Our most exciting and important news this month is that the inaugural meeting of the Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was held on 16 December. There are 39 members so far. It was agreed that, following the split verdict by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, it is now up to Parliament to see that a just solution is found. The APPG will have its first substantive meeting on 29 January and it is to be hoped that the new group and the Government will work closely together to bring about a just settlement for the Chagossians.
Lib Dem MP Vince Cable commented: â€œthe Foreign Secretary should make himself aware of the history of this issue and see what can be done for the islanders even at this late stage. Injustices can very easily fester in overseas territories because itâ€™s been all too easy for Britain to shuffle off its responsibilities. The Chagos issue is an embarrassment that wonâ€™t go away. It would be much better if the government decided to deal with it.â€
David Snoxell (High Commissioner to Mauritius 2000-2004) has been appointed coordinator of the group.
On the legal front, Richard Gifford tells us that the petition to the European Court of Human Rights, which was lodged in April 2005, has now been reactivated. Detailed submissions on jurisdiction were sent to Strasbourg and have now been â€œtransmittedâ€ to the UK Government. The next step will be for the Strasbourg Court to decide whether to â€œcommunicateâ€ to the UK Government the Petition which was lodged in April 2005 but delayed while the Government exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK. Then will follow a decision on Admissibility.
A group of six from the Diego Garcian Society in Crawley, led by Dr Allen Vincatassin was able to visit Diego Garcia in November. Eddy Ramdass was interviewed about this trip by â€œ5 Plus Dimancheâ€ (A Mauritian publication). He was thrilled and deeply moved to visit the island of his forebears. â€œIt was a beautiful adventure. Just before landing at Diego Garcia, I cried on the plane as this trip was so important to meâ€¦..The beaches are indescribably beautiful with very fine sand and a magnificent lagoon. The climate is very pleasant and it is a paradise on earthâ€¦.we were able to move freely around the islands and we were fascinated by the lush foliage, the coconut palms, fruit trees, the colourful birds and the abundance of fish.â€ He visited the cemetery and left a wreath there after praying. He was deeply upset by the ruinous state of former Chagossian homes and hoped with all his heart that the problems regarding resettlement would soon be solved.