The Mauritian Prime Minister Aneerood Jugnauth’s 30 June ultimatum to the British Government has expired. It said that, unless the UK comes clean on Mauritian sovereignty over Chagos, Mauritius will go to the International Court of Justice to settle the issue. The one week extension of the deadline requested by UK Prime Minister David Cameron also expired as of Friday last. Then Cameron called on Mauritian Prime Minister Aneerood Jugnauth to wait until he is replaced by a new Prime Minister after the Conservative party process; but as of 11 July, this has become right now. Not that we can expect much from Theresa May.
In any case, LALIT calls on Aneerood Jugnauth to go ahead as he said he would with a UN General Assembly resolution taking the matter to the ICJ at The Hague. It would be an error to wait any longer. We also call on him to prepare his Government and the Mauritian people to face up to the private sector lobby that will inevitably, once again, put its own “vested interests” before the crucial issue of the re-unification of Mauritius and the demilitarization of the Indian Ocean, and seek to bargain silence for the entry into the UK and US markets of their goods.
LALIT’s Committee on Diego Garcia met on Friday 8 July, the day the ultimatum and its one week extension ended. We worked on a proposal for the Government to set out an “Overall Plan” so as to ensure that what Sir Aneerood Jugnauth has set in motion, leads to victory. The Mauritian Government seems not to realize to what extent it needs popular support in Mauritius for a start, for victory, nor that this can best be gained by a strategy that everyone knows about and participates in.
LALIT is in a position to propose what the Government should do because we have for 20 years been hammering at the need to go to the ICJ, which the Prime Minister is only now announcing. At the same time, we have for 20 years also been calling for an official visit to Chagos in a ship, which the Leader of the Opposition is now proposing. In 1997, LALIT and Greenpeace were to have had a joint visit to Chagos, but the plan fell through because of a practical issue: their boat got iced in in the Antarctic. Then, in 2003, LALIT and the Chagos Refugees Group, together with NO BASES, while trying to get a ship, found response so positive that we ended up rallying an entire Flotilla; this was undermined when the UK, in haste, organized a visit of Chagossians to Chagos aboard the Trochetia but with the circumscribed aim of visiting graves of family members, rather than announcing sovereignty. In 2010, the LALIT international conference on Diego Garcia issued the “Grand River Declaration” formally calling for both an ICJ case and an official visit. In 2013, LALIT together with other organizations, wrote to the then Minister of Local Government to request permission to camp on Chagos Islands – as the new law said one had to. And this last 20 years of LALIT action, in turn, followed after a previous 15 years of petitions, forums, and street demonstrations, all on the theme of the right to return to Chagos, including Diego Garcia, as an integral part of a demilitarized and re-unified Republic of Mauritius.
Here is what LALIT proposes now. It is not so much a “Road map”, which implies one thing after another, but an “Overall Plan” along the following lines:
1. The Mauritian State gets a UN General Assembly Resolution, as Jugnauth has said he will do, with the aim of taking the UK to the ICJ for an Advisory Opinion. Keep calm, and go ahead, we say!
2. At the same time, Government must negotiate with the Opposition and the Chagossians’ representatives to amend the Constitution so as to make Chagos a new constituency, and also, as is the case for Rodrigues Island, to set up an Island Council run on democratic lines. This way, the new Island Council can contribute with relevant Mauritian Ministries in planning how to resettle Chagos.
3. Also at the same time, the Government must activate the UN Committee under the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa (AFCONE) whose headquarters are in Pretoria. Mauritius is a member of the Committee. Mauritius must submit a formal request for UN inspectors, like the IAEA, to visit Diego Garcia and check for nuclear materials that are there in contravention of this binding Treaty. And meanwhile, given that some may argue that the “dotted lines” inserted around Diego Garcia in the Pelindaba Treaty may cast doubt on whether inspections are covered, the Government should, while testing under Pelindaba, at the same time, also call for inspections under the Convention against Land Mines and Cluster Bombs that Mauritius has signed and ratified, and on 21 June 2016 put into domestic law.
4. And very soon, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth must personally give an address to the nation on MBC TV. We call for this. He must explain formally the exact nature of the situation. Mauritius is up against very powerful, wily enemies. Only open, public strategies can work against them.
