We are very pleased to learn that a group of Labour party members have formed the Labour Friends of Chagos Islanders.
The aims of the group (which has a website here) are to campaign “for justice; the restoration of the Chagos islanders’ right to return and for a Marine Protected Area in the Chagos Archipelago that makes provision for resettlement”. Its director is Kieran Roberts.
The group has started by sending the following letter to the five candidates for the leadership of the party:
To Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, David Miliband, Ed Miliband,
‘Renewal’ is a term that has been used a lot in this leadership contest and rightly so. At a time when our party is in opposition and deciding on a new leader, this is a rare opportunity to renew some of the policies we adopted whilst in government. One in urgent need of renewal is our policy on the Chagos Islands.
Our party under Harold Wilson’s leadership exiled the Chagossians from their islands and as near as 2008 we reinforced the exile from their homes. Whilst the Labour government showed a commitment to the conservation of the Chagos Islands, we missed a golden opportunity to restore the right to return in April this year when proposing the designation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Conservation and human rights must go hand in hand and whilst we ignore the Chagossians’ right to return, we violate a fundamental human right, enshrined in Magna Carta, UN human rights instruments and international law.
We need to seize this opportunity to renew and remove this stain on our record on human rights. The question we put to you as candidates for the leadership of our party is:
Will you, if elected as Leader of the Labour Party, renew our current policy on the Chagos Islands and make provisions in the current MPA proposals and allow the Chagossians the right to return?
Labour Friends of Chagos Islanders
Despite the initially positive response from Robin Cook after the court judgement in 2000 in favour of the Chagossians, New Labour seemed to change its mind after 11th September 2001, obstructing the islanders in their struggle for justice at every turn, most of all with the now infamous Orders in Council of 2004, almost exactly six years ago.
So it’s great to hear an organised voice from the Labour ranks standing up for justice on this issue. Hopefully a new leader will have the courage to make a break with the past.