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Mauritian socialists' open letter to Greenpeace -- `Don't help cover up colonialism's crimes on Diego Garcia'

Diego Garcia from a satellite. The US base in visible in the top left of the atoll. Photo from NASA.

By Ram Seegobin, Lalit de Klas

February 8, 2010

Dear leaders of Greenpeace [UK],

We understand that your organisation has taken a position in favour of the British government’s outrageous plan to create a “marine park” on territory which is not its own, thus tricking ill-informed people into supporting the British state on rather vague grounds of “the environment”, while they are in fact banishing the people who lived there and flaunting the Charter of the United Nations.

We write in order to request you to re-think your position on what would in fact be the British government’s perfidious imposition of a planned Marine Protected Area on part of Mauritius in order to mask the fact that it colonises the land illegally. Britain colonises the Chagos under the name of “British Indian Ocean Territory” (BIOT). This colony is, as far as we know, recognised by no government in the world, except the USA, which has a huge military base on it [at Diego Garcia]. The Seychelles government took the British to task, and took those of its islands in BIOT back, so blatant was the theft. The Mauritian government has so far unfortunately been much more servile to its ex-coloniser.

The British government’s plan for a Marine Protected Area is a very weak, grotesquely transparent ruse designed to perpetuate the banning of the people of Mauritius and Chagos from part of their own country. And the UK has the cheek to do this, while at one and the same time, perpetuating a polluting nuclear base on Diego Garcia, part of this same stolen territory. The timing of their plan is also very humiliating for all those who have fallen into the trap: there is a European Human Rights Court which may soon hand down a judgement in favour of the right to return for Chagossians. Clearly, the British government is preparing a fall-back plan; if they lose the case, then there will be another “reason” for denying the banished people their right of return; another reason for keeping Mauritius from staking its claim under international law.

Surely the point is for environmentalists to get this nuclear base on Diego Garcia, at the very heart of the Chagos, closed down? Not to ignore its existence. Surely the point is for all concerned people to help complete the decolonisation of Mauritius and the Chagos? Not to help in a British cover-up its crimes? After decolonisation, the people whose land and sea it is can decide on how to protect and nurture it best, how to affect a clean-up of the base once it was closed down, and how to re-generate it into the beautiful atoll it once was. And we would hope for ideas and support from Greenpeace, amongst other environmentalists, as to how best to do this.

Illegal acts

The British state and the USA not only collaborated in the forcible removal of all the people of the entire Chagos, tricking them first, denying them passage back after medical visits to Mauritius main island, gassing their dogs as a warning, then finally starving them off the islands; the British state and the USA not only illegally plotted so as to dismember a country and hide this from the United Nations Decolonisation Committee, as has been amply made public in the judgements in the court case brought by the Chagossians, but have also set up a huge immensely polluting military base, one of the biggest in the world, a nuclearised base, right there in the same place that the UK now pretends to want to turn into a Marine Protected Area. The USA has even carried out illegal renditions for torture on and around Diego Garcia; after denying this for years,  Jack Straw finally admitted it in the British parliament. So, Greenpeace should perhaps bear in mind that these illegal acts do, in time, get exposed and condemned by people.

Greenpeace should dissociate itself from this entire international plot. It is an old plot whose first shady days have gradually been exposed to the public by years and years of active struggle on the part of Mauritian political parties, associations, trade unions and the people displaced from Chagos, with their women at the helm of the demonstrations. Our women members were among those arrested by the police in 1981 at peaceful demonstration in Port Louis. And though the illegal colonisation and the nuclear base have both continued, the conspiracy to remove all the people, and for the UK to steal the islands, and for the US to become receiver of stolen goods, have been exposed in public in the British courts and in international meetings against US military bases. So, being part of the tail end of this long-term conspiracy will bring shame on organisations like Greenpeace. That individuals fall into this trap is understandable. But for organisations, we are afraid it will be very damaging to your reputation.

