April 2010 update
April 1st David Miliband (Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary) announced the creation of the Marine Protection Area to cover the Chagos Archipelago despite inadequate consultation of all interested parties. April Foolâ€™s Day but far from a joke.
April 2nd Kate Hoey MP (Labour, Vauxhall), former Minister for Sport wrote to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband:
I am very very concerned and indeed angry that you have decided to make the Chagos Archipelago a no-take marine conservation area.
I am angry at the decision itself but also distressed to see how you have brought Parliament into disrepute by the timing of the announcement.
We were given specific promises by Minister Ivan Lewis on March 10th that further discussions would take place and this has now been prevented by a decision rushed out just before the election.
I always thought you believed in fairness and transparency. Your decision suggests that whatever happens in the European Court of Human Rights the Islanders will not return for as long as you are Foreign Secretary. Morally this is an indefensible decision taken by the British Government and one which I am afraid completely dents my confidence in you as a Foreign Secretary.
It is shameful and though you may think that it is only a small matter in the scale of your overall brief â€“ it shows a complete lack of respect and concern for the rights of the islanders and will long be remembered.
I hope you can live with your conscience.
Kate Hoey MP
This Association entirely agrees with Ms Hoey. The phrase â€œno-takeâ€ in the letter above, means that there will be a complete ban on fishing throughout the proposed Marine Protection Area.
April 3rd discussion in the House of Commons. This is from the UKCSA website posted by Peter Harris:
Jeremy Corbyn MP and Lord Avebury have become the first Parliamentarians to formally criticise the FCO over its announcement to create a no-take marine protected area (MPA) in the Chagos islands.
Mr Corbyn â€“ a long standing supporter of the Chagossians and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands â€“ wrote to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband to highlight a promise given by FCO Minister Ivan Lewis just three weeks ago:
â€œI therefore put on record a commitment to make sure, wherever possible, that interested hon. Members are briefed before we make final decisions on the marine protected area.â€
This guarantee, made to MPs during a parliamentary debate, was cynically ignored by the Foreign Secretary when he made his statement during the Easter recess and lays bare just how much importance Mr Miliband attaches to parliamentary scrutiny of his actions.
Mr Corbyn also points out several other occasions where the FCO has consciously timed its announcements and decisions on the Chagos islands to coincide with occasions where Parliament was not sitting. This tactic of making decisions via the back door is tantamount to an admission by FCO officials that they know that their policy towards Chagos and the Chagossians is wrong and would never be accepted by Parliamentarians or the general public if put up for genuine discussion.
For his part, Lord Avebury – himself a Vice-Chair of the Chagos Islands APPG – expresses â€œshock and dismayâ€ at Mr Milibandâ€™s decision.
His strongly worded condemnation of the Foreign Secretary makes clear that the creation of a full no-take reserve in Chagos would make the Chagossiansâ€™ return â€œimpossible in practice, because the only immediate means of sustenance available to them would be fishing.â€
He goes on to say that, â€œthis looks like an improper attempt to bring pressure to bear on the [European Court of Human Rights], as well as being in contempt of Parliament and in total disregard for the interests of the Chagossian people whom Parliament, if not your Government, is morally obliged to defend.â€
The Liberal Democrat peer concludes: â€œI can only say I hope you are proud of the way you have trampled on the principles of Parliamentary democracy and transparency of government.â€
There can be no doubt that the Foreign Secretaryâ€™s decision to create a no-take MPA in the Chagos islands has been rushed. As has been pointed out, the FCO Facilitatorâ€™s report took just over three weeks to produce instead of the typical three months (a statement that the assessment should take three months to complete was made).
As a consequence, the Facilitator was restricted to producing a sober, detached and wholly descriptive account of the submissions received, rather than an analytical weighing up of the merits of each given proposal. There was no analysis of the feasibility of allowing resettlement; no counter to the argument that unilaterally imposing a no-take reserve would be in violation of international law; and no assessment of the merits of involving the Chagossians in conservation initiatives instead of working against them.
Was this done to avoid the possibility of the Facilitatorâ€™s report reaching a conclusion at odds with the FCOâ€™s favoured outcome? Perhaps if the Facilitator had taken a view on the Chagossian dimension, Mr Miliband would have been forced to make even a solitary mention of the Chagossians as part of his announcement – whereas, in the event, his statement was absent even of that.
