This is a statement from David Snoxell, co-ordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos.
1971 and 2004 apart, 2010 was the worst year I can remember for deception and disillusionment. It started with the rushed PR consultation exercise leading to the sudden designation of a Marine Protection Area, just before the Easter recess (despite the 253,000 Avaaz and 1,600 MET petitioners who called for the Foreign Secretary to work with the Chagossians and Mauritius); the emergency debates which the designation triggered in both Houses on 6 April; the revelations in The Times of 22 April (‘Paradise dossier was doctored to keep deported families from their homes’); the Coalition promises in opposition to restore the right to return and work for a fair and just settlement; the Foreign Secretary’s meeting with Dr Philippa Gregory on 9 July in which he said that whilst he had taken no decision concerning the future of the Islanders it appeared that the best solution would be for the Chagos people to return to the Outer Islands; the undermining of Coalition commitments by the FCO during the August recess; the brief elation when on 9 September Vince Cable announced that the Government was dropping the case at Strasbourg and that steps were being taken to ensure the return of the Chagossians, quickly overturned by the FCO; and finally the revelations on 2 December in the US Embassy cable, demonstrating that the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago) Commissioner and Administrator from the Overseas Territories Department of the Foreign Office saw the MPA as a means of preventing resettlement. Then on 21 December Mauritius announced that it had taken a case against the UK to ITLOS (International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea) on the grounds that the MPA was not compatible with the UN Convention for a number of reasons, including that the leak of the US cable showed that a motive for the MPA was to make resettlement impossible. There is also an application from Olivier Bancoult to the English Courts for a Judicial Review of the MPA which a judge in November postponed until after the case in Strasbourg has been decided.As for 2011 it is to be hoped that the Coalition Government will honour its commitment to the Chagossians of a fair and just settlement. Clearly the ball needs to be rescued from the legal long grass and the only sensible way forward is a pragmatic resolution of the issues with all the parties, through patient diplomacy and negotiation.
Our full January update is now online here.