Chagossian return discussed by major South African media outlet
Earlier this month, South African based news agency, the Daily Maverick produced a podcast on the Chagos case, featuring interviews with Allen Vincatassin, elected President of a Provisional Government several years ago, coordinator of the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group David Snoxell and Chair of the UK Chagos Support Association Stefan Donnelly. You can listen to full podcast by clicking on the Youtube link.
The piece began with a reflection on the devastating effects of colonialism across Africa, emphasising the awful reality of the Chagossians story, a people still dealing with the aftermath of a shameful past. Allen Vincatassin, the Chagos Islands President in exile shared his own story with listeners, describing the human repercussions of Chagossian expulsion. He recalled the manager of his father’s plantation bluntly informing them one day that “the island was closed”, Allen like many others sent to Mauritius in order to make way for the US’s military base on Diego Garcia.
Listeners heard how Chagossians were “dumped on the wharf” with no food, no shelter, no means of support, forced “to make their way in a country where they were second class citizens”. Allen was raised in Mauritius by his grandparents, his mother sent to the Seychelles. Like many others he had his family torn apart as well as his home torn away. Allen shared with listeners the difficulties of life in Mauritius, as well as the substandard compensation Chagossians received at the expense of repatriation.
Despite this, Allen concludes his interview hopefully, looking at the positive steps being made to secure resettlement, noting that success will only come with “forgiveness and cooperation”.
His interview is followed by that of David Snoxell, who reiterates recent optimism for Britain atonement of “one of its most brutal acts”. Snoxell looks back on his role as Mauritian high commissioner, noting the “clearly ...fractious relationship” he had with the Chagossians community; “I was representing the UK, not my own personal views... in fact I was very much on their side, I fully agreed that they should be able to return to their homeland”.
Snoxell’s language is strong, stating in no uncertain terms that Chagossian exile was “one of the most egregious breaches of fundamental human rights” committed by Britain in the 20th century.
He highlights the good work of the Chagos Islands APPG which he now coordinates, hopeful of a government decision on resettlement by the end of the summer recess. Snoxell draws attention to the recent meeting between David Cameron and Barack Obama, emphasising the centrality of this year to the future of the Chagos Islands. He concludes that “there are really no solid objections on the part of the US” to stop Chagossian resettlement, positive that the Chagossian community will fight their case till the very end.
The podcast ends with an interview with our very own Chair, Stefan Donnelly, who emphasises the need for a UK/US agreement to mutually accept and facilitate Chagossian return. He asks listeners to share the Chagossian story far and wide. “Stand up for these brave and resilient people”, they can’t do this without your support.