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CHAGOS ISLANDS – STEALING A NATION – THE CORRUPTION THAT MAKES UNPEOPLE OF AN ENTIRE NATION

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 28, 2008

28/11/2008

CHAGOS ISLANDS – STEALING A NATION – by John Pilger

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The native islanders of the Chagos archipelago were forcibly removed from the CHAGOS' FLAGislands by the British Government at that time to make way for an American military airbase during the Cold War. They were forgotten about and left to wither in poverty in the slums of Mauritius. They have been fighting to be allowed to return home ever since, and despite the British courts ruling in favour of this the Government has managed to block that decision, and the Chagossians remain in their enforced purgatory to this day.

STEALING A NATION (John Pilger, 2004) is an extraordinary film about the plight of people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean – secretly and brutally expelled from their homeland by British governments in the late 1960s CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGOand early 1970s, to make way for an American military base. The base, on the main island of Diego Garcia, was a launch pad for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Stealing a Nation has won both the Royal Television Society’s top award as Britain’s best documentary in 2004-5, and a ‘Chris Award’ at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. A brochure of the film is available at http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/guides/stealguide.pdf. On April 8, 2008, the Chagos Islanders have launched a national Campaign for Resettlement of their islands – go to www.letthemreturn.com. For more information and updates on the plight of the Chagossians, visit the website of the UK Chagos Support Association at www.chagossupport.org.uk.

Other references and articles on the story are as listed below: CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO

http://www.chagos.org/home.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politic…

Islanders who wait in vain for justice and a paradise lost
Evicted from their tropical idyll in a military deal, victorious in three legal hearings, they now face another battle to be allowed home – From The Times – November 9, 2007

THE CORRUPTION THAT MAKES UNPEOPLE OF AN ENTIRE NATION

27 Nov 2008

In his column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the latest chapter in theCHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO extraordinary story of the ‘mass kidnapping’ of the people of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean, British citizens expelled from their homeland to make way for an American military base. On 22 October, Britain’s highest court of appeal, the Law Lords, demonstrated how British power words at its apex by handing down a transparently political judgement that dismissed the Magna Carta and banned an entire nation from ever going home.

I went to the Houses of Parliament on 22 October to join a disconsolate group of shivering people who had arrived from a faraway tropical place and were being prevented from entering the Public Gallery to hear their fate. This was not headline news; the BBC reporter seemed almost CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING IN LONDONembarrassed. Crimes of such magnitude are not news when they are ours, and neither is injustice or corruption at the apex of British power.

Lizette Talatte was there, her tiny frail self swallowed by the cavernous stone grey of Westminster Hall. I first saw her in a Colonial Office film from the 1950s which described her homeland, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as a paradise long settled by people “born and brought up in conditions most tranquil and benign”. Lizette was then 14 years old. She remembers the producer saying to her and her friends, “Keep smiling, girls!”. When we met in Mauritius, four years ago, she said: “We didn’t need to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in Diego Garcia. My great-grandmother was born there, and I made six children there. Maybe only the English can make a film that showed we were an established community, then deny their own evidence and invent the lie that we were transient workers.”CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING - STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ROYAL COURT OF JUSTICE IN LONDON

During the 1960s and 1970s British governments, Labour and Tory, tricked and expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, more than 2,000 British citizens, so that Diego Garcia could be given to the United States as the site for a military base. It was an act of mass kidnapping carried out in high secrecy. As unclassified official files now show, Foreign Office officials conspired to lie, coaching each other to “maintain” and “argue” the “fiction” that the Chagossians existed only as a “floating population”. On 28 July 1965, a senior Foreign Office official, T C D Jerrom, wrote to the British representative at the United Nations, instructing him to lie to the General Assembly that the Chagos Archipelago was “uninhabited when the United Kingdom government first acquired it”. Nine years later, the Ministry of Defence went further, lying CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING - Louis Olivier Bancoult, (2nd L) Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, holds his grandson Julien aloft outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British Government to make way for the Diego Garcia US airbase won their legal battle to return home Wednesday. The decision upholds two previous rulings in favour of the islanders, granting them rights of abodethat “there is nothing in our files about inhabitants [of the Chagos] or about an evacuation”.