The conclusion that the Foreign Office had its mind made up all along is a difficult one to resist. However, as the Chagossians’ supporters in Parliament make clear, this does not mean that the fight for justice is over.
April 4th African Press Agency report:
Port Louis (Mauritius) The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr Navin Chandra Ramgoolam has refused the request of the British government to endorse the setting up of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago, APA learns in the Mauritian capital Port Louis on Sunday.
In a statement to the press, Ramgoolam declared that he has received a telephone call from David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary to ask him to support the British governmentâ€™s decision to declare the Chagos Archipelago as a Marine Protected Area.
Ramgoolam stated that Miliband also said that Mauritius as a friendly country to Britain, that it would be a good idea if it would lend its support for the setting up of the MPA.
The PM declared that he told the British Foreign Secretary that Mauritius will never support Britain in such an endeavour and that the question of setting up an MPA should have been on the agenda during bilateral talks between the two countries.
The PM added that during his meeting with his British counterpart Gordon Brown at the recently held Commonwealth Conference in Barbados, Brown had given him the assurance that Britain will not go forward with the creation of the MPA. Also Ramgoolam added that taking into consideration the sly attitude of the British government, Mauritius has decided to discontinue the holding of bilateral talks with Britain over the issue and that all the problems that the two countries have had to discuss have become null and void.
At the same time, Ramgoolam said Mauritius will recall its High Commissioner Mahen Kandasamy back to Mauritius for consultations.
He added that the perverse decision of the British authorities to forbid fishing in the MPA constitutes a good way of preventing the Chagossians from resettling back in their homeland.
April 6th in House of Commons (from Hansard):
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab) (Urgent Question): To ask the Foreign Secretary if he will make a statement on the declaration of a marine protected area around the Chagos islands and what consultation took place before the announcement was made.
The Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant): On 1 April 2010, my Right Hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced the creation of a marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory. It will include a no-take marine reserve where fishing will be banned. The creation of the MPA is a major step forward for protecting the oceans not just around the territory itself but throughout the world.
The decision to establish a marine protected reserve was taken following a full public consultation and careful consideration of the many issues and interests involved. The response to the consultation was high, with more than a quarter of a million people registering a view. The great majority of those responses came in the form of petitions, but the response was so wide-ranging that it was global, including from private individuals, academic and scientific institutions, environmental organisations and networks, fishing and yachting interests, members of the Chagossian community, British Members of Parliament and peers and representatives of other Governments.
The great majority of respondents – well over 90 per cent.-made it clear that they supported greater marine protection of some sort in the Chagos archipelago in principle. However, the views on the proposal were mixed and the responses were not confined to the options listed in the consultation document. The announcement is the first key step in establishing an MPA. There is still much work to be considered and we intend to continue to work closely with all interested stakeholders, both in the UK and internationally, in implementing the reserve.
Jeremy Corbyn: The Minister must be aware that on 10 March I was given an undertaking in a Westminster Hall debate that consultation with interested parties, Members of Parliament and the Chagossian community would take place before an announcement was made. No such consultation has taken place, and there has been no communication with me as Chair of the all-party group on the Chagos islands or with the Chagossian communities living in Mauritius, the Seychelles or this country.
The Minister will also be aware, because he gave the apology on behalf of the Government, that a terrible wrong was committed against the Chagos islanders in the 1970s and 1980s, when they were driven out to make way for a US base. Every other marine protected area proposed anywhere in the world by anybody includes a local human element to protect the zone. He knows full well that the Chagos islanders support the MPA, but not with a no-take policy; they support it with a sustainable fishing policy that will enable a sustainable community to return to their islands to live and look after the MPA.
Finally, the Minister will also be aware that later this year the islanders’ long fight for justice and human rights, which has been fought so that they can return to their islands, will be heard at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Many of us believe that the islanders will be victorious. At that point, will he accept that the islanders’ return can also be protective of the environment from which they were so cruelly snatched all those years ago?
Chris Bryant: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he does as chair of the all-party group. He has brought the views of the Chagossians to the attention of many people in this House and further afield, expressing with clear articulateness their rights and needs. However, I should just say to him that our decision to set up the MPA has no effect on our relationship with Mauritius; it does not change one jot the guarantees that we have made to its Government. Nor does it have any effect on our relationship with the Americans in respect of Diego Garcia or on the hearings that will be held later this year at the European Court of Human Rights-this decision is entirely without prejudice to those.
