Posted by: secretperson | October 23, 2008

Demand Justice for Chagos Islanders

The Chagos Islands, first ceded to Britain after the defeat of Napolean lie in the Indian ocean, 300 miles south of the Maldives. There residents were expelled by the British government in the 60s and 70s under an agreement with the American government, which built, and still retains, a military base on Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos Islands.

To this day, the Chagossians have been campaigning to be restored to their homeland, without success. The High Court had ruled they could return in 2000, but the government overruled this, using the Royal Prerogative in 2004. And now a Law Lords ruling has ruled this is legal. It is likely they will take their case to the European court of Human Rights.

This is a shabby incident in recent British history. At a time in our past when we had supposedly given up the Empire, we treated the Chagossians terribly. Now we have the chance to put things right. It may be legal for the government to act this way (although I am never sure how the use of Royal Prerogative fits with parliamentary sovereignty) but it is certainly not moral.

I do not see how the Diego Garcia base will be damaged by the existence near by of a small population, as this Telegraph editorial observes yachts can sail up at any time. I understand we have already paid some compensation, but given the ridiculous nature of compensation for the slightest of hurt feelings now, surely we could find some small amount of money to return them.

Like the Ghurkas, it is shocking that a court should have to intervene (in this case a European court) over something so small and trivial, but so obviously right. The cost to the government in money or security will be negligible. Why are they making such a fuss?

It just makes no sense to me. The government should be ashamed of their behaviour.


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