‘.io’ IT Start-ups join fight for Chagossian justice

Posted in .io, Campaign, resettlement on March 13th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 2 Comments

When the UK Government ordered the deportation of Chagossians from the Chagos Islands in late sixties and early seventies, they lost all rights to their.IO homeland. Although it did not exist at the time, this now includes the valuable “.io” domain name, associated with the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official name for the UK-controlled Indian Ocean Archipelago in which Chagossians had lived since the 18th century.

Now IT start-ups Seats.io and BigBoards.io are leading calls for various fellow companies using the domain name to back the Chagossian people’s fight for justice. This comes just weeks before the UK Government is committed to deciding on whether to support the Chagossian people’s long fight to returnbb to the Islands.

Seats.io’s ‘Chief Everything Officer’ Ben Verbeken explains “We will launch ‘thedarksideof.io’ soon, where companies can pledge to match the cost of registering their ‘.io’ domain name with a donation to a Chagossian group or charity.” The site will also act to spread awareness of the ongoing suffering of Chagossians in exile.

The start-up firm chose to act after learning about the forced expulsion of the Chagossian people from their homes late last year, and its association with the .io domain name the company uses.

Mr Verbeken stated that “When we learned about the Chagossian people’s story, we had two choices. We could give up our domain name and change the seats.io2name of our business. But we would just be running away from the problem. So we decided to accept our social responsibility and actually help the Chagossian people a bit.”

We agree with Mr Verbeken that the only long-term solution is “for control of the domain name and associated revenue to be returned the Islands’ native people.” As well as important finanical benefits which contribute to a vibrant returned Chagossian economy, this would have important symbolic significance.

For now, however, we encourage companies using the .io domain name to follow the fantastic example of Seats.io and BigBoards.io and get behind the campaign. With the Government committed to resolving the issue before the election there’s never been a better time to get behind the Chagossian fight for justice.

Look out for our full interview with Seats.io’s Ben Verbeken which will be published shortly.

William Hague: We “can not guarantee” decison on Chagossian return

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Leader of the House William Hague has said he “cannot guarantee” a Government decision on Chagossian return to their homeland before Parliament parliamentconcludes  at the end of this month. This is despite promises from Ministers that the issue would be resolved before the election.

Speaking in Parliament, he was responding to a question from Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Chairperson Jeremy Corbyn MP (full text of their exchange is below).

Following the submission of the final version of a feasibility study commissioned by the Government, which indicated successful Chagossian return was entirely possible, the Government launched a “policy review.”

Minister had though pledged that a decision would be reached and a definitive statement made prior to the election. If a statement is not made prior to the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March, it is extremely unlikely one would be made before the election.

Failure to reach a decision would be yet another shameful broken promise to the Chagossian people.This administration has a unique opportunity to deliver justice for the Chagossian people and leave a positive legacy. We urge Ministers to make this a priority and make the only just, fair and reasonable decision to support Chagossians’ right to return home.

Jeremy Corbyn and William Hague’s Exchange in full

Jeremy Corbyn (Chairperson of All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands)

Last week, I raised with the Leader of the House the question of a statement by the Government on the future of the Chagos islands in respect of the feasibility of return report that has been done. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that tomorrow I am attending a meeting at the Foreign Office with Mr Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagos Refugee Group. Will he please ensure that between now and Dissolution, the Government make a statement on their policy on the right of return in order to allow the historical wrong of the expulsion of the islanders from those islands finally to be put right, as promised by his Government at the start of this Parliament. We were promised that a decision would be made in this Parliament. There is a week to go.

William Hague (Leader of the House and Former Foreign Secretary)

The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing champion of this cause and is very assiduous in pursuing it. As he knows and as we have discussed before, there has been an extensive and major report—one I initiated when I was Foreign Secretary—on the feasibility or otherwise of habitation of the Chagos islands or parts of them. That is being considered very seriously by the Government. I cannot guarantee to the hon. Gentleman a statement about it before Dissolution, given that we have nearly arrived there. I can tell him that the Government are giving detailed consideration at the highest level to the report, but I do not know when a decision will be made.