Previous support for Diego Garcia campaign

In the past, Greenpeace has known about Diego Garcia. We would very much like to remind you that in October, 1998, Lalit de Klas [Mauritius' revolutionary socialist party] sent one of our members to have a formal meeting with your organisation at your headquarters in Amsterdam. The Rann nu Diego Committee, a common front of some 10 organisations in Mauritius, including one of the two main Chagossian groups, the Chagos Refugees Group, endorsed Lalit’s request for a Greenpeace action on Diego Garcia to oppose the nuclear base there. One of our members, Ms. Lindsey Collen, thus had a formal meeting at your headquarters with Ms. Stephanie Mills, who she found to be a very capable, dedicated Australian campaign worker for your organisation.

Following this meeting, and following the dossier that we submitted formally at the same time, Greenpeace informed us by email that you had organised for one of your vessels (in a window of opportunity) to take a group of people for an action on Diego Garcia in or around March 1999, in protest against the military base, its nuclearisation, the forcible removals and the continued colonisation of part of Mauritius. We were already discussing how many people, preparing for a campaign to get support from peace and environment organisations worldwide, and thinking up the kind of media plan necessary.

Lalit immediately set in motion a very broad campaign for “background support”, which we got from a series of organisations literally all over the world in order to back up the planned action as soon as it would be able to become public. Response from all over the world was very good. The issue was coming up at the right moment. The only thing that prevented the vessel from actually doing this visit, which would have been truly historic, and which would have been one of Greenpeace’s greatest sources of pride as you looked back on your history, was thwarted, we were informed, when the vessel to be used got “iced in” during a trip to the Antarctica in early 1999, and would, by the time it got out of the ice, be too late, as it was already booked for another action afterwards.

Later, in January, 2004, in the outskirts of the World Social Forum meeting in Mumbai, there was a second attempt, this time to ask Greenpeace if you could lead a planned Flotilla to Chagos and Diego Garcia, given that the Chagossians had won a court case for the right to return (since overturned -- in part by decree in the UK, and in part by a Privy Council appeal judgement last year). This time it was a joint request from the Chagos Refugees Group and Lalit. Greenpeace were unable to do this, but your leaders at the time were aware of the issues involved.

Campaign continues

We mention your past links with the Diego Garcia issue because we believe that your position on the Marine Protected Area which the UK is planning is erroneous. The UK is clearly trying to use the “environment issue” as a desperate attempt to continue its continued colonisation of part of Mauritius. Greenpeace should not allow itself to be used this way.

At present our organisation is spearheading a campaign to call on the Mauritian government to do two things:

  • Request the UN General Assembly pass a motion for the International Court of Justice at the Hague to give an opinion as to whose territory the Chagos is (the UK accepted compulsory arbitration except from cases put in by Commonwealth countries, and when the Mauritian government some seven years ago threatened to leave the Commonwealth in order to put a binding case, British PM Tony Blair just sent new instructions to his UN ambassador to change the exception to include ex-Commonwealth members. This shows the kind of lengths the UK state will go to.
  • Request the UN International Atomic Energy Agency to do inspections of Diego Garcia for nuclear materials, given the coming into operation in 2009 of the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Weapons Free Africa.

We would very much appreciate it if Greenpeace could consider supporting these two demands. Both would certainly help the environment of the Chagos, as they both involve exposing then closing the nuclear military base. Just as the UK government is now being exposed for entering illegally into the Iraq War, and Bush and Blair risk charges as war criminals, so in the future the UK and USA may be publicly exposed as illegal occupiers, as war mongers on Chagos, and as polluters of the Indian Ocean with truly filthy military base.

Because that is what they are.

Yours sincerely,

Ram Seegobin, for LALIT, Mauritius, February 8, 2010.

lalitmail [at] intnet.mu

www.lalitmauritius.org

153 Main Road, GRNW, Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius.

Tel/fax: 230 208 2132; Tel: 230 208 2555.

Faxed (as well as this email) to Greenpeace headquarters in Amsterdam on +31 207182002.

Comments

Is There Such a Thing as Safe Sex when Sleeping With the Enemy?

This is a follow-up piece to ‘Sleeping with the Enemy; EYES WIDE SHUT | TckTckTck exposé’, and ACTION ALERT! Is Greenpeace International set to become GE – Greenpeace Electric?

This is not a good year for Greenpeace. 

