Olivier Bancoult has relied upon the Courts of Britain – a Britain whose justification, in the final analysis, as Lady Hale points out in the recent judgment in the Bancoult case is “how best to appropriate colonial possessions for the benefit of the imperial power”. Instead of this legalistic approach, we need a multi-pronged political approach that aims to close the base, de-colonise the whole of Mauritius including Chagos, and to ensure that Chagossians can return whenever they wish while Mauritians have free movement in a freed Chagos. LALIT will be holding an International Action Conference on 1st and 2nd October this year on this. Here is what, in the meantime, we are formally calling for:
Strategies and Tactics like the following:
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! LALIT has called for this since 1985. It is a legal tactic, as part of a political strategy to weaken Britain and the USA until they withdraw.
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. Simultaneously, Government must, as is already the case for Rodrigues Island, to set up an Island Council for Chagos, run on democratic lines. This way, the new Island Council can colaborate with relevant Mauritian Ministries in planning how to give substance to the right of Chagossians to return when and if, and whenever, they want to. Olivier Bancoult should demand this.
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.
5. We must all, including Government Ministers, get clear in our heads and in our words, and in our platforms, the points that need to be made clear to everyone. This is the only way that support can be built up, and that all the false arguments that the British and American States put out via local mouthpieces like Jean-Claude de l’Estrac and in Britain by Allen Vincatassen, can be replied to. We need to:
- Outline the full facts of how the Mauritian state was illegally dismembered in the run-up to Independence, and how Chagos was appropriated for the UK-USA empire in 1965 and kept, as a new colony called British Indian Ocean Territory, and how one of the islands, Diego Garcia, was leased, also illegally, to the USA supposedly for a mere “communications station”, but which has gradually become a huge military base.
- Explain how Chagossians were prevented from returning from Mauritius to Chagos when they came over on holidays or for medical treatment from 1963 onwards, until they were forcibly removed by 1973.
- 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.
6. The Government must also continue to 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, just as LALIT is organizing its own political Conference on 1st and 2nd October this year. Well known academics, writers on bases, lawyers, political people like ANC members, and people representing the Indian Government, could be invited to speak.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Olivier Bancoult and his followers have been, and still are being, taken for a royal ride. Instead of the right to return, if and when each Chagossian wants to, they are being offered “resettlement”, in, at best, a colonial “native reserve” somewhere in the British Indian Ocean Territory. This is defeat.
Rationality does not hold, in the last analysis, in the domain Olivier Bancoult has chosen, the domain of the British Courts. The British State and Courts are not even interested in the high moral ground. All that matters to them is “appropriating colonial possessions for the benefit of the imperial power” as Lady Hale put it in the June 2016 judgment.
Lindsey Collen for LALIT, 27 July 2016