My recent post on the Ghurkhas solicited a furious comment from someone which was in fact about the Shameful treatment of the Chagos Islanders; who? I hear you say well; I had almost forgotten them as well they were somewhere in the back of my mind. The writer's anger and indignation were palpable as he damned the Americans, the British, the Labour Govt, me and everyone else within damning range and he was right, he was spot on. The Govt. have; as far as most people are concerned made the Chagos Islanders disappear, yes Govts. Can and do; do that. This comment reminded me of the old imperalist British mendacity and our obsequious relationship with the USA. Quite simply the USA as part of the cold war wanted a place to put a large military base in the Indian Ocean without the nuisance of people being there, to achieve this they ‘removed the people’ they ‘made them disappear’ chilling phrases I know but true.
With terrifying callousness the Americans arrived and the Islanders were shipped out, the British Labour Govt. led by Harold Wilson which had jurisdiction over the Chagos Islands secretly took a bribe from the Americans in the shape of nuclear weapons at knock down prices to allow this. The Americans preferred another island called Aldabra but; the problem there was not people but rare tortoises. They didn’t want the bad publicity from David Attenborough (bless him) & co. so it was that cut priced nuclear weapons and tortoises officially became more important than people, no this is not the script from a black comedy this happened, it happened in our name.
In November 1965 using an immoral political stunt; an “Order in Council” was used which allowed Britain to rename the islands “the British Indian Ocean Territory” thus rendering the Chagos Islanders stateless, if they didn’t exist they didn’t have rights, and could be treated as ther masters saw fit get it? British fair play aided by the home of the free and land of the brave, pass the sick bag. This crime took place approx. at the time of and ran alongside the Palestinian crime committed by Israel and once again by Britain some 10 years or so earlier and; like the Chagos Islanders still festers away today.
The American Indian, The New Zealand Maori and the Australian Aborigine know this pain; we think of them in historical terms but they are still suffering. Alcoholism, drugs, crime and suicide are rife among them still. History teaches us that these are the results of imperialist crimes over the years.
There are approx. 1,000 of the Chagos Islanders who still yearn to go home, they live miserable lives in exile. Does anyone believe that these people can’t be accommodated and resettled in their own land as has been suggested, it could be done with ease by Britain and America, it is a risible suggestion to say that they can’t be returned, so what is going on?
Is it possible that the Americans and by association the British don’t want people to see what their operation entails on the islands, this is extremely worrying. Make no mistake about it we; the British Labour Government are responsible for this cruelty, I will be writing to my MP to urge the Govt. to clean up this stain on our country.
I urge everyone to do the same, believe me I have been in politics long enough to know that MP’s do not like such letters being sent by constituents, it makes them wonder how many friends the writer has and is talking to, who and what else does the writer have access to etc. it is definitely worth doing, it’s the right and decent thing to do, these people demand and deserve justice, nothing less will do.