First the tcktcktck scandal and things just keep getting worse. Kumi Naidoo is the Chair of TckTckTck, as well as the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.  One can only imagine what damage control must be necessary as Greenpeace conflicts continue to escalate and disrupt all over the world. 

British Columbia, Canada | SAVE GREENPEACE!

Greenpeace activists and supporters are not taking lightly to a recent decision by Greenpeace International to hire Tzeporah Berman to direct its global climate and energy campaign. Many fear that Greenpeace will lose its radical edge.  A massive backlash is underway with statements calling for civil society to take urgent action.  The statements are from some of Canada’s most well known and respected activists.  Names include the co-founder of Greenpeace International; Rex Weyler, Barbara Stowe (daughter of Dorothy Stowe and Irving Stowe - founders of Greenpeace), as well as statements from the original Clayoquot Sound activists.

The full article and action alert can be found here.

Excerpt from the statement of Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyer;

“Tzeporah Berman may be well intentioned, but she has embraced Disaster Capitalism, as described by Naomi Klein. She claims that climate change is so urgent, we must turn our natural assets over to General Electric, Plutonic Power, and other global corporations. She talks of “solving global warming,” and “new energy” but she possesses very little knowledge of ecology, energy, or biophysical economics. Perhaps she’s been duped into thinking that since climate warming is urgent, we should turn over our watersheds to General Electric to “solve global warming.” This is a new “green” phase of Disaster Capitalism. At best, this is a sad case of Garrett Harding’s “shallow thinking compassionate person.” At worst, this is an all-out betrayal of environmentalism, of the groups and activists who built the environmental movement in Canada and in the world, and a betrayal of the Earth itself. In any case, Tzeporah now speaks for General Electric, not for the Earth, not for wilderness, and not for our children’s future. And General Electric – one of the largest corporations in the world, involved in illegal weapons trading (for which they’ve paid fines), money laundering, and nuclear power – has one single agenda: acquire assets, increase company value, make profits, take the cash. And for this goal, they have one simple strategy regarding nature: Privatize everything. Turn the world into the private property of corporations, and sell it back to the public. On Sunday, February 14, 2010, at an exclusive General Electric banquet in Vancouver, Tzeporah supported GE’s privatization of Canadian rivers. She now represents corporate power, not ecology. Those of us in the ecology and environmental movement have to move on and do the real work.”

Republic of Mauritius | Don't help cover up colonialism's crimes on Diego Garcia

On February 8, 2010, the Mauritian socialists published their open letter to Greenpeace titled Don't help cover up colonialism's crimes on Diego Garcia.  The letter boldly states; “Dear leaders of Greenpeace, we understand that your organisation has taken a position in favour of the British government’s outrageous plan to create a “Marine Park” on territory which is not its own, thus tricking ill-informed people into supporting the British state on rather vague grounds of “the environment”, while they are in fact banishing the people who lived there and flaunting the Charter of the United Nations. We write in order to request you to re-think your position on what would in fact be the British government’s perfidious imposition of a planned Marine Protected Area on part of Mauritius in order to mask the fact that it colonises the land illegally. Britain colonises the Chagos under the name of “British Indian Ocean Territory”. This colony is, as far as we know, recognised by no government in the world, except the USA, which has a huge military base on it [at Diego Garcia].”

Japan | Greenpeace Eats Whales to "Save" Them

On February 19th, 2010, an article appeared on the CARE2 website under the title ‘Greenpeace Sucks’ - Greenpeace Eats Whales to "Save" Them.  The author of the post states “As much as in-fighting amongst groups sucks and should be discouraged sometimes someone totally oversteps the mark and just takes the piss. And can it really be called in-fighting if the groups in question seem to have very different objectives?”

