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Public invited to “Homage to Role of Women in Struggle for Diego Garcia – Chagos”


 Exhibition, Music, Speeches, Poetry


Saturday 13 JULY

10:00 am to Midday

Company Gardens

Port Louis.

 After the trouncing of Britain and the USA at the International Court of Justice in February and the UN General Assembly Resolution calling on Britain withdraw from the whole of Chagos within 6 months or by 22 November, it is time to put into perspective the immense role played by women, in particular Chagossian women, in keeping this struggle alive for over 50 years, until these victories. Thus this invitation to you. Please share it in person with people, via e-mail and on your social media page. It is going to be a special moment in history.

 The public is invited to an exhibition accompanied by speeches, poetry and music at the Company Gardens from 10 - Noon Saturday 13 July. This commemorates just one important date for the role of women in this struggle. It was the day the Public Order Act trial began against 8 women -- Chagossians and LALIT and MLF women. If found guilty, there was an obligatory prison sentence. This arrest and trial of the eight women followed three days of street demonstrations by women in the main arteries of Port Louis supporting a hunger strike by another eight women in the Company Gardens and culminating in a sit-in in front of the British High Commission, when the Riot Police attacked. A battle ensued. Eight women in all were arrested that day (with their ages at the time in brackets):

 Charlesia Alexis (46)

Marie Louise Armoogum (42)

Lindsey Collen (33)

Philine Frivole (40)

Lilette Goyaram (Tatayah) (40)

Ragini Kistnasamy (23)

Merline (Lanzie) Lamb (34)

Roselee Pakium (37).

 In November of that year, after a number of court hearings at which, then too, the Riot Police with dogs were present “to keep order”, the women were all found not-guilty. And history has proven that they were not causing a disturbance or being disorderly, but speaking truth to power.

 First, the Mauritian Government finally acted, in two phases: the Labour Government took the matter to the UNCLOS Tribunal and won, and the present MSM-ML Government went to the UN General Assembly and then the ICJ, and won. The UN’s highest court, the ICJ, and the General Assembly by an overwhelming 116-6, has shown that we were in the right. So it is a commemoration of the first day of the trial of eight women, of whom only four remain alive. And this one event – the arrests around a hunger strike – represents the struggles led by women from the very beginning, and building up from 1977 to the 1981 and then continuing until today.

 It is long and arduous struggles (this one built up from 1977 – 81) that bring change. It is not, as many old-fashioned historians and journalists still pretend, merely a matter of leaders, Prime Ministers, Governments. It is thinking people, who also work out collectively, how to act. This commemoration on Saturday 13 July is to remind ourselves of this.

 The event on Saturday 13 July is being co-ordinated by LALIT, with the collaboration of the MLF. The Opening Address will be given by former President of the Republic, Cassam Uteem. Olivier Bancoult and the Chagos Refugees Group will be present and deliver a message. Speeches will be given by two of the eight women, Kisna Kistnasamy and Lindsey Collen, in the presence of Roselee Pakium. The forth remaining woman lives in the UK. Her family and the families of the women who have passed away have been invited to represent them. Photographs by the late Vel Kadarassen will be on display. Musicians will perform songs about the Diego Garcia and Chagos issue. They include Menwar, Rajni Lallah and Joelle Hoseiny, Zulu, and Denis Larhubarbe. Poetry-reading by Darma Mootien and Vinesha. A bust of Aurelie Talate, one of the women leaders, will be on display.