Archive for May, 2010

New government, new politics. Now, a new approach to Chagos is badly needed

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12th, 2010 by Peter Harris – 7 Comments

After days of haggling, the UK now has a new Government. With it comes new hope for supporters of the Chagossians’ right of return: both the Foreign Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister, as well as several other key figures, have already pledged to take action on the issue.

Unsurprisingly, former Tory leader William Hague was one of the first people to be appointed to the cabinet, taking over from David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is positive news, as Mr Hague is on record as saying:

I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long-standing dispute.

In this same letter, Mr Hague also referenced his deputy, Keith Simpson, who has made two parliamentary speeches on the Chagossians’ right of return in recent months, declaring:

“There is a great deal of sympathy from those on both sides of the house for the plight of the Chagossians, and their interests must be placed at the heart of any decision made about their homeland.”

“…there should at the very least be a timetable for the return of those people to the outer islands. The Foreign Office should recognise that the House of Commons feels very strongly on that”.

Other Conservatives who have spoken out in favour of the right of return, or who have otherwise expressed their support, include Henry Smith (the new MP for Crawley), Mark Field, Peter Bottomley, Bill Cash, Lorraine Fullbrook, Helen Grant and Anne McIntosh (expected to be re-elected in Thirsk and Malton later this month).

For the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg’s office has previously written to state:

“Nick and the Liberal Democrats believe that the Government has a moral responsibility to allow these people to at last return home.”

This is a strong and unequivocal statement from the UK’s new Deputy Prime Minister, perhaps the second most powerful man in the country, and adds to the reams of pledges of support that other senior Liberal Democrats such as Jo Swinson have given.

The coalition talks between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats took several days to complete, with difficult policy compromises being made by each side. However, on the issue of the Chagossians’ right of return, there should be no difference between the two parties.

Labour failed to deliver justice for the Chagossians because of the unwillingness to perform a U-Turn and because of a disappointing lack of leadership. Whilst the case for resettlement was unanswerable, the political will was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, the new coalition government offers a fresh start and a real opportunity for a swift and just resolution to the saga.

The coalition government has already written its policy on the Chagos islands. Let’s hope that the right to return can be implemented swiftly  and with conviction.

Hope for the Chagossians under a new government

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8th, 2010 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

The election is out of the way, but the dust has not settled. The parties are still negotiating to see what sort of government will be formed, with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg approaching the Conservatives first, but (so far) keeping his options open to do a deal with Labour instead if he can’t come to an agreement with the Tories.

Generally speaking there’s reason for the Chagos islanders to be hopeful. Senior Conservative and Lib Dem figures have spoken out to say they would back the islanders’ right to return if they were in power.

Labour, on the other hand, has insisted on continuing to fight the costly legal battle against this vulnerable group of people, with a case pending at the European Court of Human Rights, after legal avenues in the UK were exhausted.

But even if Labour are able to stay in government with the help of the Lib Dems, they will be under pressure to address the Chagos issue.

In the constituency of Crawley, where the bulk of the UK’s Chagossians live, there is reason to be hopeful too. While long-standing supporter Laura Moffat has stepped down, the new Conservative MP Henry Smith has pledged to join the All Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos (of which Moffat, a Labour MP, was also a member) and called the eviction of the islanders an “appalling episode in British history”. He said the islanders were being denied their human rights.

Why not write to your new MP and urge them to put their support behind the Chagos islanders? If Britain’s new government wants to make a break with the past and earn itself a reputation for fairness and integrity, what better way to start than to finally right this terrible wrong?