• David Snoxell

Mauritian Prime Minister addresses Chagos Islands All-Party Group

This week the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group was addressed a special guest speaker at their regular meeting: the Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

The below coordinator's summary is the meeting is as ever provided by David Snoxell, the coordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands.

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 68th meeting on 16 April. At its invitation the Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, who is visiting London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), addressed the Group.

He was accompanied by the High Commissioner and senior officials from Mauritius. In welcoming the Prime Minister the Chairman, Andrew Rosindell MP, emphasised the longstanding historical, cultural and parliamentary relations between the UK and Mauritius and that notwithstanding any differences both sides held each other in mutual respect.

In his statement (attached) Mr Jugnauth expressed similar sentiments, noting that whatever the differences the enduring relationship with the UK would not be affected. The bilateral relationship was underpinned by shared values of democracy, rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and common parliamentary and legal traditions.

The discussion which followed focused on how to bring about resettlement and on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius and also on resettlement. Mr Jugnauth emphasised Mauritian support for the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago who, once the decolonisation process was complete, would be able to return. Members asked how Mauritius would resettle those who wanted to return and what arrangements there would be for their constitutional status, governance and political representation.

The PM said that they would have the same rights as the inhabitants of the islands of Rodrigues and Agalega (part of Mauritius) and that Mauritius saw no difficulty in organising and funding resettlement.

To questions about the ICJ process and why the issues could not have been resolved in bilateral negotiations the PM expressed disappointment at the UK's earlier implied retaliation if Mauritius pursued a resolution at UN General Assembly (UNGA) and also at the UK's unwillingness to discuss the critical issues but he was always ready to meet and discuss them with the British Government.

The PM was grateful to the Group for its support for an ICJ Advisory Opinion. In discussion it was pointed out that none of the 33 state submissions to the ICJ supported the UK position on its merits though 5 states thought that the ICJ should not consider the UNGA request. The ICJ had set 3 September for oral submissions by Mauritius and the UK. A result was expected about March next year. The PM hoped that the UK would abide by any Advisory Opinion given by the ICJ. It would have no consequences for the existence of the US base on Diego Garcia. Mauritius would continue to support its continuation.

Asked how the issues would be discussed at CHOGM the PM said that he was happy to engage with all Commonwealth members in discussion and in bilateral meetings. It was noted that the UK appeared isolated in the Commonwealth on the substance of the case before the ICJ.

Members discussed with the PM what more the Group could do to help bring about a resolution of the issues. The PM said it was important for the APPG to continue to sensitise Parliament and the public on the issues and suggested that members might benefit from visiting Chagos and Mauritius. Officials suggested that the Group could have a vital role to play in ensuring that the UK respected an ICJ Advisory Opinion. The PM took up a suggestions that Mauritius could help by providing information to the Group on its experience of administering Agalega through its Outer Island Development Company.

Lord Luce gave the vote of thanks to the Prime Minister and his delegation for a very helpful discussion, noting that after nearly ten years and 68 meetings the APPG felt frustrated that progress had not been made. He had no doubt that the UK must put right the wrongs against the Chagossians over their expulsion from their homeland. Lord Luce expressed the hope that the PM would be able to advance the situation in his talks during CHOGM week with Commonwealth Members. On behalf of the APPG he congratulated Mauritius on its recent 50th anniversary of Independence and the progress it had made.

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