Chagos in Parliament: Environmental Protection

The government’s consultation on the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the Chagos islands was recently raised in Parliament, when Andrew George MP asked Chris Bryant (the current minister with responsibility for Britain’s Overseas Territories) which “stakeholders” were to be consulted as part of the process. Mr Bryant replied that the government was “strongly encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the consultation” and also implied that the creation of an MPA was not a foregone conclusion. See here for the full question/answer.

Of course, the environmental protection of Chagos would be greatly assisted if the Chagossians themselves were allowed to return. In the words of Olivier Bancoult: “Chagossians will be the best custodians of the environment.” It’s therefore important that the issues of resettlement and environmental protection are considered together, not as issues divorced from one another.

The UK Chagos Support Association has previously called for the government to stop using issues like the environment as justifications for its policy of opposing resettlement: the truth is that the environment of Chagos would be best served by the Chagossians being allowed to return to their homeland and care for it in the way that they used to do before their exile.

3 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Even if we did count resettlement as a completely separate topic it is still necessary first and foremost before or alongside wildlife protection. By distinguishing between the people and wildlife of the Chagos Islands the Government is seeming to declare that they hold the wildlife to be more important. I'd love to see Miliband arguing this on TV.

  2. Peter says:

    Indeed, Rob. Ministers are usually quite careful to stress their sympathy for the Chagossians when they give interviews.* And, let's face it, that probably is how they feel – politicians aren't complete monsters! But as you say, the policy just isn't there to back it up. If we're judging the Government purely on its actions towards the Chagossians, as we should, then it looks very bad indeed. Indefensible, even. Let's hope they do what's necessary to make things right before it's too late.

    *The one exception to this that I have seen was when Bill Rammell was being interviewed by (I think) John Pilger and he point-blank said that he can think of better things to spend money on!

  3. Rob says:

    Absolutely. Miliband is actually quite likeable and I might even go as far as saying I wouldn't mind him or his brother in Brown's job. But a politician's job is policy. If the policy is not there then the job is not being done.

    If a doctor missed a crucial and obvious diagnosis we would not say 'he's actually quite a likable guy'. We would say 'it's regrettable for such a nice guy to need disciplinary action but he does.' If, as in the Chagossian's case, the doctor continually has the chance to give the correct diagnosis but fails to do so we would have to fire him. Now this isn't the right answer here because the replacements would probably do no better. But it doesn't excuse the lack of action.

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