“To get us out of our homes,” Lizette told me, “they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs. The American soldiers who had arrived to build the base backed several of their big vehicles against a brick shed, and hundreds of dogs were rounded up and imprisoned there, and they gassed them through a tube from the trucks’ exhaust. You could hear them crying. Then they burned them on a pyre, many still alive.”

Lizette and her family were finally forced on to a rusting freighter and made to lie on a cargo of bird fertiliser during a voyage, through stormy seas, to the slums of Port Louis, Mauritius. Within A demonstrator demanding her return to the Chagos Islands in the Diego Garcia archipelago shouts during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 22, 2008. Britain's highest court ruled in favour of the British government on Wednesday, blocking the return of hundreds of Chagos Island people to their homes in the south Indian Ocean after nearly 40 years of exile. The decision by the House of Lords ends a years-long battle to secure the Chagos Islanders the right to return to their archipelago, from where they were forcibly removed in the 1960s and '70s to make way for an American airbase on Diego Garcia.months, she had lost Jollice, aged eight, and Regis, aged ten months. “They died of sadness,” she said. “The eight-year-old had seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. The doctor said he could not treat sadness.”

Since 2000, no fewer than nine high court judgments have described these British government actions as “illegal”, “outrageous” and “repugnant”. One ruling cited Magna Carta, which says no free man can be sent into exile. In desperation, the Blair government used the royal prerogative – the divine right of kings – to circumvent the courts and parliament and to ban the islanders from even visiting the Chagos. When this, too, was overturned by the high court, the government was rescued by the law lords, of whom a majority of one (three to two) found for the government in a scandalously inept, political manner. In the weasel, almost flippant words of LordChagos Islanders look on while Louis Olivier Bancoult (R), Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, addresses the media outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British Government to make way for the Diego Garcia US airbase won their legal battle to return home Wednesday. The decision upholds two previous rulings in favour of the islanders, granting them rights of abode Hoffmann, “the rightof abode is a creature of the law. The law gives it and the law takes it away.” Forget Magna Carta. Human rights are in the gift of three stooges doing the dirty work of a government, itself lawless.

As the official files show, the Chagos conspiracy and cover-up involved three prime ministers and 13 cabinet ministers, including those who approved “the plan”. But elite corruption is unspeakable in Britain. I know of no work of serious scholarship on this crime against humanity. The honourable exception is the work of the historian Mark Curtis, who describes the Chagossians as “unpeople”.

The reason for this silence is ideological. Courtier commentators and media historians obstruct our CHAGOS ISLANDERS IN FORCED EXILE - Dervillie Permal and his wifeview of the recent past, ensuring, as Harold Pinter pointed out in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, that while the “systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought” in Stalinist Russia were well known in the west, the great state crimes of western governments “have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented”.

Typically, the pop historian Tristram Hunt writes in the Observer (23 November): “Nestling in the slipstream of American hegemony served us well in the 20th century. The bonds of culture, religion, language and ideology ensured Britain a postwarLouis Olivier Bancoult, Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, celebrates outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. The High Court on Wednesday upheld a ruling letting families return to their Indian Ocean island homes, from where they were forced out 30 years ago to make way for a US military base. The Court of Appeal backed a High Court ruling in May last year that allowed the families to return to the Chagos Islands, except for Diego Garcia, a launchpad for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain expelled some 2,000 people from the Chagos Islands, 500 kilometres (310 miles) south of the Maldives, to Mauritius and the Seychelles in the 1960s and 1970s, allowing it to lease Diego Garcia to Washington for 50 years economic bailout, a nuclear deterrent and the continuing ability to ‘punch above our weight’ on the world stage. Thanks to US patronage, our story of decolonisation was for us a relatively painless affair…”

Not a word of this drivel hints at the transatlantic elite’s Cold War paranoia, which put us all in mortal danger, or the rapacious Anglo-American wars that continue to claim untold lives. As part of the “bonds” that allow us to “punch above our weight”, the US gave Britain a derisory $14m discount off the price of Polaris nuclear missiles in exchange for the Chagos Islands, whose “painless decolonisation” was etched on Lizette Talatte’s face the other day. Never forget, Lord Hoffmann, that she, too, will die of sadness.

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