Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman gave a talk at the London School of Economics last night on ‘Public Diplomacy – Steps to the Future’.
After saying lots of inspiring things about promoting good governance and democracy, and the importance of creating a positive image for the UK, he took questions from the audience.
He ducked two questions on the current situation in Ascension Island (which has alarming parallels with Diego Garcia) by saying that the matter was sub judice. His rationale, apparently, is that the current appeal case regarding the Orders in Council used against the Chagos Islanders, has relevance to Ascension too.
Even in the case of Chagos, the sub judice excuse is flimsy, and applying it to Ascension is somewhat roundabout to say the least. It’s also rather worrying for people in other overseas territories that the Government sees the use of secret orders to evict a population as a matter not limited to the Chagos Islands…
The very last question of the evening came from a Chagossian, who asked Lord Triesman what future lay ahead for the exiled islanders. The question may have been delivered in a strong accent, but I got it, and I think most of the audience did too.
But not only could Triesman not make out the words “Diego Garcia” and “Chagos” as clues, he didn’t even bother to ask for clarification. He simply said, “I’m not sure I heard that last question,” and ploughed off on a tangent about the importance of the UN Human Rights Council. After that the session was hastily wound up.
We had thought Triesman might fall back on the sub judice defence… but why bother when you can just ignore the question completely?
If Lord Triesman had wanted to insult this Chagossian audience member, he could have just slapped him in the face. At least that way we wouldn’t have had to listen to him wax lyrical about human rights.
At this rate, even when the court case is out of the way, questions to the Foreign Office look set to receive an answer of “Laa laa… I can’t hear you…”