What does the election mean for the Chagossian fight for justice?
In the many hours of media reaction to the recent UK election, this is probably not a question you have heard answered, or even asked.
The fight for Chagossian justice is of course beyond narrow party politics. It is a simple question of right and wrong which any Parliamentarian from UKIP to Green, DUP to Plaid Cymru, should be able to see requires immediate resolution. Remember to write to your newly elected or re-elected MP asking them to do so.
UK Chagos Support Association does not have any party political allegiance. We will work with anyone to finally see justice done and a stain on the nation’s character removed.
With a decision on return due in the near future, however, it is important who is Parliament to fight for justice, and indeed who will be making the decisions. So let’s see how things are shaping up.
Returned Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
Foreign Office Ministers
There haven’t been many changes in the Foreign Office, which will make a final decision on whether to support Chagossian return. Even prior to the election, the Foreign Office was entirely populated by Conservative Party Ministers.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond remains in his post, as does the Junior Minister with responsibility for Overseas Territories (including the Chagos Islands) James Duddridge MP. Hugo Swire MP, who has also dealt with Chagos related issues in Parliament, also retains his role in the Foreign Office.
With no changes in personnel, there can be no excuse for any delay on delivering a positive decision on return in the very near future.
The currently annouced candidates for the Labour leadership in their first hustings
Shadow Foreign Office Ministers
With the Labour Party about to conduct a leadership election, their Shadow Cabinet is subject to change in the immediate future.
Previous Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander lost his seat at the election. Under Acting Party Leader Harriet Harman, Mr Alexander has been replaced by Hiliary Benn. Mr Benn has made no public comment on the Chagossian situation that we are aware of, although as a former Department for International Development Minister he has extensive experience supporting projects in Overseas Territories.
It is also worth remembering Ms Harman, in a letter to one of our supporters shortly prior to the election, struck a positive note about the potential to resolve the decades of injustice suffered by Chagossians. We hope she can use her time as head of Her Majesty’s Opposition to ensure the UK finally lives up to its legal and moral obligations to the Chagossian people. Labour Party supporters might even consider asking the various candidates what they would do to deliver justice.
Other Parties and the Chagossian Cause
One of the big stories of the election was the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP), with the party gaining almost 50 seats and becoming the third largest party in Parliament. At their last conference, the SNP pledged to act to support Chagossian return, so we are look forward to working with them to make this a reality.
The new SNP spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, high-profile former leader Alex Salmond, has spoken eloquently in Parliament previously about the injustices suffered across decades by Chagossians. We certainly hope in this new role he can finally give the Chagossian cause the national attention it deserves.
The other parties which have formally offered support to the Chagossian cause-the Green Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) have retained their MPs (one and three respectively).
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands
Thankfully the Chagossian cause has supporters across all political parties in Westminster. Since 2008 some of the most strident advocates for justice have worked in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands.
Most members of the Group retained their seats in the election. Liberal Democrat Andrew George, the group’s Treasurer and Secretary, was not however returned to Parliament. Nor was former Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz who was a member of the group. We thank both for their years of support for the Chagossian cause.
The APPG is likely to formally meet for the first time in early June. If any MPs are interested in joining they can contact voluntary Group Coordinator David Snoxell at email@example.com.
On any other issues MPs are welcome to contact ourselves for further information on how they can help make history in the next Parliament by delivering Chagossian justice.