Archive for June, 2010

Labour friends of Chagos speak out

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27th, 2010 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

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?

Best regards,

Kieran Roberts
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.

Let’s bring this shameful episode to an end

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1st, 2010 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Just a quick post to plug Sean Carey’s great piece on the Gaurdian’s Comment is Free yesterday, about uproar in Mauritius over the Marine Protected Area, and what the new UK government should do about it.

Carey writes: “The new UK coalition looks likely to succeed in bringing to an end this most shameful episode of recent British colonial history which three successive foreign secretaries – Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett and David Miliband – actively entrenched by overturning Robin Cook’s decision in November 2000 to restore the right of return of the Chagos islanders.”

Henry Smith backs the Chagossians

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1st, 2010 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

The new Conservative MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, has pledged to support the islanders in their struggle for justice, and has joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Chagos. Smith used his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 27 May to highlight the Chagossians’ plight and pledge his support. Here’s what he said (full Hansard transcripthere):

I want to mention one special community that has come to live in Crawley. I mentioned that many people have chosen to settle there from around the country and around the world. Citizens of the Chagos Islands, particularly of Diego Garcia, were exiled from their home islands in the late 1960s. A decision was made by Order in Council—it did not come to this place, which I think was quite wrong—to make way for an airbase on Diego Garcia, which meant that those people were deported from their home island against their will, and they had to live in relative poverty in Mauritius and the Seychelles. Seven years ago, they started to arrive at Gatwick airport and they have been very successful in making Crawley their home. There is now a population of nearly 2,000 Chagossian and Diego Garcian people and their descendants in Crawley. I look forward to arguing on behalf of those people, during my time as Member of Parliament for Crawley, that they have a human right to return to their islands should they so wish, either to visit or to live there permanently. I believe that, having been removed in quite a shameful way, they should be allowed to claim that human right. It is an honour to be given the opportunity to speak on their behalf in my maiden speech.

Many of Smith’s colleagues in the coalition government, including William Hague and Nick Clegg, have spoken out in support of the islanders too. Let’s hold them to it.