 

Short Film on Edinburgh Chagos Mural

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Film-maker and political activist Gillian Morrison has produced an excellent short-film detailing the making of a recent mural depicting the suffering of the Chagossian people. Sited at the heart of Edinburgh’s Princes Street in the grounds of St John’s Church, the film also touches on some of the more disgraceful aspects of the UK’s treatment of the Chagossian people across the decades. Watch her fantastic work below.

As we mentioned last week when reporting on the mural, Gillian in fact deserves vast credit for initiating the the project after contacting us via Twitter and speaking with the project’s chief artist Mike Greenlaw at a local pro-Scottish Independence venue. This is precisely the type of energetic and pro-active activism we need to win Chagossians’ long denied right to return home.

If Gillian’s piece has inspired you get involved with the Chagossian campaign, GOOD NEWS-there’s much you can do, see here on how to sign petitions, donate, raise awareness and lobby Parliament.

News Peeks: Diego Garcia Part 2

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Feasability Study, resettlement, Wikileaks on March 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

A few weeks ago News Peeks, a newly established political analysis website aimed at young people, published part one of their excellent short documentary on the history of the Chagos Islands. Now they have published part 2, which you can watch below.

 

Whereas the first video focused on the grim reality of Chagossians’ forced deportation from their homeland, the latest offering details the sufferings and frustrations underwent during forty-plus years of exile. Testimony from a range of Chagossians and their supporters explains how, over the course of decades, the British Government has failed to live up to legal and moral obligations to the exiled Islanders.

Touched on towards the end of the film is the vital point that a feasibility study has recently demonstrated Chagossian return home could be successful economically, environmentally and socially. To support the return 2015 campaign, please sign the petitionwrite to your MP and read more about how you can help win Chagossian justice here.

Architecture and Activism: Chagossian Campaign Event

Posted in Campaign, Cultural, resettlement on March 6th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

For those of you not lucky enough to make it the recent Architecture and Activism at the Royal College of the Arts, we thought we’d put together a brief summary.

The event itself was a ‘progress show,’ in which the architects involved explained their projects and opened a discussion about their work. The final version of the projects, including Rosa Rogina’s ‘Right to Abode’ piece on the Chagossian struggle to return home, are scheduled to be completed this summer.

Models of certain elements of a returned Chagossian settlement will be created as part of the final project. The central feature at this exhibition, however,

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton's Royal College of the Arts

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton’s Royal College of the Arts

was the mocked up Guardian report of Chagossians’ winning their right to return home (pictured right)-a headline we hope to see for real in the near future.

Prior to the event Roch Evenor, former UK Chagos Support Association Chair and native of Peros Banhos, met with Ms Rogina to discuss the project. The inset picture of Mr Evenor with the mocked up paper was also taken at this meeting.

The event itself included speeches and discussions about the campaign to win justice for Chagossians and the challenges it faced. For a large number of attendees, it was the first time they had heard about the suffering and exile of the Chagossian people, and their shock and horror was clear to see. People from a variety of backgrounds found themselves able to relate to terrible injustices meted out to Chagossians.

Commenting on the event, Ms Rogina said that “I am very happy that there was a great interest shown not only from Chagossian community and the campaigners but as well from people who are not directly involved in the ‘Return 2015 Campaign’. I’ve got the impression that some potentially very interesting connections emerged from the event.”

Expanding on her plans for the project going forward, Ms Rogina added that

Now it is time to implement everything researched and discussed in the actual design proposal. Although it is a speculative project without a real commission, the idea is to use this opportunity and as a final product deliver a tangible proposal that would be later of use for the Chagossian community and ‘Return 2015 Campaign’ itself. The design process will be based on the community involvement through informal consultations and conversations about how one envisions the resettlement. It is crucial to involve possible final users through all the stages of the design and I must say I am very lucky there seems to be an interest within the Chagossian community to engage.”

Jeremy Corbyn demands Chagossian return decison in Parliament

Posted in Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Parliament, resettlement, William Hague on March 5th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has pushed Leader of the House, and former Foreign Secretary, William Hague to ensure a decision on Chagossian return to their homeland is made before the election. You can read the exchange in full below.corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn:The Leader of the House is well aware that a number of colleagues have raised the issue of the Chagos Islands many times during business questions. When he was Foreign Secretary, he commissioned the KPMG report on the feasibility of right of return. We are waiting for a statement to be made to the House so that Ministers can be questioned and the issue debated. It was promised that the issue would be resolved before the end of this Parliament, but we have only a short time to go.

