It is the second time that we have witnessed a very strange phenomenon. Just when the British find themselves in a shrinking corner on the Diego Garcia dossier, by the dark arts of some magic, the question of co-management of the Chagos appears on the agenda as an apparent option, out of the blue. When the issue appears, it is never made clear that Britain is formally putting it on the table. Nor is it clear that the Mauritian state is saying that either it or even the UK is putting it on the table. An item of “news” just pops up gaily by miraculous conception, pretending to be some kind of concession from the British, “The British are offering co-management”. And what on earth does it mean? It means the thief is offering to share the house he extorted from the owner with the owner.
Hey presto! It’s happened again! Britain had gone and begged a 6-month delay from the Chair of the UN General Assembly for the debate and vote on the formal Mauritian Resolution to take the Chagos issue to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. And just when the 6-month delay is about to expire in June, co-management, like a genie, appears. Not only that, on 27 March, the British pay for an ad (in Kreol, mind you) in L’Express in which, behind the back of the of the Mauritian Government (illegal now, after the UNCLOS judgment in March of 2015) and behind the back of the democratically elected Chagos Refugees Group, and makes a different offer (not co-management), but formally in a paid ad in Kreol, offers a “visit”. And what on earth does this mean? The thief is now offering to allow the rightful owners to go for a one-day visit.
So, the time is one of all dangers. And, in the story on co-management that follows, the dates will be important to note.
First you will note that the co-management talk makes its appearance in a teeny article in the newspaper L’Express Samedi (25 March, 2017) in the rumours’ corner. This means the editors are saying it may be true, may be false, they guarantee nothing. The column is, by the way, called “Confidentielles”. Here is what it says in toto: “Chagos: Cogestion? L’offre britannique a été renouvelée aux autorités mauriciennes.” [The passive voice helps L’Express to slip the “news” in.] “Oublions la base militaire sur Diego Garcia et regroupons les “outer islands” et discutons d’une formule de cogestion dans l’intérèt des deux pays. Voici en condensé l’offre qui est sur la table” [“L’offre” acts independently of human agency; the construction of the sentence thus again helps L’Express out], “alors que Maurice précise ses intentions de saisir la Cour internationale de justice.”
So, the rumour gradually takes on the life of a fact. An offer has been made. Supposedly. The offer has landed on the table. Supposedly.
And now who will come out into the open and wildly agree with accepting it?
Yes, you have guessed right, none other than Jean Claude de L’Estrac. He is someone who has for decades been part of L’Express. When did he wade in? Monday the 27 March. Where? In the columns of L’Express.
In an article that begins with a little aside before wading in, and so as to cover himself if need be, he says: “Chagos: Cogestion? Si cette information, parue dans “l’express” du samedi 25 mars, se confirme, ce serait une avancée considérable.” A considerable advance for Mauritius. Then he goes on, encouraging Mauritius to seize the moment that this rumour has supposedly presented. “Il serait incompréhensible que le gouvernement n’en saisisse pas la portée.” Note that this rumour is referred to as “information” even before he knows whether it is true. Anyway, he has two columns of weak argument, and of course a photograph of Mr. L’Estrac.
That was on 27 March. The very next day, 28 March, there is an article in L’Express, under the categorical title “PMO: Pas de discussion sur une cogestion.” “Le Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) est categorique: la cogestion des iles Chagos par Maurice et l’Angleterre n’a jamais été discutée. Une source officielle explique que ce ne serait qu’une rumeur.” So the information is back to being a rumour. L’Express, to its credit, publishes this, but does not come out with the whole truth. The editors do not say that it was they, themselves that spread the rumour in the first place on the Saturday before.
