By Lindsey Collen for LALIT (Struggle)
Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, is one of the biggest US military bases outside the USA itself. To clear space from it, the people of the islands were deported by the British government, the former colonial ruler. A group of socialists from Mauritius are now sailing on a ship to Diego Garcia to demand the removal of the base and the people's right to return.
Please ask your trade union branch, student union, Labour or SSP MP, union leader, etc. to send a message of support. Email to: email@example.com or write to LALIT, 153 Main Road, Grand River North West, Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius. Tel: 230 208 2132.
Two thousand Chagossians [people of the Chagos Islands] who had lived there for generations were forcibly removed over the period 1965-1973, and dumped on the dockside in Port Louis, Mauritius. Just like that. Homeless. Workless. Disoriented. Never to return to their houses, their bed-side cupboards, their hearths, their vegetable gardens, their society. Never to return to put flowers on the graves of their relatives and ancestors. And left living with the indelible image in their mind of their dogs being gassed. As a warning to them.
So, intersecting with the struggle for peace, there is the Chagossians' long, brave struggle, consistent over thirty years or more, for the right to return. And for dignified reparations to be paid to them and their descendants for the unspeakable harm they have suffered. The human rights struggle of the Chagossians is part of the struggle against the USA-UK political project.
For 30 years the forcible removal of the Chagossians was kept "secret", mainly through the "Official Secrets Act" in the UK. Only in the year 2000 could the Chagossians finally win their landmark Court Case in the UK Courts for the right to return.
The British State still keep the Chagossians away from their home on Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have lost a more recent court case (2003) in the British Courts and are appealing.
Diego Garcia was illegally severed from all the other islands of Mauritius by the British colonial State. It was put together with some Seychelles Islands to make a newly invented colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory. After the Seychelles became independent they negotiated their islands back out of the BIOT. Mauritius has never been re-united.
Successive Mauritian Governments have used the Diego Garcia issue, and the USA and British shame about their past actions there, in order to extract "trade advantages" from the UK and the USA, for sugar or textiles.
Now Diego Garcia houses an enormous US military base, which disfigures the beautiful islands completely. Tarmac and bombs. Where coconut palms were.
Diego Garcia is a key base to the US Armed Forces, when it attacks Iraq and Afghanistan. B-52s take off from there. Supplies and men lie in wait there. Aircraft carriers huddle in the shelter of the bay. Diego Garcia is being used for interrogations of prisoners of war - those prisoners that the USA-UK-Poland-Australia take, and then the USA hides from everyone, even their allies. Diego Garcia has, in this way, been Guantanamo-ised.
In their quest for the truth to be out and justice to be had, the Chagossians now have a Reparations Case in the US Courts. Some of those being sued, in addition to the US state itself, include Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Some of the reasons cited for damages include human rights abuses and genocide.
We, in Lalit, who have been part of the Diego Garcia struggle since 1977, we, who have shared all the hardest times with the Chagossians - the street demonstrations, the hunger strikes, the night vigils, the battles against the Riot Police, the arrests, the being kept in Police Cells, the Court Case under the Public Order Act, the thinking and the acting - we are now calling on you to help us.