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LALIT comments Milan Meetarbhan statement and calls for Closure of Diego Garcia Base


While welcoming the Mauritian UN Ambassador exposing the absurdity of the renewal of the illegal lease between “the robber” of the Chagos Islands and “the receiver of the stolen goods”, ie between Britain and USA, we note that the Mauritian Government, as usual, bows down to the foreign policy of these powers, thus completely undermining its own position.

The Washington Times article that first took up UN Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan’s statement at once exposed the absurd basis on which Britain and the US are re-negotiating. A paragraph in the Washington Times, keeping up the fiction, defies the meaning of the words “sovereignty” and/or “claim”, reading, “British Embassy spokesman James Barbour said the U.K. ‘does not accept Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty,’ and his country plans to relinquish its claim to the territory to Mauritius ‘when it is no longer required for defense purposes.’” This sentence only makes sense if you know that Britain is the colonial power, Mauritius the colonized. If Britain had sovereignty, why on earth would they just “relinquish” it? This has been the absurd British position since Margaret Thatcher first put it out. The truth is sovereignty is Mauritian. The British have stolen Chagos in order to sub-let Diego Garcia for a US military base, and will keep Chagos and lease Diego Garcia to the US for as long as they want, or until the US empire’s economy collapses, thus forcing military withdrawal from what they unabashedly in the Washington Times article call “outposts”.

The Mauritian State’s position is referred to accurately in the Washington Times(9 April): “Mauritian officials have said they do not oppose the U.S. military’s use of Diego Garcia, which was of strategic importance during the 1991 Gulf war when it was used as a base for Air Force B-52 bombers.”

And this is what we in LALIT object to. Why does the Government horse-trade Mauritian sovereignty over its territory against the continued use of the territory as a US military base? It is a totally unacceptable position. The base has already been exposed as having been used for three totally illegal military purposes: for illegal renditions and torture of illegally-held prisoners (amongst others, the Indonesian man known as Hambali)which was finally admitted to in the British Parliament after years of lying about it; the handling and stockage of nuclear materials, thus flaunting the UN Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa (Pelindaba Treaty), including the servicing the nuclear submarines after the closure, following violent protests, of the Italian base that assured this maintenance work before; and as base for B-52’s in the Iraq war, a war now known to have been illegal, once it was established that the Bush-Blair basis for the war, the “weapons of mass destruction” argument, was a fabrication. In addition, the forcible removal of from 1965-1973 all the Mauritians living there for generations, as well as some Seychellois, is one of the most shamefully immoral acts the US-USA have ever conducted, an act reminiscent of much earlier, more openly genocidal, colonial times.

When the Obama Administration refuses to comment on Meetarbhan’s call for the US to recognise Mauritian sovereignty, cutting Britain out of the deal, the Washington Times goes and digs up Mr. J Peter Pham, director of something funded mainly by German and US industry and commerce bosses called the “Africa Center of the Atlantic Council”. He (to quote the Washington Times) “questions the integrity of Mr. Meetarbhan’s public call for U.S. assistance in winning sovereignty. Mauritius is simply looking to “kick up a fuss” over the remnants of British colonialism until conspiracy theorists and other agitators are on their side, he said.”

We in LALIT question the integrity of the Mauritian position from a slightly higher moral ground than this Mr. Peter Pham, who goes on to say that “island [sic] leaders are ‘trying to throw together a coalition of the willing’ of those who advocate against military bases and colonialism, essentially creating for the U.S. ‘a public relations headache’.” Note that for Mr. Pham forcible removals, illegal conditions for Independence, torture of prisoners, military bases used for illegal wars, all this is merely ‘a public relations headache’. Talk about accepting the low moral ground.

Clearly with general elections around the corner as the 50-year illegal original lease is up for renegotiation for another 20 years, Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam has to, “do something” because Diego Garcia will be an issue on the election agenda.

But in fact, there is only one way forward for the whole country of Mauritius to be re-united again, and for all its people to be re-united, and that is for the Mauritian State to a call for the dismantling and ultimate closure of the base, the cause of all the suffering.This way Chagossians can return as Mauritians to the islands they come from. This way Mauritius’ territory can be re-united. This way the colonization of Mauritius, and thus of Africa, can finally be completed.