Then, 2 days later, in another L’Express publication called Weekly, i.e. on 30 Mars, there is an interview with David Snoxell, former British High Commissioner in Mauritius. His interview was probably given before he read the L’Express of 28 March, but after he had read the L’Express of 25 March with the rumour in it. But we do not know what his source is, and he, like the original article in Confidentielles did not enlighten us. He, like L’Estrac, begins with an aside to cover himself just in case. “As far as I know,” our bold letters, “the British side proposed that a way forward would be to establish some sort of co-management over the outer islands of the Chagos archipelago, excluding Diego Garcia where the US military base is…. I don’t know the exact details of what the British proposed though.” So, the rumour insidiously winds on. He also adds something that relies on his believing that Mauritians are idiots, ignoramuses, or just foolish locals, “We have the example of Tromelin where the French entered into a similar arrangement with Mauritius.” We all know where France, who proposed it, led Mauritius: right up the garden path. And that, for years and years, to come this year and say it’s not possible.
And all this happens at the exact moment when Britain flaunts its commitment made at the UN General Assembly to “negotiate” with Mauritius on its resolution which is still on the table before the UN General Assembly. It happens at the exact moment when Britain is acting as if it never lost the case before the UNCLOS Tribunal. It happens at a moment when Britain is trying to divide and rule over the Chagossians with offers of a visit. Britain is declaring sovereignty in practice in order to intentionally show disrespect for the binding judgment of the UNCLOS Tribunal which says Britain does not have even the right to do something as relatively harmless-seeming as declare a Marine Protected Area off its own bat.
On the Question of the visit, the Mauritian State published a clear communiqué denouncing the British maneuvers. At the same time, Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, called the offer of a visit a “trap” being set by the British, and rejected the entire Britain £40 million offer as one big “trap”. LALIT, too, denounced the offer on the spot. Wednesday 19 April, GRC held in demonstration in Port Louis against the British. LALIT sent a delegation.
NOTE: We publish the entire text of the
Communiqué issued by the Mauritian State re UK offer of visit to Chagos
“The Government of Mauritius has noted with concern that the UK Government purports to organize a significantly expanded programme of visits to the Chagos Archipelago as part of the purported £40 million package which it announced last November. This purported package is said to be intended to support improvements to the livelihoods of members of the Chagossian community. The Government of Mauritius reiterates that the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, has always formed and continues to form an integral part of the territory of Mauritius, and that it does not recognize the so-called “British Indian Ocean Territory”. Mauritius is the only State which has the lawful authority to determine issues relating to the Chagos Archipelago. Mauritius does not recognize the legality of any acts that the UK has purported, or is purporting, to take in respect of the Chagos Archipelago as they are in breach of international law. This includes, but is not limited to, the purported £40 million package and the purported programme of visits to the Chagos Archipelago. The Government of Mauritius strongly objects to the programme of visits to the Chagos Archipelago which the UK Government purports to undertake. In this regard, it welcomes the position taken by Mr. Olivier Bancoult, O.S.K., Chairman and Leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, on the matter. The Government of Mauritius deplores that the UK Government’s purported unilateral initiative has been taken hardly three weeks after the last round of talks between Mauritius and the UK. These talks are aimed at completing the decolonization process of Mauritius and enabling Mauritius to exercise its full sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, following the understanding reached in New York last September to defer the consideration of item 87 of the agenda of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (entitled “Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965”). The UK Government’s purported unilateral initiative is also in manifest breach of the Award delivered in the case brought by Mauritius against the UK under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and it contradicts the UK’s own call for confidence building. The Government of Mauritius reiterates that the denial of the right of Mauritians, particularly those of Chagossian origin, to settle in the Chagos Archipelago is a manifest breach of international law and a blatant violation of their human rights. The Government of Mauritius remains fully sensitive to the plight of the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago who were forcibly removed by the UK from the Chagos Archipelago in total disregard of their human rights, and is committed to ensuring their well-being. The Government of Mauritius also supports their legitimate claim, as Mauritian citizens, to be resettled in the Chagos Archipelago. Once Mauritius is able to exercise its full sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, Mauritian citizens of Chagossian origin who choose to return to the Chagos Archipelago will be able to do so and live there in full respect of all their rights and dignity. The Government of Mauritius will relentlessly pursue its initiatives in conformity with international law to complete the decolonization process of Mauritius, thereby enabling Mauritius to exercise its full sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.
Minister Mentor’s Office
… 4 April 2017”.