As we write to wish you a good 2005, we also look back at the year 2004. It has been a year very rich in events, for the campaign to close down the US military base on Diego Garcia, to re-unite Diego with Mauritius and to get compensation for the people forcibly removed in the 1960s and 70s.
No sooner had the idea of the PEACE FLOTILLA TO DIEGO GARCIA got off the ground and got supported by the NO US BASES network which had its first face-to-face meeting in Mumbai at the WSF in January, than the effects of the movement began to be felt - in partly predictable and partly unpredictable ways:
1.Under political pressure, the Mauritian government, for the first time, publicly threatened to take the UK Government the the UN International Court of Justice at the Hague. To do this, the Prime Minister announced, he would withdraw Mauritius from the Commonwealth. This was necessary because Britain had accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ from only non-commonwealth countries. No sooner had this threat been made than Tony Blair sent his UN representative to change what jurisdiction Britain accepts the ICJ for. Now it refuses to accept jurisdiction for disputes involving any country that was ever in the Commonwealth. And, for good measure, only concerning disputes that date from before the 1960s.
2.The British Government came up with one of the Queens little dictatorial laws called Orders in Council, which for the first time banned all Chagossians from ANY of the Chagos Islands, not just Diego Garcia, as the first Order in Council of 2000 had done. These proclamations thus OVER-RIDE the British supreme court. And the Queen acts behind the back of the British parliament.
3.Once our campaign got off the ground, it contributed to the vast numbers of British citizens getting to know about the issue, despite the Governments attempts to keep it all a secret. This was done through the beautiful John Pilger film STEALING A NATION.
4.The British Government has agreed to the Chagossians visiting Diego Garcia and the other islands in April 2005.
So, no-one can say that mobilization does not have any effect. The closing down of the base, full reparations and the right to return, the re-unification of Mauritius - none of these has yet been gained, of course. But now the precondition, of many people KNOWING about the problem, makes victory more possible.
Just to express our warm appreciation for all that you have all done to help do this.
From LALIT, best wishes for 2005,
Lindsey Collen, for LALIT, Mauritius