The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 28th meeting on 14 March 2012.
The Group discussed the reactions to its proposal, made at the last meeting, that the Chagos Islands should be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in conjunction with Mauritius and the Chagossians. While the Group understood the reasons why Mauritius and Chagossian groups had strong reservations at this time to the idea, they believed that it was in the interest of all parties, and that when greater confidence between the FCO and the other parties had been established the proposal could be reconsidered.
The Group was informed of the current situation on the various legal and administrative actions - the Judicial Review of the MPA would be going ahead, the Mauritius case against the MPA under UNCLOS could run for up to 2 years, there was no news from Strasbourg, the appeal to the Information Tribunal was likely to be heard in July, the FAC was still considering the APPG’s request to extend the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner to BIOT. The Group also discussed parliamentary activity and PQs. A request for a debate had not yet succeeded.
The Chairman reported on the meeting that he, Mr Rosindell, Lord Avebury and Mr Evenor had with the Immigration Minister on 22 February. The members had carefully explained the issues to the Minister who seemed fully cognisant of the problem. Mr Green undertook to write to the Chairman. No letter had yet been received.
The Group discussed the announcement by Defra of funding (£288,000 from the Darwin Initiative) for a project to research and promote the Chagos MPA, to be carried out by 3 members of the Chagos Conservation Trust. Members were pleased to note that Chagossian groups in the UK, Mauritius and Seychelles would be involved in workshops etc but questioned whether the two countries concerned and all the Chagossian groups had been consulted before the project was submitted to Defra and whether they wanted to participate. The Group asked to be informed at the next meeting.
The FCO consultation on the Overseas Territories, made public in the morning, was noted. Members wondered why the short paragraph concerning BIOT had not referred to the Chairman’s letter of 29 November to Mr Bellingham, recording the views of the APPG for the Consultation, or even why the contribution was not listed at the end. The Chairman said he would find out, by way of a PQ if necessary.
The Group discussed the impact of the play at Riverside Studios entitled ‘A Few Man Fridays’ and the debates, in which the Chairman had participated, that had been held on the two last Saturdays between performances. Members, who had seen the play, were impressed. The Group commended the producer, Adrian Jackson, and members of the cast for the contribution they had made to raising public awareness of the suffering of the Chagossian people and conducting balanced debates on the various issues, not least conservation and the MPA.
The next meeting will take place on 2 May.