Archive for January, 2012

‘A few Man Fridays’

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2012 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

A few Man FridaysA play inspired by the eviction of the Chagos islands, A Few Man Fridays, is playing at London’s Riverside Studios from 10 February to 10 March, produced by Cardboard Citizens.

The title comes from a real historical quote by a Foreign Office official when the eviction was being planned in 1966, showing the British government’s disdain for the Chagossian people. With his superiors saying the islands must be made empty except for the seagulls, DH Greenhill wrote in a note: “Unfortunately along with the birds go some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure, and who are hopefully being wished on to Mauritius, etc.”

Cardboard Citizens, which puts on plays performed by homeless and displaced people, stages the story in its trademark style where personal testimony and historical narrative meet to forge epic, mesmerising theatre.

Moving, gripping and funny, A Few Man Fridays unearths an inglorious episode of British history, and explores the fantasies of the powerful set against the dreams of the powerless.

To find out more and to watch the video trailer for the play, click here.

“Ministers recognise the injustice done to the Chagossians. But it’s time for action, not words.”

Posted in APPG, ConDem, FCO, MPA, Parliament, William Hague on January 20th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

David Snoxell, Coordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, likens the attitude of the current government to that of unwilling backseat passengers in an article for Conservative Home, saying:

“There is not much evidence that Ministers are succeeding in challenging the status quo on Chagos and applying political will and compromise to finding workable solutions – though, unlike the previous government, it is pretty clear that they would like to do so. They give the impression of being unwilling passengers bound and gagged in the backseat of a car driven doggedly by their officials.”

Mr Snoxell notes that the UK remains in violation of several UN human rights instruments and decisions and that its international reputation continues to be badly damaged by accusations of double standards. He finishes the article by encouraging the government to resolve the Chagossian injustice in 2012, a year in which the eyes of the world will be focussed on the UK:

“What better year than 2012, when the eyes of the world are on London for the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee, to restore the human rights and the dignity of the Chagossian people? What better way to mark the Queen’s long reign, which has seen the transition of the British Empire to a Commonwealth of Nations, by bringing to an end this tragedy and relic of Empire in the Indian Ocean? Jeremy Corbyn, the Chairman of the APPG, has asked for a debate early in the session. This will be the opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to tell Parliament about the progress that he is making towards a settlement of the issues.”

You can read the full article here.

Watch ‘Stealing a Nation’ online

Posted in video on January 8th, 2012 by Robert Bain – 2 Comments

John Pilger’s excellent film Stealing a Nation is now available to watch in full online via Vimeo.

The film tells the story of the illegal eviction of the Chagos islanders and their fight for justice, up to 2004 when the Blair government used the Royal Prerogative to overrule the courts and stop them returning. Stealing a Nation is a moving and revealing introduction to the shocking story of Chagos.

For a quick summary of developments in the Chagos struggle since 2004, see our history section here.

Lisette Talate dies aged 70

Posted in CRG, Mauritius, personal on January 6th, 2012 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

We are saddened to learn of the death of Lisette Talate, who died on Wednesday at the age of 70.

Lisette, who was born on Chagos, was a prominent and inspirational figure in the Chagossian community in Mauritius and in the campaign to be allowed to return to the islands. She was able to take part in a short visit to the islands in 2006 – the first time she had been back since she and hundreds of others were evicted 33 years earlier. Sadly she did not live long enough to see justice done.

Olivier Bancoult, chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, sent this statement:

“It’s with great sadness that we announce the death of Mrs Lisette Talate, our vice president and elected members of Chagossian Welfare Fund Board.

Mrs Talate had been involved in the struggle since her arrival in Mauritius in 1973. Together with Charlesia Alexis and others, she has been a famous example, having participated in several hunger strikes, demonstrations and been arrested by police.

Our community has lost one of our unforgotten personalities who has contributed to the struggle of the Chagossians. She was nominated among one thousand women for the Peace Nobel Prize, and had been decorated by the Prime Minister last year as Members of Star and Key of the Indian Ocean.

Our condolences to all members of her family together with our Chagos Refugees Group members and our Chagossian community.”

Lisette’s funeral was held yesterday in Cassis, Mauritius.

Read L’Express’s reports here and here, the Chagos Refugees Group’s report here and Le Mauricien’s report here.

