Date: Mon, 24 Nov 97 15:46:20 CST
Subject: Challenge UK f US On US Military Base in Indian Ocean
From email@example.com Fri Oct 31 01:35:37 1997
Subject: Diego: back to the people of Mauritius!
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 12:44:42 +-400
Please find enclosed an open letter that the LALIT movement of Mauritius has sent to Tony Blair on a very important issue concerning British Colonialism and the campaign against the US milltary Base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
This letter was written in the context of the retrocession of Hong Kong.
Your support in this campaign will be most welcome.
For any further information, please email us.
for LALIT, Mauritius
153 Main Road, Grand River North West, Port Louis,
Republic of Mauritius
Mr. Tony Blair,
10 Downing Street, London.
(via British High Commissioner,
1st July, 1997.
We choose today to address you this open letter demanding the return of Diego Garcia and the whole of the Chagos Archipelago to the Republic of Mauritius because it is the very day of the return of Hong Kong to the Republic of China. It is a day when peop le are obliged to remember the cruelties of colonization and to think of making repair.
British colonization still persists, even after the end of colonization in Hong Kong. As you know, Britain still occupies the British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT). This colony, consisting of 65 islands, was dismembered from Mauritius, as part of an illegal condition for Independence, and the BIOT was set up as a brand new colony as late as 1968. All the islands concerned were cruelly "depopulated" by the British State, an act described in an editorial in the Washington Post of 11th September, 1975 as "This act of mass kidnapping". Until today, the British Government rents the BIOT to the United States Armed Forces. They, in turn, use Diego Garcia not as a "communications station" as the British government at the time officially pretended they would, but as a huge, full-scale milita ry base, literally bristling with nuclear installations. Thus, the beautiful coral island, described by an Englishman shipwrecked on it in 1786 as "one of the wonderful phenomena of the globe" is now an Anglo-American military enterprise.
The last Conservative Government re-iterated Britain's admission that the colony ought eventually to be returned to Mauritius. We quote from Mr. Howell, former British High Commissioner to Mauritius, who in a letter to the Mauritian former Prime Minister in July 1992, admitted: "The British Government has always acknowledged that Mauritius has a legitimate interest in the future of these islands and recognizes the Government of the Republic of Mauritius as the only State which has a right to assert a claim to sovereignty when the United Kingdom relinquishes its own sovereignty. The British Government has therefore given an undert aking to the Government of the Republic of Mauritius that, when the islands are no longer needed for the defense purposes of the United Kingdom and the United States, they will be ceded to Mauritius." We think it is high time now.
With the advent of a new Labour Government, under your leadership, we think that it would be in keeping with general anti-colonial sentiments and commitments of the Labour Party that the Labour Party at once begin a process of the return of this territory to Mauritius.
This would be particularly apt, as it was actually under a Labour Government, that of Mr. Harold Wilson, that, in 1965, the Chagos Archipelago was "excised" by an Order in Her Majesty's Council. It was under a Labour Government that the shameful transfer of 3 million pounds was paid for the "resettling" of the people of the excised islands, the Ilois people. It was also under a Labour Government that as from 1970, the Ilois were forcibly removed from their homes. Ilois families by the hundred were tricked , then cajoled, and then removed forcibly from the islands, the last resisters brought over in slave-like conditions onboard the "Nordvaer", imprisoned temporarily in Seychelles, which was also a British Colony, and then, had it not been for a demonstrati on onboard, they, too, would have been literally "dumped" in the slums of Port Louis to fend for themselves as Ilois preceding them had been. It was under a Labour Government that all this took place. This means that there would be a kind of "poetic justi ce" in a Labour Government being the government that starts procedures for the just retrocession of the Chagos to Mauritius, for the restoring of sovereignty to Mauritius, thus ending another bit of shameful colonial history.
By strange co-incidence, the Labour Party of Mauritius finds itself in power in Mauritius for the first time (outside alliances) since 1982; and it was indeed the Mauritian Labour Party which in 1965 in the pre-Independence "Government" went into the ille gal "deal" for the detachment of the 65 islands. This kind of deal is specifically outlawed by international law, because a colony (or any pre-Independence government) is not a separate entity yet, and is therefore unable to enter into any type of contrac t or treaty. In fact, what this kind of "deal" amounts to is the British state making a deal with a part of itself, its pre-independence Mauritian Cabinet. The Labour Party of Mauritius knows that the deal was illegal, and knew full well at the time, as well. Those on both sides of the illicit agreement are thus in power at the moment and are thus in a position to make historic amends.
At the very same time as your new government has been elected, there have been certain key British documents until now classified as "defense secrets" (file number FO 371/184523) which have recently been de-classified and made public in a series of press articles in Week End in Mauritius. These documents reveal the 1964 Anglo-American survey, the United States insistence on getting "the whole Chagos Archipelago", and revealed the "price" in terms not only of the so-called "3 million pounds compensation", but also in terms of a quota of sugar being allowed into the US market!
The then Colonial Secretary, Anthony Greenwood, was quite rightly concerned: "We may have a rough time at the United Nations but we are prepared for that", he wrote. These "new" documents were not available at the time of the Congressional hearing in the USA on the question of Diego Garcia, and their availability means that we can press for the US Congress to take the matter up again.
UN Resolution number 1514 is quite unambiguous in referring to the inalienable right of colonial peoples to Independence. In addition, there have been a number of bold United Nations Resolutions about the illegality of Anglo-American occupation of the Cha gos and the necessity for the retrocession of the Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, for example Resolution 2066 (XX) of 1965, which the UK government naturally did not sign, instructing Britain "to take no action which would dismember the Territory of Mauritius and (not) to violate its territorial integrity". The 1971 Indian Ocean Zone of Peace resolution, has also continued to be violated.
Britain also clearly violated Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 at the time, as : "No-one should be subjected to...exile". At the Organization for African Unity there have also been quite unequivocal resolutions. Until today they stand.
The retrocession of Chagos has also been an on-going demand of the Non-Aligned Movement (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1980 and until today). Battles here in Mauritius for retrocession and demilitarization Over the years in Mauritius there have been ongoing protests, petitions, demonstrations, hunger strikes, processions, and street riots for the who is in prison in London, after having been tried in a BIOT court on Diego Garcia. He was working as a contra ct worker at the US base, and got into a fight with someone. Instead of being tried in Mauritius, he was tried by BIOT, and sent to prison in London.
We remind you that in keeping with the fact that the "excision" of 1965 was null and void because of being contrary to UN General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XXV) and 2066, the Constitution of Mauritius reads as follows: (Sec. 111): "Mauritius includes - ( a) the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, Tromelin, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius".
We, in LALIT, intend to help to build up an international movement for the demilitarization of the Chagos Archipelago, and for the end to this last bit of British colonization in the Indian Ocean. We hope that your Labour Party Government will contribute to this ongoing movement for progress, and make a clean break with the politics of previous British regimes.