William Hague: This is an important report on an important issue and the hon. Gentleman and I have often discussed it. Indeed, as Foreign Secretary I set up the new feasibility study. A very extensive and detailed report has now been produced, and my ministerial colleagues in the Foreign Office are considering it in detail. It will also need to be considered across the whole of Government. I am sure it is better to look at it in great detail than to rush to decisions about it, so I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a timetable for any announcement, but I will tell my colleagues that he is asking about it and that there is interest in it in Parliament. We will consider it within Government as rapidly as possible.

Parliament will close down prior to the election at the end of March. In effect then there are only three weeks in which to have a debate and for the Government to make a decision. Mr Hague does claim the decision will be made “rapidly” but states he can not provide a “timetable.”

Failure to make a decision prior to the election, or a failure to have a debate in Parliament on the decision, would be yet another broken promise to the Chagossian people from the UK Government.

Henry Smith Speaks Out In Interview on Chagossian Return Campaign

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Crawley, Parliament, resettlement on March 4th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

“I’m not from the Chagos Islands, but if I was told I wasn’t allowed to return to the place in which I was born, I’d think that a grave human rights abuse. And it is no different for the Chagos Islanders. Henry Smith MP

Watch below our recent conversation with Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, as he comments on his Chagossian constituents’ hopes for justice, the history of the islands and his personal feelings about the long, hard fight for return.

Below, meanwhile, watch him forensically refute the arguments against giving Chagossians’ their natural right to return home.

 

Why Chagossian return can be a success: Henry Smith MP’s Analysis

 

Find out how you, like Henry Smith, can support the Chagossian fight for justice.

Edinburgh Mural tells the story of Chagossian exile

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, Cultural, Edinburgh on March 3rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

There’s over six thousand miles between Diego Garcia and Edinburgh. Thanks to the joint efforts of film-maker Gillian Morrison, artist Mike Greenlaw and his associate Greg Mitchell, however, one prime spot in the Scottish capital is spreading the word about the forced deportation, exile and long hard fight for return of the Chagossian people.

The exciting new art project is a powerfully simple depiction of almost half a century of injustice. Completed under the banner of Artists for Justice and Peace, the work is currently available to view at St John’s Church on Princes Street, bang in the centre of in Edinburgh. Pictures in this case paint many thousands of words so have a look below.

 

Gillian and Mike became acquainted with one another, and indeed the fight for the Chagossian justice, via the Edinburgh South ‘Yes Cafe,’ which in part acts as a social and political hub for pro-Scottish independence activists. The cafe has hosted screenings of the John Pilger film ‘Stealing a Nation’ and is planning further events to promote the Chagossian cause.

The artist Mike Greenlaw explained that St John’s had a long and proud tradition of political murals. Mike noted that “my work on the

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Chagossian people’s struggle is the latest mural in a 32 year history of murals at St. John’s, which has encompassed issues such as apartheid, the conflict in Israel/Palestine, environmental Issues, world poverty and nuclear arms.”

“I hope that my work might help to raise some awareness of the plight of the people of the Chagos Islands,” he added explaining the motivation behind his choosing the Chagossian cause as the subject for his piece.

Gillian Morrison, as well as orchestrating the whole project, is currently making a film about the Chagossian people’s deportation, suffering in exile and fight to return. We look forward to seeing the final version and are hugely appreciative of Gillian’s interest in this often overlooked, appalling and ongoing human rights abuse.

Many thanks are due to Gillian who put a lot of effort into bringing this work into being, and of course to Mike for creating such a beautiful representation of the terrible injustice suffered by the Chagossian people.

Newly appointed UK Chagos Support Association Patron and celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah thanked those involved for their work and added that he hoped the art work would motivate people to support the return campaign.

