Tories urged to support Chagossiansâ€™ right of return, whilst FCO comes under flak over rumoured announcementPosted in Uncategorized on March 31st, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment
Vice-Chair of the UK Chagos Support Association, Marcus Booth, has recently had a piece published on the Platform 10 website â€“ a Conservative-leaning pressure group.Â His article is available here.
Marcus retraces the steps that led to the Chagossiansâ€™ exile and recalls the Governmentâ€™s shameful, decades-long policy of keeping them from returning to their homeland.Â His article is a clarion call to both Conservative activists and Tory politicians alike â€“ pointing out that an incoming Conservative Government could and should act to restore the Chagossiansâ€™ right of return and resolve the issue once and for all.
Conservative MPs such as Peter Bottomley and Bill Cash have already gone on record as criticising Labourâ€™s handling of the Chagossian issue, whilst Shadow Foreign Minister Keith Simpson earlier this month told MPs that a Conservative Government would look at the issue with an â€œopen mind.â€
As the general election approaches, UKCSA has been busy lobbying MPs and candidates of all parties.Â However, as a potential Government-in-waiting, it is perhaps of particular importance that the Conservatives show that they the moral fortitude and farsightedness that, unfortunately, the Government has so far lacked.
Meanwhile, David Miliband and the FCO have received a taste of what lies in store for them if they announce a marine protected area in the Chagos islands that does not properly address the Chagossians’ right of return.
Writing for the Telegraph, the long-serving and well-respected environment correspondent Geoffrey Lean argues that Miliband would â€œset conservation back decadesâ€ if he were to enact an MPA that pre-empted the European Court of Human Rightsâ€™ judgement on the islanders’ right of return â€“ expected later this year.
Mr Lean castigates those supporting the plan to exclude the Chagossians from the detail of the MPA â€“ his article specfically cites Greenpeace, the Royal Society, Kew Gardens, London Zoo and the RSPB â€“ as â€œflying in the face of probably the most important development in conservation over the past 30 years, a growing realisation that respect for nature has to go hand in hand with concern for local people.â€
The FCO have repeatedly claimed that any MPA would be â€œwithout prejudiceâ€ to the outcome of the Strasbourg case â€“ but Mr Lean hits the nail on the head when he argues that, at the very least, the original MPA plan should spell out, in specifics, just how the Chagossians will be able to return to their islands should their court case be successful.
Of course, it would be far preferable if the FCO did the decent thing and immediately restored the right of return immediately, something that Robin Cook assented to in 2000, but which was overturned by Labour in 2004.
These comments come on top of yesterdayâ€™s Guardian article, which quoted Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve’s condemnation of Government policy: “The truth is that no Chagossian has anything like equal rights with even the warty sea slug. There is no sense that the British government will let them go back. The government is not even contemplating equal rights for Chagossians and sea slugs.”Â Harsh words from a repected human rights campaigner.
Whether or not the FCO is indeed planning to make a substantive announcement on the future of the Chagos islands this week is still unclear; as previously reported, it had hitherto been understood that a final decision would take at least three months to arrive at.
However, at least the Government has received a warning of what would lie in store should it unwisely decide against making restitution with the Chagossians: there would surely, and quite rightly, be an outcry.