Excerpt;

Taken from the Sea Shepherd website. Greenpeace has gone over the line this time in betraying the whales. The Greenpeace Foundation has launched a bizarre and contradictory campaign to "save" the whales. This week on Valentine's Day, Greenpeace hit the road in Japan with the strangely named "Whale Love Wagon." The campaign opened by asking supporters to send a fax transmission to the Antarctic whaling fleet saying, "I love Japan but whaling breaks my heart.” The Greenpeace attitude is that if they can't beat them, then they should join them. And in doing so, Greenpeacers have betrayed the whales. They are eating them. In promoting their theme that Japanese whale eating culture must be respected, a video distributed by Greenpeace depicts a Greenpeacer visiting a Japanese grandmother in her home. He sits down and eats whale with her, and politely tells her that is was delicious. "We are making it very clear that we have no problem with Japanese culture or eating whale," said Emiliano Ezcurra, an Argentinian Greenpeace activist who helped design the campaign. Ezcurra said that Greenpeace has no problem with whaling on Japan's coast but opposes the slaughter of the whales in the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.

 

Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson, one of the co-founders of Greenpeace is appalled at the pro-whaling stance of Greenpeace. "This campaign is just simply bizarre," said Captain Watson, "How does Greenpeace think they are going to stop whaling in Antarctica by publicly eating whale meat and declaring whale meat to be delicious? What are these people thinking?" This is not the first time that Greenpeace has betrayed the whales. In 1997, they assisted in a Yupik whale hunt by towing a dead bowhead whale ashore and ate whale meat as guests of the community. Greenpeace International Director John Frizell has openly stated that Greenpeace is not opposed to whaling in principle. When Sea Shepherd crew visited the Greenpeace ships Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise in Cape Town in February 2006, they could not help but notice that on the eve of a major campaign on overfishing along the African coast, the Greenpeace crew were sitting down to dinner before platters of baked fish. When one of the Sea Shepherd crew questioned the contradictions and said that Sea Shepherd ships served only vegan meals, the cook on the Esperanza said, "That's just silly.” Greenpeace has a reputation built on the hard work and ideas of people like Paul Watson, Robert Hunter, Bobbi Hunter, Al Johnson, Dr. Paul Spong, and others, and these ideas and efforts are being spat upon by these politically correct bureaucrats who now run Greenpeace. Emily Hunter, the daughter of the late Robert Hunter is presently with the Sea Shepherd campaign in Antarctica onboard the ship named after her father. "The memory of my father, the first president of Greenpeace, has been dishonored by this incredibly ridiculous campaign to have Greenpeacers eat whale meat as a gesture of support for Japanese culture," Emily commented.

Speaking from the ship Robert Hunter, Captain Watson said, "I respect Japanese culture, and in fact, I have been a student of Japanese history, but I do not and never will respect any part of a culture that butchers and eats the flesh of one of the most intelligent, socially-complex, and most gentle sentient beings on this planet. I place whale eating on the level of cannibalism as barbarous behaviour." The slaughter of endangered whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary must be ended and it won't be ended by sitting down with Japanese grandmothers and sharing a whale burger with them.

Tcktcktck – A.K.A. GCCA | Partners Return from Retreat

Only in the tcktcktck world would this even be considered: On February 15th, 2010, Tcktcktck (now calling themselves GCCA) partners flew to a two day GCCA retreat in the Netherlands.  I’m unsure if climate activists in poverty stricken countries are flying to retreats to discuss climate change … but hey, this is modern day corporatized activism!  Who knew social justice could be so relaxing and so comfortable at the same time with a retreat (junket?) slipped in here and there. (Sorry – offer only applies to the wealthy). 

And this certainly is a frightening piece of news; Tcktcktck, now signing email messages as “GCCA (tcktcktck)” advised partners on February 25th, 2010, of the following; “Furthermore, two other key pieces of work are underway; GCCA Brazil is leading a dialogue with the Climate Justice Network to establish areas where we can better collaborate this year and in the future.” 

Can Greenpeace lose the high gloss patina & reclaim its grassroots?

From the book; Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World; In the late 1960s, as cultural upheaval swept the world and American war resisters flooded north, a disarmament and ecology movement took shape in the streets, pubs, and private living rooms of Vancouver, Canada. In the decade from 1969 to 1979, the loosely-knit protest group adopted the name “Greenpeace” and transformed itself from an effective, but decidedly underground, international heckler into a mobilized, global “eco-navy.”