“2015 is a massive opportunity to win a measure of justice for the Chagossian people. The Government have committed to making a decision on supporting return prior to the election, we need more people demanding our MPs support the Chagossians’ simple human right to go home. We are hugely grateful to Mike, Gillian and Greg for delivering this fantastic project and beautiful artwork, which spreads the word on the urgency of ending decades of oppression.”

The final scene of the mural, viewable above, calls on readers to take action, by writing to your MP and generally making your voice heard. We certainly echo this demand and ask everyone to take what action they can.

“Chagos Islanders May Finally Return Home” Allgov Article of Chagossian Campaign

Posted in Campaign, Diego Garcia, resettlement on March 1st, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Keeping our focus on the other side of the Atlantic, US Government scrutiny news site Allgov has published a new article on the fight of the All GovChagossian people to return home.

The short piece takes quotes from this website about the heartlessness of the deportation and the appalling conditions of exile. It also notes the comments of Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell to The Observer that failure to restore the right of return was becoming “inconceivable.”

With the agreement allowing the US use of Diego Garcia set to expire in 2016, anything our American friends can do ensure the US Government accept their moral responsibility to the Chagossian people is hugely appreciated. We need to raise awareness all around the world.

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK's official name for the Chagos Islands

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK’s official name for the Chagos Islands

Of course Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands in the end remain British Overseas Territories. The responsibility for their future then in the final reckoning lies with the UK Government who should insist any extension of the deal is conditional on US support for Chagosssian return.

Letter to Obama: Chagossian Return Campaigners John Loader and Alan Donaldson Write

Posted in Campaign on February 28th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Our veteran supporter John Loader has, with his son-in-law and fellow campaigner Alan Donaldson, written formally to US President Barack

John at home recently, with campaign materials.

John at home recently, with campaign materials.

Obama demanding the US Administration support the Chagossian people’s right to return home. John, a Second World War veteran who spent time on Diego Garcia in 1945, has campaigned for Chagossians right to return for decades after being appalled by the deportation of a people he

grew to greatly love and respect. You can see a clip from John’s film “A Few Wartime Memories of Diego Garica” here.

First though, read the powerful text of his letter below.

 

Mr President,

I am writing on behalf of my 94 year old father-in-law, John Loader. We first wrote to you at the start of the first term of your Presidency and now we write to you towards the end of your time in office. John Loader served on Diego Garcia during World War II. He grew to love the people of those islands.

We are hoping that you will make one huge humanitarian gesture before you leave office and allow them to return to their homeland. We believe, as many do, that the injustice done to this peace loving people by the British and American Governments was as bad as that done to the African natives taken into slavery in America.

We are sure that you will have feelings for these matters and enabling their return would give you great comfort in your well-earned retirement. We note that a recent feasibility study suggested that there were no physical, environmental or habitation reasons why they should not be allowed to return.

John still campaigns for their cause and has made recent generous donations to the, “Let them Return” initiative. Below is a picture of him taken a few days ago, please note the poster behind him. No person who visits his home gets away without being told the tragic  story of the Chagossians.

We send the updated DVDs of those that we sent you in the past. We hope that you and your family will take time to watch them. You could also dispel a rumour that was reinforced last time we wrote to you, as you did not reply, that your aids never let such “trivia” get to you. A letter from you, no matter how short, to John, would make his world! Our best wishes in anticipation of your decision.

 

Although Diego Garcia and the whole Chagos Archipelago remain British territory, the Chagossian forced deportation of the 1960s and 1970s was prompted by an agreement to allow the US the use of Diego Garcia for fifty years. A still extant military base, known-unbelievably-as ‘Camp Justice’ was constructed there.

This agreement expires in 2016 and the UK could, should and must insist any extension is conditional on US support for return. Any

Obama's predecessor George Bush on a visit to Diego Garcia

Obama’s predecessor George Bush on a visit to Diego Garcia

commitment from President Obama would though be a massive boost for the Chagossian campaign.

In the original US-UK deal on Diego Garcia, the UK recieved an £11 million (worth £200 million today) discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system. Rather than weapons of mass destruction, this deal must support justice for the Chagossian people, and this sum could pay for Chagossian return several times over.

John and Alan have been committed supporters of the Chagossian cause for many years and we are happy to commend their letter.