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LALIT on UNCLOS Tribunal Judgment


LALIT is certainly vindicated by the judgment handed down by the five judges of the UNCLOS Tribunal in the Mauritian State’s case against Great Britain over the Marine Protected Area Britain set up around Chagos. LALIT has, since 1977 been involved in every imaginable kind of intellectual and political work to mobilize people in Mauritius and, rather boldly, also world-wide, in the build-up of all kinds of action against the British and US States for their excision-and-military-occupation of part of Mauritius, which involved splitting a country illegally and forcibly displacing the whole Chagos population both cruelly and illegally. Crimes like this just don’t go away. And LALIT knows it.

Since 1977, we have continually analyzed and re-studied the illegal excision in every new context, and simultaneously, held and participated in night vigils, protest marches, demonstrations, petitions, forums, international conferences, and even began organizing, when the first Privy Council Judgment of 2000 was out, a whole flotilla to visit Chagos. Many small vessels had already signed up, when Britain came up with its brand new “Orders in Council”. But before that, in the 1990s, we were in negotiations with Greenpeace to do a protest trip, which very nearly materialized. But the historically important moment that changed everything, was the 3-day women’s street demonstrations in 1981, which led to Riot police attack on the women in La Chaussee, followed by the trial of 8 Chagossian and LALIT women under the Public Order Act, and which put the issue on the national agenda, leading incidentally to the “second” compensation offered by Britain.

But equally important, has been our ongoing battle against the right-wing ideology in Mauritius, left over from the Duval campaign against Independence that still, until 2015, maintains that supposedly “Ramgoolam sold Diego Garcia and Chagos”. This hair-brained idea can now hopefully be buried. The Award, and the fine minority argumentation, not only rule out any such thing, but the British position in the UNCLOS case is not even that. The British position, in order to avoid being completely evil and mad, is that the deal was made “under British law” and not under international law at all.

For a start, the two judges who wrote a separate judgment, actually denied Britain status as a “Coastal State”, meaning that Mauritius, for the purposes of the Marine Park issue, was rightly challenging Britain as not having the right at all to set up the Park for this fundamental reason. Their argumentation differed from the Award itself, which also, significantly, declared the Marine Park illegal. They remind us that “[i]t is clearly stated in General Assembly Resolution 1514 that the detachment of a part of a colony (which in this case includes the dependency of the Chagos Archipelago) is contrary to international law.” They add, referring to the excision, “The detachment of the Chagos Archipelago was already decided whether Mauritius gave its consent or not.”

In yet another way, the Opinion of the Tanzanian and German judges is important. They pose the eminently reasonable question as to “why it took Mauritius so long” to do anything about it. They say that, “Even if the view is taken that the consent was valid and/or that Mauritius acquiesced in the detachment (with which we would disagree) one may argue that the “agreement” reached in the Lancaster House Conference has been terminated by the United Kingdom ...”

All this to say that now the Mauritian State is, at long last, in a good position to go to the UN General Assembly, get a Resolution passed to go to the ICJ for an Advisory Opinion, and to push ahead for full sovereignty. There is only dignity to gain. And it is certainly counter-productive, as it has always been, to trade some economic advantage for the Mauritian bourgeoisie in exchange for inaction. In any case the Lalyans Lepep took a commitment during the election campaign to go to the ICJ. LALIT has since then written to both the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Prime Minister about this.

The fact that the Mauritian State has taken so long to start claiming effective sovereignty has contributed to Diego Garcia being the kind of political “black hole” that has allowed shameful “rendition” and torture to continue there over years, and to only very recently be partly exposed by the Senate Report in the US.

It is now time, also, to call for Inspections by the IAEA, under the new Secretariat of the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa, and for a closing down of the Diego Garcia base, and its conversion into a Meteo Station, or to a Mauritius-controlled “Communications Station”, as it was originally supposed to have been. As Aneerood Jugnauth quipped in 2013, “Kisannla inn dir zot fou enn baz laba?”

The Mauritian State’s strategy must be a multi-dimensional one, and it must certainly not be “secret” like the Ramgoolam one was, if it existed at all outside of its well-organized UNCLOS case.

Now, the Government can, together with the Chagossians, organize its Resettlement Plan. Britain will now certainly be on very shaky ground to persist with its unilateral colonial project.

The Wikileaks cables, though not accepted as “evidence” by the Courts, will certainly be seen by History as a clear exposure of British bad faith, the same bad faith that all the UNCLOS judges have also exposed.

It would be a good time for the US to just close the whole base down, before it and the UK get shamed any further.