The photograph of the late Bob Hunter above, demonstrates the core values that made citizens across the world sit up and take notice of something they had begun to lose sight of, due to the emergence of full force branding that was now being stuffed down the throats of citizens in a global context.  Greenpeace put the environment on the world stage.  People could almost taste the passion in their mouths and feel the fervor of the movement pumping through their veins.  The movement was real. 

[1] In 1971, the word “Greenpeace” hadn’t yet been coined.  Bob was a hippy journalist in Vancouver, a town which he described as having “the biggest concentration of tree-huggers, radicalized students, garbage-dump stoppers, shit-disturbing unionists, freeway fighters, pot smokers and growers, aging Trotskyites, condo killers, farmland savers, fish preservationists, animal rights activists, back-to-the-landers, vegetarians, nudists, Buddhists, and anti-spraying, anti-pollution marchers and picketers in the country, per capita, in the world.” [1] Taken from the Greenpeace Canada Website]

While discussing if there is such a thing as safe sex when sleeping with the enemy, we might ask this question; who said bigger was better?  Perhaps organizations that grow this large are no longer sustainable.  Can Greenpeace peel off its high gloss plastic coating to reveal its roots once again?  Can Greenpeace reclaim its integrity? - A real organization built on a real movement; whose leaders are real activists with such truth and conviction they would risk their lives to protect our planet.  Will Greenpeace respect the wisdom of the original founders, activists and supporters in order to recapture their original essence?  This is the least Greenpeace could do; to show respect to the original founders and activists - who have been completely dishonoured by the unraveling of integrity in what was once, an organization that did not compromise.  After all – this is what the Greenpeace members, global citizens and vulnerable states wish, expect and deserve.  

For the Earth.

* * *

“Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity. We are here to save mother earth. Our objective is to reduce climate change to [under] 1C. [above this] many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust. The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It's time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated."

Evo Morales, December 16th, 2010, Copenhagen Climate Summit

Reply from Greenpeace to Lalit open letter

LALIT wrote an open letter to the leaders of Greenpeace to request them to re-think its position in favour of the British Government’s outrageous plan to create a “Marine Park” on Chagos . Greenpeace has written back to LALIT. We are publishing the reply from Greenpeace below. And LALIT open letter to Greenpeace can be read at http://www.lalitmauritius.org/viewarticle.php?id=993

Greenpeace reply

From: info [mailto:info@uk.greenpeace.org]
Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 4:46 PM
To: lalit
Subject: RE: Nuclear Base and continued illegal colonization of Chagos and Greenpeace's position

Hello Ram,

Thanks for your e-mail, it's great to hear from you and I’ll pass your comments on to our oceans campaign.

Those who have been following the issue will know that the British Government expelled the Chagossians from the islands some decades ago. The Chagossians continue to campaign for justice. At present, the waters of the Chagos are being fished by various deep water fishing nations. Taking the Chagossian perspective, this amounts to theft and destruction of Chagos’ natural resources. However if a marine reserve is created without prejudice to the determination of the Chagossian dispute then the fishing would be stopped, but if and when the Chagossians win a right of return the whole question of what happens with the waters would be reopened. In other words, creating a marine reserve would be to actually preserve these coral seas in trust for the Chagossian people.

Whilst we've kept our e-mail short, there is more information (and links) on our web site so please follow the links below to find out more:

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/oceans/help-protect-chagos-20100202

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/jan/27/chagos-prese...

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/about/deep-green/deep-green-augu...

http://www.chagos-trust.org/

I hope that helps,

Lisa Weatherley
Supporter Services, Greenpeace UK
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk

The Chagos archipelago – where conservation meets colonialism

Islanders expelled from their homes in the 1960s won't be welcome back under plans to convert the idyllic archipelago into a 'nature reserve'.
Fred Pearce
chagos kids

The sons of Chagos Islander Louis Onesime, born in Mauritius, will not be allowed to return to their father's birthplace. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

How do you greenwash a large airforce base? A base that is responsible for bombing nearby countries, and which was built on an island you confiscated from residents who are now living in exile on the other side of the world?

Easy. You announce the creation of a giant nature reserve which will be off-limits to its former inhabitants. Not to the military, of course. That might create complications. But the people-free zone will cover the islands and oceans all around. Then, if you're really clever, you get the world's premier network of conservation scientists to endorse your plan.