The longer the British government delays in bringing justice to the Chagossians, the fewer will be left to see their homeland again.

Our message to the government

Posted in FCO on January 5th, 2012 by Robert Bain – 2 Comments

The UK Chagos Support Association has submitted its comments to the Foreign Office’s consultation on the Overseas Territories.

The government says it wants to build better relations between the UK and its various territories and improve governance. Well, governance doesn’t get much worse than what the people of Chagos (officially the British Indian Ocean Territory) have had to endure over the past forty years, and continue to endure.

So our message is simple: the government should cease its opposition to the return of the Chagossian people to their homeland.

The full text of our submission is below.

 

Submission from the UK Chagos Support Association to the Overseas Territories Consultation

 

1. Challenges

What are the main challenges facing your Territory/the Territories?

The repatriation and resettlement of the islanders who were illegally expelled between 1968-73 is the paramount aim of the Chagossian community and their supporters.

We in the UKChSA believe (a belief that is evidentially supported) that a viable resettlement is possible but will require limited government support and funding. We in the UKChSA, believe that an initial ecologically sustainable community could be established as a ‘bridgehead’ on the outer islands. BIOT’s people ask only for parity of support with the people of other UK overseas territories (Pitcairn, Tristan da Cunha are remoter than BIOT, for example and have tiny populations yet receive substantial governmental support).

We would remind the UK government that the right to return to the outer islands was restored by Robin Cook in November 2000 but withdrawn by the FCO in June 2004 by use of the Royal Prerogative.

 

2. Cooperation with the UK

What are the most important areas of cooperation between your Territory/the Territories and the UK?

Cooperation between the UK and the returning population of BIOT will be key initially and UK governmental budgetary support, would (alongside international donors) be required as the returning Chagossians re-establish their communities but such support, we contest is within modest and manageable levels.

In what areas would you like to see greater engagement and interaction between the UK and your Territory/the Territories?

We believe that HMG should cease its opposition to the return of the Chagossian people to their homeland, a homeland from which they were illegally expelled. This would include the UK government withdrawing its defence against the case which is currently before the ECHR.

How can the UK and your Territory/the Territories strengthen cooperation and build more effective partnerships?

Whilst we believe that the people of the Chagos islands would seek to build strong relations with the UK following resettlement, it is too early to speak about building cooperation whilst the UK government continues to uphold the exile of BIOT’s indigenous people and prevents them from returning to their homeland.

 

3. Governance, financial management and economic planning

How do you assess the quality of good governance, public financial management and economic planning in your Territory/the Territories?

Regrettably the indigenous people of BIOT have been in exile at least since the early 1970s and have not been able to experience any of the above benefits in BIOT.

What are the priorities for improvement?

Repopulation of BIOT and the restoration of environmentally sustainable communities in the Outer Islands.

How can the UK best work with your Territory/the Territories to strengthen these areas?

Please see above.

 

4. External support

What do you think of the quality and range of external support (i.e. support other than from the UK) available to your Territory/the Territories, including from regional bodies, the Commonwealth, and the European Union?

Regrettably the indigenous people of BIOT have been in exile since the early 1970s and have not been able to experience any of the above in BIOT.

What can the UK best do to help Territories access external support?

Assist the returning Chagossian community (financially and logistically) with the establishment of an administration or the administrative capability to represent them in dealings with such bodies.

 

5. Cooperation between Territories

What potential do you see for increased cooperation and partnership between Territories?

Before Chagossians can speak of co-operation and partnership with people of other Overseas Territories, they should be able to enjoy the same rights of abode as the citizens of such territories.

In which areas does your Territory/the Territories provide support to other Territories? How might this be expanded?

The Chagossian community is currently exiled from its homeland and spread substantially across three countries – it is not in a position to provide support to other Territories or play their full part in the family of territories or otherwise.

 

6. Global profile of the Territories

How does your Territory/the Territories promote its successes?

The eviction of the indigenous population of BIOT in order that Diego Garcia could be made available to the US is a clear failure of UK policy towards the people of one of its overseas territories.

What more could be done to raise Territories’ profile internationally?

We believe that by restoring the right of abode of BIOT’s indigenous population, the British government would send a strong and positive human rights message globally that we no longer operate double standards, despite decades of the violation of the fundamental human rights of the Chagossian people.

How can the UK best support this?

By restoring and supporting the return of the Chagossian people to their homeland.