. Central Command/Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa.
All of this to say that we also have our duty. We have to advise NGOs to refuse to accept this money. We have to be vigilant as to what the Press says, when we read it. We have to reply to the kind of nonsense put out by people like L’Estrac with his childish argument that “Diego has already been sold”. And we have, most importantly, to force our own Government to act in the interests of the Republic of Mauritius, in favour of complete decolonization, so that the people and the land of Mauritius can be re-united, and to contribute towards peace on earth.
As 2014 comes up, we are in critical times.
Today, the Government of Mauritius has only until next year to act so as to stop the renewal of that ever-illegal lease between the UK and the USA for island of Diego Garcia on which there is the US military base. The illegal lease’s 50-year duration expires on 2016. According to the illegal lease, negotiations for renewal of the lease should begin in 2014. This is why the USA is seeking so desperately to penetrate Mauritian society.
Today things are different. The US economy is staggering. It is even threatened with collapse. It has been threatened since the 2007 crisis. The concrete empire has economic foundations of clay. And the clay is busy cracking.
It is time for the Mauritian Government to act. It is time for us to mobilize to force it to act.
Groupe Unitaire Baie du Tombeau
Confederation Travayer Sekter Prive
Muvman Liberasyon Fam
Mouvement pour le Progres de Roche Bois
Jean-Claude Bibi and others
18 July 2013