That's what happened last week.

The Foreign Office is currently "consulting" on the establishment of a marine protected area covering the Chagos archipelago, a large swathe of coral islands across the Indian Ocean that Britain neglected to hand back to the locals when it abandoned most of the rest of its empire east of Suez in the 1960s.

This is bad news for the Chagossians, who were removed from the islands by British naval vessels almost half a century ago, so that the US could establish a large air base on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have always wanted to return, and two years ago they published detailed plans to go back to some of the more distant islands of the archipelago.

But successive British governments have said this can never be. Foreign secretary David Miliband appears intent on cementing this position by creating a protected area where Chagossians would not be allowed to live. Americans will be welcome, of course. The consultation document (pdf) notes coyly that "it may be necessary to consider the exclusion [from the protected area] of Diego Garcia and its territorial waters."

Last week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endorsed the plan despite, as New Scientist magazine has revealed, angry dissent from its own legal advisers.

The conservation case for protecting the Chagos archipelago is undoubtedly strong. It is one of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world. Announcing his plan last November, Miliband said: "This is a remarkable opportunity for the UK to create one of the world's largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world's oceans benefiting from full protection."

More than 10,000 British greens have signed in support of the move to create "Britain's [sic] Great Barrier Reef". The campaign is backed by the Chagos Environment Network, a coalition that includes Kew Gardens, London Zoo, the RSPB, the Royal Society and the Marine Conservation Society.

The question is whether Britain has any legal or moral right to do this unilaterally.

What about the claims of the 4,000-plus Chagossian exiles – many of them live close to Gatwick airport in readiness for their return home? The glossy pamphlet (pdf) encouraging people to support the conservation plan is silent on their expulsion and desire to return.

Most international lawyers believe the expulsion was a breach of international law, and the exiles should be allowed to return forthwith. Robin Cook is the only British foreign secretary to have agreed with them. Under the conservation plan, the only way any of them could return would be as employees of the park.

What about the fact that Britain accepts that neighbouring Mauritius should have sovereignty over Chagos when the Brits and Americans no longer need it? Protests from the Mauritian government about the plan last week fell on deaf ears.

The Chagos Conservation Trust says: "Strong support for this initiative for conservation was expressed by both Chagossian leaders who spoke at [a] meeting on 9 April 2009 at The Royal Society. The creation of a protected area would clearly be without prejudice to the outcome of the pending legal case [in the European Court of Human Rights] in regard to Chagos Islanders and the arrangements for the protected area could be modified if necessary in the light of any change in circumstances."

Indeed so. The law would have to be obeyed. But some environmental lawyers see the conservation plan as an attempt to greenwash the status quo.

There is a frightful row going on at the IUCN over the decision of its executive director Julia Marton-Lefevre last week to side with Britain over the creation of the marine protected area. Klaus Bosselmann, the chair of the IUCN's ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, wrote that it "violates IUCN's own commitments towards sustainability" because the plan would "invalidate... the right of the Chagos Islanders to return."

Bosselmann, director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, told the Guardian that "concern for ecological integrity and human and indigenous rights have to be mutually reinforcing." For IUCN to back the permanent exclusion of the Chagossians from the islands "is severely unethical and against everything the international conservation movement stands for."

Marton-Lefevre denied this. She called for consultation with "all stakeholders", including the Chagossians. And she said the IUCN's position "in no way takes or endorses a position with regard to the sovereignty of the archipelago."

At least we are talking about Chagos now. Back in 1994, when Britain published the first biodiversity action plan for its surviving specks of empire, it literally removed the zone, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, from the map.

Now, rather than airbrushing out Chagos, the mandarins want to paint it green. Conservation seems to be the last hurrah of the British Empire.

New Scientist: Chagos marine protection plan `unethical'

Coral reefs but no Chagossians (Image: NASA)

Coral reefs but no Chagossians (Image: NASA)

Conservationists are at war over a British plan to create a marine protection zone around a large chunk of surviving empire in the Indian Ocean. The zone, twice the size of Britain, would cover much of the Chagos archipelago, one of the most unspoiled coral reef systems in the world.

