Hague and Clegg speak out about Chagossian right of return
With the UK general election campaign in full swing, supporters of the Chagossians’ right of return have this week received messages of support from two men who are destined to play crucial roles in shaping British politics and foreign policy following May 6.
Firstly, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague – the man who will be taking over from David Miliband at the FCO pending an election victory by David Cameron’s Conservatives – has said the following:
I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long-standing dispute.
In his letter, which was written in his capacty as Shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Hague highlighted a recent speech made by his colleague and Shadow FCO Minister Keith Simpson, who pledged that the Conservatives would address the issue of resettlement with an “open mind,” insisting that the Chagossian people “must be placed at the heart of any decisions taken about their homeland” – a stance that couldn’t be more dissimilar from the current Government’s position.
In recent parliamentary debates on Chagos, Conservative MPs such as Mr Simpson, Mark Field, Peter Bottomley, Bill Cash and Anne McIntosh have been vocal in their criticism of the Government’s mistreatment of the Chagossians. Mr Hague’s apparent endorsement of their views and his commitment to find a “fair settlement” to the issue is a welcome indication of what can be expected from a Conservative administration.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg‘s office, whose party would hold the balance-of-power in the House of Commons if the Conservatives were to fall short of an overall majority, has written to say:
“[the] Liberal Democrats take the view that removing the Chagossians in the 1960s was a scandalous decision and this Government has continued to mistreat these people. They have done so in the face of opposition from the UN. Regardless of the legal arguments, Nick and the Liberal Democrats believe that the Government has a moral responsibility to allow these people to at last return home.
We have actively supported their cause in the past and we will continue to aid their campaign to see justice done. We have been appalled that the government has wasted time, money and effort defending the indefensible. It is a disgrace that £2m of taxpayers’ money the government has been squandered in order to uphold this injustice.”
Mr Clegg’s personal support of the Chagossians is bolstered by that of his own Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, as well as other leading Liberal Democrat MPs such as Vince Cable, Jo Swinson, Paul Keetch, Lynne Featherstone, Andrew George, Bob Russell, Tom Brake and Norman Lamb – all of whom signed Labour MP Dianne Abbott’s recent EDM on the Chagos islands that called for the right of return to be restored.
With such positive statements coming from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – not to mention a strong contingent of Labour backbenchers and peers – the Government is now looking more out-of-touch than ever before because of its opposition to restoring the Chagossians’ right of return. Perhaps Gordon Brown, David Miliband and Chris Bryant would care to reflect on that as they seek re-election over the next three weeks.
The prospects of the Chagossians winning a political solution to their campaign for justice are strong – but we need to apply as much pressure as possible. Please lobby your MP and parliamentary candidates to sign up to the right of return being restored by clicking here.