Cameron on Chagos
We recently asked the following question of Conservative leader David Cameron, via his blog:
When will you introduce a parliamentary motion demanding a government-funded plan to resettle Chagossians on the islands from which Britain evicted them, together with an apology and adequate compensation for the decades of hardship inflicted?
Readers of David’s blog – who have the chance to vote for the most interesting questions – voted our question to Number One for that week, and David posted the following answer on 24 January:
I understand your concerns on this general issue. There is ongoing legal action so I don’t want to comment on the legality of all this. But I recognise that there is a moral issue here. We cannot undo any mistakes of the past, but we must do all we can to correct them now.
I recognise the importance of the air base on Diego Garcia, which was used in the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Gulf War of the early 1990s, and the security concerns that prevent islanders from returning to Diego Garcia itself. But we do need to look at why Islanders are prevented from returning to the outlying islands, which are clearly some distance from the air base.
The Foreign Office say long-term resettlement of the islands is unfeasible. But I don’t want simply to take those claims at face value. I have asked my Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, to investigate this matter thoroughly. Geoffrey will be visiting the Chagossian community in Mauritius (where most were transferred), and meeting diplomatic and humanitarian representatives. He will look at the feasibility of a return, and the conditions in which Chagossians currently live, and report back to me and William Hague.
We will then consider the best way forward. So I don’t want to commit to a Parliamentary motion at this stage.
To be honest, we had hoped David would take the opportunity to come out with something a bit more forceful, what with being leader of the opposition, but we are glad that he is interested and supportive, and we are especially looking forward to seeing what comes out of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown’s visit to Mauritius. Not taking the Foreign Office’s claims “at face value” is crucial (see the two letters to The Times below to see why), but he could also take a more critical look at those supposed “security concerns”. We will, of course, keep badgering him. He’s probably glad for the chance to talk about something other than the mischief he got up to in his schooldays…