When some 400 Parliamentarians from 18 different Commonwealth countries were meeting in Mauritius for the 47th Parliamentary Association’s Africa Region Conference, this presented an occasion for an action in support of the struggle to completely decolonize Mauritius, by the decolonization of Chagos, and to call for the military base to be closed, so as to respect the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. LALIT members together with other signatories of an Open Letter went to the hotel they were staying at in Balaclava on 25 August to meet up with Parliamentarians and distribute the letter.
This is what the letter says:
Dear Member of Parliament in a Commonwealth Country,
Today, at the very moment of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Africa Region Conference in Mauritius, the issue of Mauritian sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago is being revisited by the United Nations. Now is the time for a unanimous call for the closing of the illegal U.S. military base on Diego García, part of Chagos.
Issue of Sovereignty over Chagos
Mauritius last year won its case against the British State at the Tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Marine Protected Area Britain had set up in Chagos was declared illegal. This victory has given the Mauritian State sufficient confidence so that, at long last, it has decided to put a case before the ICJ by way of a UN General Assembly Resolution on sovereignty over Chagos. (1)
As you probably know, Britain illegally dismembered Mauritius in the run-up to Independence, then forcibly removed everyone living on the outer islands of Chagos to the Mauritian main island.
Military base on Diego Garcia
All this was done in a secret plan in order to lease one of the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcia, to the USA for 50 years for a military base. That was in 1966. At the end of 2016, this lease thus ends, unless renewed. But the UNCLOS judgment makes it illegal for Britain to do anything regarding Chagos without Mauritius being involved. Any renewal of the lease will be brazenly illegal. Thus the urgency of the ICJ case. And just today, 24 August 2016, the British High Commissioner has re-iterated a pressing appeal to the Mauritian State to withdraw its resolution from the UN agenda. The UK and US recently signed a joint communiqué threatening dire consequences if the eminently reasonable step is taken of requesting an ICJ advisory opinion. We can only deduce that the UK and USA are convinced that Mauritius will win such a case, and that victory will have strong moral and political force.
Diego Garcia is the "secret base" from which U.S. B-52 bombers have taken off to unleash massive destruction and killings of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East. The base is outside all democratic control. The Iraq war is now known to have been an illegal war, without casus belli, and without the aggressors having had recourse to other means available before resorting to war. This adds to the urgency of bringing places with “secret bases” like Diego Garcia under the democratic control of the country that the place is part of. It is a base where torture and so-called “rendering” of illegally held prisoners has been committed routinely. It is also high time that the binding Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa is respected: the Diego Garcia base with its nuclear stocks, must be closed, now! The Mauritians who were living on Chagos, many of them for generations, must be guaranteed the full right of return in a fully decolonized Republic of Mauritius. The UK and USA must effect an environmental cleanup before evacuating the entire Archipelago.
We therefore call on you, as Parliamentarians of the Commonwealth, to ensure that the people you represent are made aware of the importance of the complete de-colonization of Mauritius including Chagos, and of the need to end the military occupation of Diego Garcia. We also call on you to use all in your power to ensure that the elected Government of your country supports the Mauritian request at the UN General Assembly in September, for the Resolution to put the sovereignty issue before the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
Anne Marie Joly for Muvman Liberasyon Fam (Women’s Liberation Movement)
Reaz Chuttoo for Confederation des Travailleurs du Secteur Prive
Lindsay Morvan for Mouvement pour le Progres de Roche Bois
Ragini Kistnasamy for LALIT
Alain Laridon, former MP and Former Ambassador
Jean-Calude Bibi, former Minister and Former Ambassador
24 August, 2016.
(1) See Provisional agenda of 71st session of the UN General Assembly, starting 13 September 2016, “88. Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago.” (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/71/150).