Britain and the US each have a state apparatus that is active in different ways to influence, and even control various institutions in countries like Mauritius: state institutions, the media, NGOs, students, ecologists and artists. Otherwise they would have difficulty maintaining military occupation of part of Mauritius. This kind of activity obviously expands and accelerates at key moments like the one Mauritius is going through on the Diego Garcia issue today.
The US, for example, has a plan for each country in the world called SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) whereby they are always inching more military footage in a country like Mauritius. And then the number of scholarships to the US universities suddenly multiplies madly. And they give more and more envelopes of money to NGOs, and have even sponsored a whole village, Anouchka.
As early as in 2013, LALIT and the other organizations with us in Komite Diego wrote an Open Letter to all NGOs in Mauritius warning them of this UK-US way of corrupting NGOs, while continuing a military occupation of Mauritius.
Let’s look at how Britain and the US work at this:
SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) is one of the “big guns” the US imperialists use to impose their military presence in every country. The US gets democratically elected Governments (and dictators, too) to sign up to a SOFA. It is disguised as benign. It may say there are four US Guards bearing arms at the US Embassy. Then, when a country is in some difficulty or other (usually economic, but it could be political), the use cranks this “status” up – adds a dozen marines, Aid for Immigration Policing, etc. Gradually the US armed forces get more and more “rights” to operate independently of the laws of the host country. American officers end up circulating without any control by the host nation. Gradually military aircraft and “drones” invade airspace, on various pretexts – like piracy by out-of-work fishermen. The Seychelles was forced into a much heightened SOFA when it’s economy went into difficulty because of the Lehmann Brothers’ crash – the main industry in Seychelles was invested there; this problem was then linked to “piracy” and there you have the pretexts.
With the long-term Diego Garcia base, and with the more recent Seychelles SOFA, the US found it lacked a SOFA with Mauritius – to round up its control. So, they tried. In the Wikileaks Cables revelations in 2011, we saw the USA actively working to ratchet up its SOFA with Mauritius, aided and abetted by people like former Justice Minister Rama Valayden and former Mauritian Ambassador in New York Kailash Ruhee. The US ambassador called them “pro-US men”. Luckily the project failed because there were enough men who were not “pro-US men” in the Mauritian state apparatus – elected and civil servants.
But SOFA is like a Sword of Damocles. It is always hovering. Especially when we have a Prime Minister, or I should say “yet another Prime Minister”, who is in favour of the military base, and just wants to get the lease money for Mauritius.
Infiltration of US-UK in other Institutions and NGO
The U.S. Embassy in Port Louis offers Public Engagement Grants Program” to NGOs – $1,000 to $10,000 under project headings like Women’s Empowerment, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Youth Empowerment, Environment, Education (including the promotion of English language). So they set up a huge variety of grants so as to penetrate Mauritian society through various NGOs. This way they win silence, at times, or collusion, or complete corruption. The US even sent its soldiers right into a Mauritian Primary School to distribute toys to children, thus masking their military purpose completely
The US organizes Public Speaking amongst young people in Rodrigues. NGOs like ‘Stop Pollution’, run campaigns on the environment with US money but without seeing the harm a nuclear base with US money does on Diego Garcia.
When LALIT held its Symposium on NGOs as a phenomenon in July, we drew attention to the way Green Peace ruined its own credibility when it joined the British Government plot to set up a Marine Protected Area around Chagos. The UK sold propaganda that the aim was to protect marine species, and they set a trap for all the ecologists including Greenpeace. They all fell for it. Luckily, other Wikileaks Cables in 2010 came and proved that the a British top officer telephoned the US Ambassador in London to tell him not to worry, the Marine Protected Area was just a ploy for the UK to keep control over Chagos and to prevent the return of the Chagossians. The UNCLOS judgment found the British Marine Protected Area illegal. Despite LALIT in an Open Letter to Greenpeace warning them of the trap that had been set for them, this international NGO went ahead saying that they recognize that the Chagossians should return but that they would benefit from this Colonial Marine Park later!
Education and Training
The US Embassy here has a thing called Uncle Sam’s Travelling Library, that visits all the Primary Schools of the country with a mobile library to encourage reading. At secondary level, there is the Global Young Leaders Conference which has a very top-down (empire-down) hierarchical definition of “leaders”. Every year hundreds of young people from all over the world get to visit the US, present a project, and return to their country to spread their vision – with their new USA eyes. In the past we have seen the Youth & Sports Ministry here organizing leadership training sponsored by the US Embassy, too. All this, forgetting that the USA is an occupying power.
The British High Commission financed courses in June this year for 26 Chagossians to gain Employability Skills. They steal the Islands, and then offer you training in “employability”. The courses were organized by the Open University which got money from the British for it. The British High Commissioner Jonathan Drew said he was satisfied and hoped that he could do further educational projects with Chagossians. Again, all this, forgetting that it means collusion with a colonial power still colonizing part of Mauritius.
There has also been an attempt by the UK to draw artists and actors through scholarships, some as harmless seeming as Komiko’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliette.
The UK/USA use all manner of ploys to infiltrate the fabric of society. Sometimes these resemble more sedate versions of dictators – in Haiti Papa Doc or in Cuba before the revolution Batista – hurling sweets at starving crowds of children from their sedan cars.
And today there are NGOs that reach out to catch these short-term apparent “advantages” or “gifts” from the imperialists. But once LALIT and unions like CTSP, groups like MPRB and MLF have exposed the real role behind the UK/USA handouts, people have a moral choice to make and cannot hide behind ignorance any longer.
In 2013 we appealed to NGOs not to take this kind of money. We re-iterate our appeal today, especially at a moment when Chagos is right on the agenda. Their complicity will not be invisible any longer.
It is also the moment to publicly oppose any signature of a SOFA with the USA. And it is not just here in Mauritius that the USA is using these SOFA to infiltrate. It is everywhere. One of the aims of this Conference is to build international solidarity to oppose the state apparatus of Britain and the USA, especially to build solidarity with the people of Britain and the USA against their state apparatuses and their imperialist rule.