I apologise to my hon. Friend and to the House, because it became clear to us that, notwithstanding the commitment made to him in the debate, no further information could have come in that would have made any difference to the decision on the protection of the marine environment in the British Indian Ocean Territory.
(Note that David Miliband did not, himself, reply to the urgent question â€“ embarrassed? Ashamed?
Chris Bryant told the Commons, above, that setting up the MPA had no effect on UKâ€™s relationship with Mauritius. He obviously had not read the report from the African Press Agency of April 4th. He also said there had been â€œfull consultationâ€ and â€œcareful considerationâ€. This is patently not the case. Perhaps the Annual Association Quiz this year should be â€œSpot the Mistakesâ€ in Chris Bryantâ€™s statements.)
A full report of both the Commons discussion and Lords can be found by going to Hansard, however the following is an excellent summary from the UKCSA blogsite â€“ again posted by Peter Harris:
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Saltaire noted the promise that had been given to MPs on 10 March that parliamentarians would be fully briefed â€œbeforeâ€ a decision was made on the future of Chagos (a promise that was broken). He also recalled that the FCOâ€™s own Facilitator was on record as saying that â€œthree monthsâ€ would be required to produce a report on the FCOâ€™s consultation exercise, when, in the event, just three weeks were allowed for its completion.
Lord Wallace further observed that the Government was yet to come up with concrete proposals for the implementation of its planned MPA, which begged the question why its creation had to be announced in such a rushed and undemocratic manner, especially given the pertinent fact that the European Court of Human Rights case to decide the Chagossiansâ€™ right of return was still pending.
Although stern, the Lords debate was markedly less heated than the exchange that was simultaneously taking place in the House of Commons, with FCO Minister Baroness Kinnock coming across as much less brash, less defensive, and less dismissive than her counterpart in the other chamber.
For example, she did not go to any lengths to justify the Governmentâ€™s brazen dismissal of the promise made to MPs on 10 March, as did Chris Bryant, instead choosing to reassure peers that the Government remained committed to â€œworking closely with all interested stakeholders, both in the UK and internationallyâ€ â€“ whatever that means.
Nevertheless, Baroness Kinnock did repeat and stick to the Governmentâ€™s view that the Chagossians have no right of abode in their islands; that the Government is right to contest the Chagossiansâ€™ rights in Strasbourg; and that the Government had consulted widely before making its announcement to create an MPA in Chagos.
One interesting â€“ perhaps key â€“ difference between Baroness Kinnockâ€™s answers and those of Chris Bryant was over the crucial point of whether the Chagossian people would be allowed to fish within the Chagos archipelago should their legal right to return be restored later this year. Baroness Kinnock said:
â€œAs my right honourable friend said in the other place, creation of the MPA is without prejudice to the ongoing proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights. Should circumstances change, all options for a marine protected area, including fishing rights, may need to be reconsidered.â€
This stands in some contrast to Mr Bryantâ€™s bizarre declaration that â€œwe believe it difficult and next to impossible to create a sustainable fishing regime in the British Indian Ocean Territory.â€
So which is it? Will the Chagossians be allowed a livelihood if their right to return is restored, or not? Is Mr Bryantâ€™s dismissal of sustainable fishing an idiosyncrasy of his, or does it reflect official Government policy?
These are important points that need answering if the Governmentâ€™s oft-repeated statement that the MPA is â€œwithout prejudiceâ€ to the European Court of Human Rights judgement is to be taken at all seriously.
Elsewhere in the debate, Labour peer Baroness Whitaker raised concerns that the US base on Diego
Garcia was being primed for an assault on Iran.
Meanwhile, Conservative Shadow FCO Minister Lord Howell highlighted the fact that the Government of Mauritius was both angry and dismayed at the UK, and pointed out the seriousness of alienating such an important partner in the Indian Ocean (one that stands to inherit sovereignty over the Chagos islands, no less).
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury wondered how the Government planned to explain to the Chagossian people that the MPA was without prejudice to their right of return, when it effectively squashed their only source of livelihood.
April 7th a letter from Olivier Bancoult to David Miliband:
As Chairman and Leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, I write to express our shock and anger following your announcement of the creation of a â€œno-takeâ€ Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos. We condemn this decision as being arbitrary, unilateral and in violation of our fundamental right of return to and resettlement in our native homeland.
We also challenge your statement that it was taken â€œfollowing a full consultation and careful considerationâ€ of the issues and interests involved.
