Stealing the Chagossian People’s Nation

Alright, I’m back on track: I just finished number 12 of the 13 John Pilger docs I had set out to do about 5 months ago. For your reference, here are the links to the other 11: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

The title of the doc I just watched is “Stealing a Nation”. The main focus of the film describes how a tiny island inhabited by a couple thousand people was sold, by the British (since it was a British colony) to the United States, so that the latter could build a strategically important military base.
The island was sold in the early 70s, and the people were removed sometime around 1975. They were moved to the slums of Mauritius, where they continue to live. In 1982, after successful demonstrations and protests for their rights, the UK payed the Chagossians about 3000 lbs per person for compensation, but had them sign a document that renounced their rights to return. The Chagossians, however, did not know this when they were signing the documents ūüė¶
In 2000, the Chagossians brought their case to the High Court of Justice, which ultimately ruled in their favour, and stated that they should be allowed to return to their homeland. This, however, didn’t change anything, since the foreign office said that they could not return to Diego, the main island, since it is in agreements with the United States. Then, in 2004, there was a Royal Decree that overruled the 2000 decision and further stated that the Chagossians would never be allowed to return to the island.
Since then:

The Chagossians and their advocates appealed this move to the High Court of England and Wales and the European Court of Human Rights.

In early April 2006, a group of around 100 Chagossians were permitted to visit the British Indian Ocean Territory for the first time in over 30 years in a trip. The trip was organised and financed by the British Foreign Office and the government of Mauritius.[1]

On May 11, 2006, the Chagossians won their case before the High Court, which ruled that they are entitled to return to the Chagos Archipelago. It remains to be seen whether when or how the judgment might be implemented in practice.[2] The UK government launched an appeal at the Court of Appeal against the May 11 ruling in June 2006. The Foreign office has put forward an argument based on the treatment of the Japanese Canadians following the attacks on Pearl Harbor.[3]

On May 23, 2007, the¬†Court of Appeal dismissed the UK Government’s appeal saying that the methods used to stop the Chagos families to return to the islands were “unlawful” and “an abuse of power”. The Government was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords, but have stated an intention to appeal to the Lords against that refusal. The Government launched an appeal to the Law Lords in November 2007.

On October 22, 2008, the Law Lords reached a decision on the appeal made by the Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the UK, David Milliband. They found in favour of the Government in a 3-2 verdict, ending the legal process in the UK and dashing the islanders hopes of return.

Right, so in the end I learned that people who are poor and powerless can be removed from their homeland and that when decades later this is finally made public and a due process is attempted, the government can just say “fuck that” and do what they want. Which is really unfortunate.

Currently I’m reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. If there’s one message I’m learning, it’s that the poor and powerless are fucked over, and then the events are forgotten in history books / popular knowledge.

Here’s the a link to the documentary: clicky; and here’s a link to resources and a timeline on the whole Chagossians history: le click.

I had a discussion with a friend last night. Neither one of us have ever taken any classes on political science, so please excuse our ignorance, but we were talking about our ideal society, or how such a society would operate, and we seemed to agree that democracy and education were key, but couldn’t figure out what to do if the¬†democratic¬†system did not support education… Wouldn’t this, the thinking went, make for a stupid population, for which some powerful people could take advantage of and convince the mass to continuously vote for things that weren’t in their favour? I guess this is Animal Farm, isn’t it? Le sigh…


About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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