During 20th March day of protest against War and against Occupation, LALIT members initiated a "Common Declaration in Support of a Peace Flotilla to go to Diego Garcia". This was the first of a two part meeting, presided by Ashok Subron. The second part of the meeting was cultural: a slide show of the struggle of the people of Puerto Rico for the closure of the Vieques US military base, and of its victory, presented by Rada Kisntasamy and Ally Hossenbakus. Nicholas Ragoonauth and Patrick Mookena presented anti-war poems, the former in slam style. Rajni Lallah and the Fangurin Group presented four of five beautiful songs, accompanied by live instruments, while children drifted nearer and nearer to the musicians.
The history up to the idea of the Flotilla was explained by Lindsey Collen. She said that the idea of the boat to Diego Garcia, to take Chagossians back, had been launched by a joint effort of ex-Greenpeace operations men (Martini Gotje and Rien Achterberg), together with Lalit and Chagos Refugees Group. At the World Social Forum in Mumbai, the NO US BASES network had given its blessing to the idea of the Flotilla, and broadened it, so that it could continue to other bases world-wide. The General Assembly of the Global Anti-War Movement in Mumbai then adopted a resolution to support the strategy of targetting US and other military bases, and included support of the flotilla idea.
The discussion on the draft of the Mauritian Common Declaration was then led by Alain Ah-Vee and Ashok Subron, and was discussed by the following representatives of the following organizations who were present at the Ledikasyon pu Travayer Mother Earth Hall at 2.00 pm for the meeting, and who all signed up:
Serge Rayapoulle of the Comité pour l'Amelioration de Santé.
Rajni Lallah of the Muvman Liberasyon Fam.
Tulsiraj Benydin of the Federation of Civil Service and Other Unions.
Atma Shanto of the Federation des Travailleurs Unis.
Sahebdin Mosadeq of the Institute for Consumer Protection
Devianand Narrain of the General Workers' Federation.
Pushpa Lallah of the Ledikasyon pu Travayer.
Alain Ah-Vee of LALIT.
Amba Lutchoomanen for the Federation of Progressive Unions.
Shirley Seedoo of the Federation of Preschool Playgroups.
Auguste Follet of Federation of Free Workers.
Nicholas Ragoonauth of Fangurin.
Jean Claude Bibi of JUSTICE said he would ratify after discussing the Common Declaration with his members at the next meeting. The Representatives of the Chagos Refugees Group (Aurelie Talate and Ansie Jaffar) have also said they will discuss it with their members before ratifying. They have not had time to discuss the Draft Common Declaration due to the presence of representatives of their US lawyers over the past week.
Meanwhile, Ms. Aurelie Talate gave important clarification to those present at to why the CRG had until now refused the offers of a ship by the British Government. She said it was because the British Government wanted to exclude from the visit Diego Garcia itself, and only visit the other two outer islands, so that on principle they had refused.
A number of other organizations have already expressed general agreement with the Draft (which now has to be re-submitted to them for approval in its final draft), but could not be present for the meeting. These include:
the Mauritius Labour Congress,
the Government Servants' Association,
Centre de Documentation, de Recherche et de formation Indianoceaniques (CEDREFI),
Southern African Human Rights NGO's Network (Sahringon),and
Federation des Corps Constituees.
The Common Declaration is in the form of eight paragraphs under the following headings:
No More Bombs from part of Mauritian Land
No to War, No to Occupation
Close the Base on Diego Garcia
No U.S. Bases, no war bases
A ship to take Chagossians to Diego Garcia
Support for the Peace Flotilla. The full Common Declaration will be made public at the same time as all the initial signatories in about one week, giving time for all organizations concerned to become initiators of the support declaration.
The LALIT Youth Group had prepared an exhibition against war on the walls, and a booklet with poems against war. LALIT also had on show the fat file with support from organizations and individuals abroad for the flotilla initiative.