We solemnly affirm that at no time in the process of consultation have you given due consideration to the issues and interests of the Chagossian people, more importantly to their fundamental right of return to their native homeland and to the considerable harm done to them, materially and morally, by their forcible removal.
From one appeal to another, you have been trying to deny us the enjoyment of our fundamental rights as human beings. You just did it again, by trying to banish us a second time from our homeland.
You must understand that we belong to the Chagos, and therefore that our stand on our native homeland is fundamental to any decision affecting its future. We reiterated this during the consultation by videoconference with the FCO Facilitator. We also confirmed our desire to return to our homeland and our readiness to participate in the design and implementation of the MPA itself, as mentioned in our letter of 11 March 2010 to you.
In your reply dated 18 March 2010, you chose to trivialize our stand by stating: â€œAs with all other responses to the consultation, your views will be taken into consideration.â€
You have opted for the conversion of our homeland into a â€œno-takeâ€ MPA, an option that we reject because it denies us our right of return and resettlement as well as our right of participation in the protection of our marine environment.
I will here refer you to my evidence recorded on 23 January 2008 by your Select Committee on Foreign Affairs:â€œWe were the guardians of the environment. We always protect our environment; we do not want to destroy anything. We do not see how people can say that we will damage it. Of course we will look after it.â€
You mention that the creation of the MPA is â€œwithout prejudice to the outcome of the current, pending proceedings before the European Court of Human Rightsâ€.
How can you expect us to believe or trust what you say when we look at how we the people of Chagos have been tricked and robbed of our rights, during more than forty years? When we did obtain justice from the UK High Court of Justice, we were deprived of it by Orders in Council issued by Royal Prerogative and not sanctioned by Parliament.
You appealed against the unanimous judgment of the UKâ€™s High Court in favour of our inalienable right of abode in the Chagos. You won your appeal to the Law Lords by a thin 3-2 judgment, on such grounds as the cost implications of our resettlement and U.S security interests represented by the nuclear base on Diego Garcia.
We were utterly dismayed but we did not give up the struggle for our just cause, as demonstrated by our recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. You could have taken this opportunity to right the considerable wrong caused to us.
Instead of that you resorted to the politics of might is right and to delaying tactics, which Mr Jeremy Corbyn, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, has denounced in his letter to you on the very day you announced the creation of the MPA.
Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the same Parliamentary Group, condemned in strong terms the timing of your statement, â€œwhich makes it impossible for the issue to be debated until after the new Parliament sits on or about May 19â€ and considers it an â€œimproper attempt to bring pressure to bear on the (European Court of Human Rights), as well as being in contempt of Parliament and in total disregard for the interests of the Chagossian people whom Parliament, if not your Government, is morally obliged to defend.â€ The conclusion of his letter to you on 2 April 2010 deserves to be quoted for record:
â€œNeither the islanders, nor the APPG, have the power to challenge the decision, or even to discuss it with Ministers as promised by Ivan Lewis MP on behalf of the Government in a parliamentary debate on March 10. I can only say I hope you are proud of the way you have trampled on the principles of Parliamentary democracy and transparency of government.â€
We the people of Chagos will make sure that your decision, which tramples on our right of return and resettlement, is debated and challenged during the election campaign by candidates and voters of all shades and parties.
We hopefully expect the next government to review the whole issue of creation of an MPA in the Chagos within the overall framework of our human rights as the native people of Chagos, the future of the Chagos islands, including the U.S base in Diego Garcia.
The Chagos Archipelago is our native homeland. It is our sacred duty, responsibility and right to protect and preserve it as a home for its native people and a nature reserve for the world. We lived in harmony with our natural environment until we were forcibly removed to make way for a nuclear military base. We contest the assertion that pollutant levels in the Chagos â€œare exceptionally lowâ€ in spite of continued military activities. We will oppose all plans, like yours, that want the world to believe that preserving the pristine nature of the Chagos is compatible with the maintenance of a nuclear military base – where you yourself have admitted the existence of extraordinary rendition activities – but not with the peaceful presence and ordinary activities of the native people
April 11th UKCSA blog brings news of powerful support:
William Hague and Nick Clegg speak out about Chagossian right of return.
With the UK general election campaign in full swing, supporters of the Chagossiansâ€™ right of return have this week received messages of support from two men who could be destined to play crucial roles in shaping British politics and foreign policy following May 6.
