Tuesday 21 December 2010

In Tutela Nostra Limuria

Via Agence France Presse:

Mauritius has filed a protest with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over Britain's creation of a marine park around the Chagos islands, the Indian Ocean state's prime minister said Tuesday. Navinchandra Ramgoolam argues that Britain's environmental project is in fact designed to prevent the return of the refugees it evicted decades ago to turn the islands into a military base.

"The marine reserve was created in violation of the 1982 (United Nations) Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which both Mauritius and the United Kingdom are signatories and which is incompatible with Chagossians' rights," Ramgoolam said. The statement of claim was filed with the Hamburg-based tribunal on Monday and a copy handed to British Foreign Minister William Hague. In the claim, a copy of which was seen by AFP, Mauritius argues that Britain is not qualified to set up a marine reserve.

"Only the Republic of Mauritius can declare declare an exclusive economic zone, in line with clause 5 of the 1982 convention" on the law of the sea, Ramgoolam told reporters in the the capital Port-Louis. Ramgoolam said the statement explains how Britain detached the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius, from where it was administered, just a few years before the 1968 independence. Mauritius, where some 2,000 Chagossians were resettled after their eviction in the 1960s and 1970s, still claims sovereignty over the archipelago. The group of islands is also known as the British Indian Ocean Archipelago.

In April, Britain approved the creation of the world's largest marine reserve around the Chagos islands, in a move that angered Mauritius. "By creating the protected marine area, Great Britain did not take into account Mauritius' rights and those of the Chagossians it shamefully evicted from Chagos," Ramgoolam said. He claimed that London never tried to strike an agreement with Mauritius or any relevant regional body over the project. "We know the real reason for the marine reserve: preventing Chagossians from returning to Chagos," the premier added.

A US diplomatic cable recently revealed by WikiLeaks purportedly quotes a British official as saying the marine park would ensure no "Man Fridays" could settle on the Chagos islands. The main island, Diego Garcia, is now populated by an estimated 1,700 US military personnel, 1,500 civilian contractors and around 50 British personnel.

Imagine if we did this to the Falkand Islanders, who were then just told to get on the next boat going anywhere, which would be to Argentina. Argentina could quite reasonably turn round and say, "Well, we sure as hell wouldn't treat you like that". The Chagossians have no desire to be Mauritian, and are not well-treated in Mauritius, which is even worse for them in practice than being not well-treated, to say the very least, by Britain. They remain proudly British, doubtless a contributing factor when the famous David Miliband lied to Parliament in order to create this marine reserve. Over to his brother, I feel.

The British Overseas Territories are British by choice, and those which remain even now always will be. The same is true of the Crown Dependencies. To be British is to be not just any, but at some level all, of English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Manx, Channel Islander, Mediterranean, North American, Caribbean, South American, Southern African Creole, Indian Ocean Creole, and Polynesian. Sort out the problem of the British tax havens. But do so while charging the British people of the Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies only home fees to study at British universities. Do so while building the airport on Saint Helena, and while holding a proper inquiry into the healthcare situation there. Do so while giving justice to the Ascension Islanders and to the Chagossians, in both cases regardless of what a foreign power may think. And do so while recanting David Cameron's pre-Election pledge, barely reported by his media creators, to give a share of Falkland Islands oil revenue to Argentina without requiring the slightest movement on the sovereignty question. Come back, Jim Callaghan.


  1. David,

    The analogy you make between the respective treatments meted out to the Falkland Islanders and the Chagos Islanders is identical to that made by John Pilger is his book, 'Freedom Next Time'.

    Obtain a copy if you can.

  2. I certainly will. I am thinking of a collection of book reviews to keep me out of mischief over the summer of 2011.