Here are some of the points that need to be made clear to the people as a whole, so that support can be built up, and so that all the false arguments that the British and American States put out via local mouthpieces can be replied to:
- Outline the full facts of how the Mauritian state was illegally dismembered in the run-up to Independence, and how Chagos was stolen and kept, as a new colony called British Indian Ocean Territory, and how one of the islands, Diego Garcia, was leased, again illegally, to the USA supposedly for a mere “communications station”, but which has gradually become a huge military base.
- Explain how there is a UN Resolution that recognizes that the very Charter of the UN totally bans any colonizer from dismembering any state prior to decolonization; as proof of this, Jugnauth must quote the three lines at the outset of the Minority Judgment in the most recent Bancoult appeal judgment (29 June, 2016) in which the facts are explicitly outlined.
- Give an outline of the UNCLOS Tribunal judgment (March 2015) so everyone gets to know and understand that Mauritius case for sovereignty is a strong one, and in any case, Mauritius has nothing to lose. This will show the hollow nature of the British claim, re-iterated by business interests and pro-colonial “vestiges” in Mauritius to the effect that supposedly “Diego Garcia was sold for 3 million pounds”. Two of the top jurists in the world in the UNCLOS Tribunal actually state that Mauritius has sovereignty and the other 3 do not deny this. They merely say that the UNCLOS Tribunal can’t judge this, in their opinion. They all conclude that the UK had no right to create a Marine Protected Area, so it is illegal.
- Help everyone understand the significance of the fact that the Seychelles, with Mauritian help as it turns out, won back its three Islands that were part of the BIOT.
- Make sure everyone in Mauritius has it on their fingertips that Section 111 of the Constitution of Mauritius defines Mauritius as including Chagos, and defines Chagos as including Diego Garcia. The section needs to be read out, and perhaps re-read a few times, on MBC-TV, so that everyone realizes the enormity of people saying that “Mauritius sold Diego Garcia in 1965” – before it was even a “country”. Were that babyish claim true, the Queen would have “sold” something to herself.
- Popularize the fact that the military base on Diego Garcia morally compromises Mauritians and the Mauritian State by the terrible things that have taken place there, when the territory used is ours, and should be under our democratic control:
* There was the torture of prisoners perpetrated there, and illegal rendering done there by the USA. The British Parliament, after hiding this for years, finally came clean and said there had been torture and rendering. This means that the State of Mauritius, while signing the international convention against Torture, has known that torture was perpetrated on its land.
* There is nuclear material stocked on Diego Garcia and nuclear submarines are serviced there. This is despite the Pelindaba Treaty making this illegal.
* Mauritius has ratified the Land Mine Banning Treaty, and we cannot even check whether there are or are not these kinds of munitions on Diego Garcia.
* On 6 July 2016, the Chilcot Report came out, adding enormous weight to the case for the illegality of the Iraq war. This means that Mauritian territory was used in an illegal war. Planes like B-52s set off from Diego Garcia to bombard Baghdad.
As part of this campaign to raise consciousness, and at the same time as all the other actions, the MBC TV must start a season of Chagos films: “The Islands are Closed” by the Irish TV team is a key film, as it includes the sovereignty issue. Also the John Pilger film, Stealing a Nation, and the David Constantin film, as well as MBC archival materials on demonstrations. Once an MBC team came and filmed the LALIT archives on Diego Garcia, so they already have them filmed.
5. The Government must also work at the diplomatic level, as it is already doing, in order to build up support in the African union, at ACP level, amongst Non-Aligned countries. At the same time, the Government must create events. For example, it ought to set in motion the organization of an official International Conference. Well known academics, writers on bases, lawyers, political people like ANC members, and people representing the Indian Government, could be invited to speak.
6. The Government must, in its mobilization, bear in mind that support from the British and American people is also vital in the conflict with their Governments. Going to the General Assembly of the UN and to the ICJ contribute towards this. All the crimes committed by the UK State and USA State were committed behind the backs of their respective peoples. This work of winning over the American and British people must also be done at the level of the political parties in Government, and in Opposition, and in the extra-parliamentary opposition, like LALIT.
7. The Mauritius State – Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, President, and a delegation of Chagossians, in the presence of the local and international press – must begin preparations for the Trochetia, or some other ship, to take them to Chagos. The aim should be to establish by their presence that Chagos is part of the Republic of Mauritius.
Alain Ah-Vee, LALIT,
12 July, 2016.