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Peoples navy action on Diego Garcia

14.03.2008

Peter Bouquet and Jon Castle, ecology activists of the "People's Navy" are still being detained on US military base Diego Garcia. On Sunday 2nd of march, they arrived there on the Musichana as a protest action to "bear witness" to the fact that Chagossians were expelled from the Chagos archipelago to make way for a US military base there, and are still barred from returning by the UK/US. Martin Gotje, an ex-Greenpeace activist, who is their spokesperson, has stated that they were arrested and are still being held on Diego Garcia for an enquiry, but have not been charged yet.

Around 2003, LALIT initiated the idea of a Peace Flottila against the US military base on Diego Garcia and gained broad support for it. The idea was for the action to be based on three interlinking struggles to close the base (with environmental clean-up), to completely decolonize and reunify Mauritius, the twin struggles of right to return of Chagossians and their proper reparations. LALIT delegates officially presented the idea for the Peace Flotilla at the World Social Conference in Mumbai in 2003 where the first meeting of the "No bases" network (it was called the "No US Bases" at the time) was being held, and also presented it in the International Anti-War assembly that was held there. We also campaigned for the initiative to get worldwide support, and it did get a lot of support. As the peace flotilla gained ground, the British Government issued a regulation banning all Chagossians from all the Chagos Islands. The British State was so exposed that It offered, itself, to take the Islanders on a visit to all the Chagos Islands including Diego Garcia. It wanted a visit strictly under the control of the British State.

The present People's navy action, is in a way, another offshoot of the Peace Flotilla idea. Their action was initially aimed at "bearing witness" to the plight of Chagossians: their forced removal and exile. Martin Gotje, who is currently a spokesperson for the Peoples navy action on Diego Garcia, wanted to be part of LALIT's initiative for a peace flotilla in 2003, but later backed off because he thought the action should be limited to support for Chagossians on "humanitarian grounds", rather than interlink the three demands as LALIT had proposed. So the People's Navy initiative is not part of the "No Bases" network of which LALIT is a member, as it did not aim at military base closure. The People's Navy has its own network and its own website. It is interesting to note, however that in the course of the Diego Garcia action, the People's Navy members involved seem to have realised the importance of taking a stand against both the US military base on Diego Garcia, and also against the use of Diego Garcia for rendition flights. This has made their action stronger.