Yesterday, 30th March, one hundred people forcibly removed from Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands at the time of its dismemberment from Mauritius to make place for the hideous military base there will be going to visit Diego Garcia and Chagos. The British Government has chartered a ship to take them. This will probably be in the news world-wide around 30 March or beginning of April.
You will remember that Lalit and the Chagossian Refugees Group, in the run-up to the World Social Forum in Mumbai in January 2004, had been working on getting a ship to take people back home to visit, and that smaller yachts had asked to join in, and this had become the planned FLOTILLA against the military base there. We wanted to unite the three interlinked struggles i.e. to close the base, to completely decolonize and reunify Mauritius, and the twin demand of right to return and reparations for all the displaced families.
What happened inbetween was that the flotilla idea got massive support in Mauritius and world-wide from peace groups, women's groups, environmental groups, human rights groups, and especially anti-military-base groups, and this support in turn encouraged many excellent journalists to come and popularize the struggle. The outstanding documentary film by John Pilger film, STEALING A NATION, really brought the issues centre stage worldwide.
The British Government, no doubt feeling itself increasingly cornered, began to negotiate to, itself take the Islanders on a visit to all the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia where there is the base.
And that is how this visit has come about.
Another tactic of the cornered British State has been to assimilate the Chagossian community into the British population. British passports have been issued to the Chagossians and their descendants, and the entire community is now in flux. From most families someone has gone, is going or is planning to go to the UK, where they believe work would be easier to find and the standard of education and social services higher. Some then find the going tough and return to Mauritius.
And meanwhile the immense damages case that the Chagossians put in the US against the US State and companies for the forced removals, has come up for hearing as to whether it can be entertained by the Courts. One interesting aspect of this case is that the US law provides that it is not possible to hear cases that question US foreign policy. This has been a constant pressure on the leaders of the Chagossians to say again and again that they are "not against the base", even as their members criticise the US for using their land for "killing other people".
So, the struggle to close the US military base and for reunification, is now, for the first time becoming a struggle in which the organizations of the Chagossian people are involved to a decreasing degree. The US and Britain have between them managed to separate their struggle from the overall struggle. We, in Lalit, are still working on all three fronts, of course, and we feel that the struggle, by being united with the struggle to ABOLISH ALL FOREIGN MILITARY BASES is making progress world-wide.
After 30 years of struggle to get the issue international support, we have over the past four or five years really succeeded. Our struggle is now united with everyone's struggle for peace. Before this, we could not get it known in other places of the world. People didn't believe us.
We call on all those involved in the Diego Garcia struggle, to attend the Conference for the Abolition of all foreign military bases. The invitation is in our NEWS ARCHIVES. This invitation is available in French, Zulu, Mauritian Kreol, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese. Just let us know what language you prefer.