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Britain's Treasure Islands shows beauty of Chagos but forgets Chagossian people


Last night a BBC Four documentary called Britain’s Treasure Islands, presented by Stewart McPherson, featured an exploration of the unique environment of the Chagos Islands. The documentary, which can be viewed on BBC Iplayer, includes fascinating high-quality footage of the islands, including those previously inhabited, and the surrounding seas and lagoons.

The programme is part of a series in which presenter Stewart McPherson aims to be the first person to visit all 14 British Overseas Territories.

Despite the merits of the programme, it was disappointing the Islands’ native people got nothing more than a passing reference, as it misleadingly stated “the people who used to run the coconut plantations were resettled in the 1960s.”

Resettled is hardly accurate as Chagossians were dumped on the docks of Mauritius and the Seychelles, with promised compensation often not arriving for many years or at all. Chagossians’ expulsion from their homeland was neither voluntary or optional: it was a UK Government edict.

Other Overseas Territories mentioned in the programme included the Pitcairn Islands and Bermuda. The people and history of these places were rightly given plenty of attention, but the native people of Chagos were not mentioned. Nor was the unique history of the Chagossian people-from their arrival on the islands as slaves to their brutal deportation under UK Government orders and their ongoing campaign to win return-properly addressed.

The story of Chagos can not be told without the Chagossian people, any more than the story of Pitcairn can be told without the story the Bounty Mutineers.

The BBC have asked for feedback on the programme via their ‘Points of View’ Twitter and Facebook pages. If you would like to share your views after watching, leave them a comment there or email pov@bbc.co.uk.

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