Firstly, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague – the man who would take over from David Miliband at the FCO if there was an election victory by David Cameronâ€™s Conservatives â€“ has said the following: â€œI can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long-standing dispute.â€
In his letter, which was written in his capacity as Shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Hague highlighted a recent speech made by his colleague and Shadow FCO Minister Keith Simpson, who pledged that the Conservatives would address the issue of resettlement with an â€œopen mind,â€ insisting that the Chagossian people â€œmust be placed at the heart of any decisions taken about their homelandâ€ â€“ a stance that couldnâ€™t be more dissimilar from the current Governmentâ€™s position.
In recent parliamentary debates on Chagos, Conservative MPs such as Mr Simpson, Mark Field, Peter Bottomley, Bill Cash and Anne McIntosh have been vocal in their criticism of the Governmentâ€™s mistreatment of the Chagossians. Mr Hagueâ€™s apparent endorsement of their views and his commitment to find a â€œfair settlementâ€ to the issue is a welcome indication of what could be expected from a Conservative administration.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Cleggâ€™s office, whose party would hold the balance-of-power in the House of Commons if the Conservatives were to fall short of an overall majority, has written to say: â€œ[the] Liberal Democrats take the view that removing the Chagossians in the 1960s was a scandalous decision and this Government has continued to mistreat these people. They have done so in the face of opposition from the UN. Regardless of the legal arguments, Nick and the Liberal Democrats believe that the Government has a moral responsibility to allow these people to at last return home.
â€œWe have actively supported their cause in the past and we will continue to aid their campaign to see justice done. We have been appalled that the government has wasted time, money and effort defending the indefensible. It is a disgrace that Â£2m of taxpayersâ€™ money has been squandered in order to uphold this injustice.â€
Mr Cleggâ€™s personal support of the Chagossians is bolstered by that of his own Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, as well as other leading Liberal Democrat MPs such as Vince Cable, Jo Swinson, Paul Keetch, Lynne Featherstone, Andrew George, Bob Russell, Tom Brake and Norman Lamb â€“ all of whom signed Labour MP Dianne Abbottâ€™s recent EDM on the Chagos islands that called for the right of return to be restored.
With such positive statements coming from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats â€“ not to mention a strong contingent of Labour backbenchers and peers â€“ the Government is now looking more out-of-touch than ever before because of its opposition to restoring the Chagossiansâ€™ right of return. Perhaps Gordon Brown, David Miliband and Chris Bryant would care to reflect on that as they seek re-election over the next three weeks.
The prospects of the Chagossians winning a political solution to their campaign for justice are strong â€“ but we need to apply as much pressure as possible. Please lobby your MP and parliamentary candidates to sign up to the right of return being restored.
After the announcement of the Marine Protection Area, David Snoxell (co-ordinator of the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group) was interviewed on Radio 4â€™s 6.pm news. Roch Evenor (Chair of this Association) and Marcus Booth (Vice-Chair) were on Channel 4 News and a variety of other programmes. Dr. Mark Spalding was on the Today programme and there were great articles in the Times, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian. There were full page interviews with David Snoxell in the New Statesman and Lâ€™Express. This was a very busy Easter for all of them.
David said: It was an unprecedented first for Chagossians to have simultaneous emergency debates in both Houses on April 6th â€“ a week before dissolution. Never before have we had such an avalanche of good publicity and the Foreign Secretary and all the party shadows were at the debate in the Commons which was attended by 80 or so MPs. Equally good in the Lords. Almost every peer and MP who spoke supported the Chagossians and questioned the impact an MPA would have on their right to return.
There has also been press coverage praising the government for trying to improve its conservation credentials but much mention has also been made of the fact that the exiled islanders have been unfairly ignored. Letters to the papers also reflect this. In the Guardian, for example, Alistair Gammel of the Pew environment group wrote: “While some Chagossians are undoubtedly concerned by the marine reserve…” – in fact all Chagossians are concerned. They looked after their environment for generations and wish to do so again. Conservation and resettlement can go hand in hand. Mr. Gammell said the Marine Protection Area Plan with its no-take fishing zone could be adjusted later. That would be very difficult indeed and the Chagossians, on resettlement, would need to fish to eat.
He also stated that the environment groups have been “working closely with the Diego Garcian Society, the largest Chagossian group in the UK.” The DGS (with its declared intention to stay in England with occasional trips to their former island home) is not the largest group in the UK and the UK has far less Chagossians than Mauritius and the Seychelles. Why were these other, larger groups not consulted? Despite being obvious stakeholders, they could only make submissions on the proposed plan after it had been drawn up. (See Olivierâ€™s letter above)
From here on, the Update contains material which was drafted before the announcement of the MPA. It may still be of interest.
