The “Diego Committee”, that LALIT is a member of, had its planned march calling for the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia to be closed down prohibited by the Police Commissioner. In Particular the march was to protest against Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s outrageous attempt to obtain a bit of money by means of offering a lease on Diego Garcia to the USA, even while the Mauritius’ case is before the ICJ, and even though the UN General Assembly resolution was proposed by the whole of the African union, and based on principled stand for de-colonization and de-militarization.
Due to have been held Friday, the march was banned because of a special Parliamentary sitting being scheduled for Friday. This is under the repressive Public Gathering Act. While any demonstrations can be held unless the Police Commissioner specifically opposes it, with reasons and in writing and within 48 hours of being informed of the planned demonstration, this is not the case, curiously, when Parliament is sitting, when demonstrations in Port Louis are not allowed unless the Police Commissioner gives “authorization”. And while the National Assembly usually meets on Tuesdays, a special sitting was announced last Tuesday for Friday. On Thursday around noon, the Police Commissioner informed the Komite Diego, through LALIT, that the demonstration was prohibited. This means he will never authorise a demonstration – given that the demonstration was due to be over at least an hour before the National Assembly started its sitting, and given that the issue of the demonstration is not of a nature to be any conceivable threat to public order and peace. On the contrary, the military base on Diego Garcia is the threat to public order and peace, and that on a world-wide scale.
LALIT and other members of the common front informed everyone they could that the demonstration was banned. But, some 75 people came anyway, and an impromptu gathering was held on the veranda of the Social Centre at St. Georges Street in Port Louis. The Riot Police, who in any case are stationed next to the Social Centre since a minor incident against the French Embassy a few years back, were given the additional support of a large Black Mariah, some 50 metres behind them.
So anyway, the copy of the open letter to Pravind Jugnauth protesting his treachery with regard to the principled support Mauritius is getting, was read out aloud by Danielle Turner, for the Common Front. While Alain Ah-Vee (LALIT) and Berty Beeharry (CTSP) went and delivered the letter to Pravind Jugnauth at the Treasury Building where the Cabinet was meeting, one by one people took the microphone at the Social Centre. First Ragini Kistnasamy gave a pertinent, accurately worded and well-crafted speech on the central role of the military base in causing the continued colonization of part of Mauritius and of causing the Chagossians to have been forcibly removed. She had started by pointing out how three of the eight women arrested in the big women’s rebellion against the Diego Garcia base in 1981 were present at the Social Centre: Roselea Pakion, Lindsey Collen and herself. And just as the eight of them suffered the repression of the Public Order Act, which was eventually repealed, today we are up against the Public Gathering Act, its replacement law. Presided by Lindsey Collen, Lindsay Morvan outlined the preparatory work done by many, and this included the Sahringon contribution in terms of garnering support, through NGOs in Southern Africa pressuring their respective Governments on the Diego Garcia and Chagos issues. Alain Laridon then spoke about the struggle from 1965 onwards. Yoel Turner said how young people, like him, were beginning to take an interest in this issue. Alain and Berty on their return gave a brief report.
Everyone gave their names and addresses to the organizers, and the event ended with a resolution that this meeting was but a rehearsal for a demonstration early next year. Seven organizations (in France, Namibia, India, Britain and the USA) sent letters of support, which we take forward with us for next year, alongside the resolution for a demonstration.
[Copy of the open letter is in a separate News Item with that title, in English original and Kreol translation]