“At long last,” Lindsey Collen said, speaking in the name of LALIT in a statement to Radio One on 18 May 2016, “Prime Minister Jugnauth has put an ultimatum to the British Government that if it does not complete decolonization by returning Chagos and Diego Garcia to Mauritius by end of June this year, he will put a Case before the International Court of Justice at the Hague against Britain. Better late than never!”
In fact, in the National Assembly yesterday, 17 May, the Prime Minister, while publicly announcing the ICJ case, accused Britain of playing “hide-and-seek” and acting as if “might is right”.
She said that the time schedule to get the issue put on the Agenda for this year’s United Nations General Assembly, which in turn can then put in the case for an Advisory Opinion at the ICJ at the Hague, is very tight. “But, political crimes like Britain’s action of granting Independence on the basis of an illegal condition to fragment the territory of Mauritius does do not have an expiry date,” she said in reply to a question as to whether it was “too late”.
What takes time, LALIT believes, is the political preparation for such a case. A massive campaign for political support internationally is called for. It is important to garner support from countries on the basis of principled stands. It is thus important to call simultaneously for a date to be set to begin dismantling the US military base on Diego Garcia, and not to continue on the abject path of offering the base on lease to the US. This military base was never part of the “deal” around Independence, illegal as the deal itself was and still is; Britain said it intended to set up no more than a mere “Communications Station”, she said in the statement. Now, when the 50 year illegal lease agreement between the UK and USA is up, they intend to renew for 20 further years, without any consultation with Mauritius.
Support from all African countries will be mobilized behind an ICJ case because of a generalized opposition to the nuclear materials stored and nuclear vessels and armaments serviced on Diego Garcia. This is even more unpopular now, and even illegal, after the recent coming in to force of the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. But this depends on Chagos being recognized as part of the Republic of Mauritius, which is, in turn, part of the African union.
Asked whether LALIT felt vindicated for its years of relentless struggle on this issue, Lindsey Collen said that in fact three years ago LALIT did a nation-wide poster campaign just on the issue of going to the ICJ. This followed the LALIT international action conference held three years’ previously in 2010. And the issue was first campaigned upon on a nation-wide scale when in the 1990s, 20 years ago, LALIT together with the Chagos Refugee Group, which had been reduced to a handful of members, built up a reinvigorated campaign in the common front called Rann Nu Diego! As soon as the Jugnauth Government was elected in 2014, LALIT wrote an open letter to call on him to go to the ICJ on the issue. After the Mauritian victory of the UN Tribunal on the Convention of the Sea, 14 months ago, LALIT reiterated its call.
LALIT fails to understand the cowardly stand of consecutive governments in not bringing the British State to task. Both Government and Opposition seek “negotiations” with Britain. But this is quite simply ridiculous, when Britain is just simply in bad faith and will not negotiate.
Lindsey Collen said that LALIT once again calls for the Government, together with other political parties and Chagossians’ representatives, to go ahead and affreight a ship, get on it and go to Chagos, as part of the international campaign to back the ICJ case.
LALIT notes that, at the present time, there are new geo-political and economic realities. For example, there is no longer any Cold War. In adidtion, the USA is now having difficulty keeping up its high level of military spending. The first sign of this is its unprecedented public denunciation of its European Allies in NATO for not pulling their weight, but instead trying “to get a free ride” on US money, as President Obama put it rather rudely. As the USA goes more and more into economic tailspin, its empire of military bases abroad will obviously be one of its first places from which it beats a swift retreat.