Marine Protection Area:
Greenpeace, unfortunately, had been seduced by the Chagos Environment Networkâ€™s Chagossian-free petition which they then forwarded to all members. However, after a meeting with UKCSA Secretary, Hengride Permal and Pete Bouquet, Greenpeace reaffirmed their long held view that the Chagossians had the right to live in their homeland and their submission to the FCO includes this:
5.2. The establishment of the full no-take Marine Reserve should be without prejudice to the rights of the Chagossians or the sovereignty claim of Mauritius. The Chagossians have experienced an egregious and historic wrong for which the UK Government should make full amends.
Too late, of course, as many, many people had been fooled by the misleading CEN petition which neglected to mention the exiled islanders.
Private Eye (19th March â€“ 1st April) reports on the MPA submission by Reprieve:
The irony of foreign secretary David Miliband’s decision to consult over the establishment of a marine reserve in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BlOT) that includes Diego Garcia has not been lost on Reprieve, the legal and human rights charity.
The proposed new environmental laws for the waters stretching miles offshore would give greater protection to underwater molluscs than those enjoyed on land by Homo sapiens.
As Eye readers will recall, the human population of the Chagos Islands were thrown out 30 years ago and shipped to Mauritius, their natural habitation destroyed to make way for a giant American military base. The Chagossians have been engaged in endless legal battles in a so-far futile attempt to return home.
More recently, Reprieve has been battling with Miliband over illegal extraordinary rendition – kidnapping for torture – via Diego Garcia and its murky waters, where, it alleges, prison ships have been docked during the so-called War on Terror.
The charity started by Clive Stafford-Smith in 1999 is representing Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni in his claim against the Foreign Office over his rendition to Egypt via Diego Garcia. Stafford-Smith has now written to Miliband telling him that while plans for a marine sanctuary are laudable, the effect is “peculiar”. While all other animals and sea life will enjoy protection from capture or injury, the only exceptions will be humans.
He has offered an amendment to the proposed legislation modelled on the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 2007, which recently extended protection for various “European Protected Species” out to 200 miles from the UK. That makes it unlawful to “deliberately capture, injure or kill” a wild animal of a European protected species. “Reprieve considers that similar protection should extend to human beings (wild or otherwise) in BlOT,” he told Miliband. He wasn’t joking.
The Chagos Conservation Trust (for the benefit of new readers: apart from some very honourable exceptions, this group is interested in the environment and are against the return of the rightful inhabitants) reports on 2010 Chagos Expedition on its website. This was led by Prof. Charles Sheppard who was accompanied by Anne Sheppard and another ten scientists with all the latest in boats and equipment. Lucky them.
John Loader has also visited the Chagos islands but he went during World War II. He writes:
In 1942 it was decided to develop Diego Garcia as a fuelling base for RAF flying boats (Sunderlands and Catalinas) patrolling from Ceylon in search of enemy activity. Tropical cyclones were rare at Diego Garcia and the weather was at its driest between April and August. However, on 17th December 1944, cyclonic winds caused the wreckage of flying boats and marine craft, including the only refuelling launch. This is where I personally became involved. I arrived by Catalina on 5th April 1945 to be NCO Marine Craft Section. First I found that since the loss of the refuelling launch our men had been refuelling visiting aircraft by taking 4 gallon cans to the visitor â€“ a very long and tiring process, especially for visiting aircrew who had already completed a long patrol, but had to remain on board while perhaps over a 1,000 gallons of fuel were needed. But by the 18th April we had laid a new buoy off the short jetty which carried fuel from the bulk shore supply. These pipes were extended so that they could be passed direct to the aircraft moored on our new buoy. When on that buoy we could complete the refuelling process in 35 minutes, pumped direct from shore to aircraft. So we had evolved this time saving system on a remote island in the Indian Ocean! As far as I know it was unique.
John enjoyed his time on Diego Garcia and found the Islanders most friendly and helpful. He is very anxious to see their human rights restored to them.
Last year, Update reported that the City of London School for Girls had formed a City Chagos Support League. The Chair of UKCSA, Roch Evenor, visited the school to give a presentation on March 23rd and was very pleased at their enthusiasm for the cause.