Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Diego Garcia Chagossians get British sympathy

Bill Rammel makes excuses for the British government's actions, in slinging the Chagossian Islanders off Diego Garcia, so that the US could turn it into a military base.

Jeremy Corbyn (Lab),
The people who lived for hundreds of years on the Chagos Islands were descendents of its first inhabitants who had been dropped off there as slaves and traders or had settled there. They lived a settled existence, fishing and producing copra....The Chagossians did not depart from the islands in the 1960s and 1970s; they were rounded up, taken away and thrown off the islands.

Alex Salmond (SNP),
Every Foreign Office Minister, up to and including current Ministers, and every Foreign Office staffer who has been involved in the story over the past 40 years should hang their heads in shame at what has been done to these defenceless people.

John Grogan (Lab)
I would be interested to hear the Minister comment on whether any payment by the US Government has ever been made. Officially, the Foreign Office denies it, but time and again the suggestion in the literature is that the British Government at the time got a $14 million reduction in the cost of the Polaris nuclear missile system.

Bill Rammel, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,
..the decisions taken by successive Governments in the 1960s and 1970s to depopulate the islands do not, to say the least, constitute the finest hour of UK foreign policy. In no sense am I seeking to justify the decisions that were made in the 1960s and 1970s....During French rule, and for a short period thereafter, the copra plantation was run with slave labour. However, when slavery was abolished in all British possessions in the 1830s, the work force became contract labourers. That continued to be the basis of employment for as long as the copra plantations remained in operation......Some time after the islands had been set aside for defence needs in 1965, it was decided that the islanders should be relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles, and arrangements for that to be done were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s....

In 1982, Britain made an ex gratia payment of £4 million in return for withdrawal of legal proceedings brought by a member of the Chagossian community in Mauritius, in addition to the previous £650,000 for the Chagossian community in Mauritius. Everyone who was registered as a Chagossian—approximately 1,350 people—benefited from the fund. At today's prices, that sum is the equivalent of £9 million. At that stage, it was agreed by all concerned, including the Chagossians and their representatives, that that payment by the British Government was a full and final settlement against all the claims....

the Government had also commissioned a study in 2000 into the feasibility of resettling the Chagossians on the islands....I am directly quoting from that study, which was drawn up independently. It concluded that, "whilst it may be feasible to resettle the islands in the short term, the costs of maintaining long-term inhabitation are likely to be prohibitive."

That was not dreamed up by a Foreign Office official or a Minister; it was the conclusion of the independent experts.....Even in the short term, natural events such as periodic flooding from storms and seismic activity are likely to make life difficult for a resettled population....we have no legal obligation to pay any further compensation beyond what has already been provided

Basically the government is saying:

Tough shit. The French are to blame. They created this motley crew of islanders when they didn't exist. Then we gave them lots of money to resettle somewhere else (even though they didnt exist). That was after we decided they should be turfed out and their dogs gassed. We asked these independent commission guys (who we also paid lots of money), and they said we can't let this rabble back on the islands because they might suffer hardship. After all, the whole bloody place is surrounded by water and they might get flooding, storms, earthquakes and stuff. It's not nice out there. The US forces on the base are used to the hardship. They hardly have anything to eat apart from MacDonald's whoppers and KFC.

Anyway, we legally don't have to pay the Chaggosians a penny more, because they got all that money, back in the eighties.


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