This week the world's foremost conservation science body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), was in ferment after announcing support for the plan in spite of warnings from its own lawyers that the scheme was unethical.

The archipelago is claimed by neighbouring Mauritius, and the UK has promised to hand the islands over when it has no further use for them.

Meanwhile the largest island, Diego Garcia, is home to a major US military base and is not covered by the proposed zone. In the 1960s, the UK expelled 1500 Chagossians to make way for the base – an act that Peter Sand of the Institute of International Law, at the University of Munich, Germany, who has campaigned for the Chagossians, says "undoubtedly constitutes a violation of international law."

Severely unethical

Last Thursday, the IUCN, ignoring protests from Mauritius, formally backed the British plan, calling for "full protection" of the reserve. But in emails seen by New Scientist, several members of the IUCN's ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, have condemned the move. They include the chair of the group, Klaus Bosselmann, director of New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland.. Bosselmann said that IUCN support for the plan "violates IUCN's own commitments towards sustainability" because the plan would "invalidate… the right of the Chagos islanders to return" to those parts of the archipelago covered by the zone. He adds that for IUCN to back their permanent exclusion from the islands is "is severely unethical and against everything the international conservation movement stands for".

The Chagossians, who today number more than 4000, mostly live in Mauritius, the Seychelles and the UK. In 2008, the islanders published proposals to resettle the islands.

Remarkable reefs

The plan for a marine reserve is open to public consultation until 5 March. UK foreign secretary David Miliband said: "This is a remarkable opportunity for the UK to create one of the world's largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world's oceans benefiting from full protection."

British scientists meeting to discuss the plan in Southampton last August compared the conservation value of the archipelago to the Great Barrier Reef or the Galapagos islands.

IUCN's director-general Julia Marton-Lefèvre told New Scientist the IUCN's position "in no way takes or endorses a position with regard to the sovereignty of the archipelago". She denied that the creation of the reserve would prevent the return of the Chagossians and called for consultation with "all stakeholders".

British parliament motion on Chagos Islanders' rights

UK: CHAGOS ISLANDS - EARLY DAY MOTION AND DEBATE

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=40580&SESSION=903

This is a plea to MPs to sign EDM number 960 Chagos Islands, as below
as soon as possible, since Jeremy Corbyn has secured a debate on
Chagos in Parliament on Wednesday 10 March:
That this House believes that the interests of the Chagossian people
and of Mauritius must be fully protected in the proposed Marine
Protected Area; urges the Government to withdraw its case from the
European Court of Human Rights and to settle out of court, as already
suggested by the Court; and requests the Prime Minister to engage with
Mauritius and the Chagossians, before the general election, in order
to initiate discussion on an overall settlement of the issues,
including timetable for eventual transfer of sovereignty of the Outer
Islands to Mauritius and provision for a limited settlement on the
Outer Islands.

UK sets up Chagos marine reserve

By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/8599125.stm

Published: 2010/04/01 22:58:03 GMT

The UK government has created the world's largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands.

The reserve would cover a 545,000-sq-km area around the Indian Ocean archipelago, regarded as one of the world's richest marine ecosystems.

This will include an area where commercial fishing will be banned.

But islanders, who were evicted to make way for the US air base on the island of Diego Garcia, say a reserve would effectively bar them from returning.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said establishing the reserve would "double the global coverage of the world's oceans under protection".

It will protect a treasure trove of tropical, marine wildlife for posterity
William Marsden Chagos Conservation Trust

He commented: "Its creation is a major step forward for protecting the oceans, not just around BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] itself, but also throughout the world.

"This measure is a further demonstration of how the UK takes its international environmental responsibilities seriously."

Conservationists say the combination of tropical islands, unspoiled coral reefs and adjacent oceanic abyss makes the area a biodiversity hotspot of global importance.

The archipelago, which has been compared to the Galapagos Islands and to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, hosts the world's biggest living coral structure - the Great Chagos Bank. This is home to more than 220 coral species - almost half the recorded species of the entire Indian Ocean, and more than 1,000 species of reef fish.

William Marsden, chairman of the Chagos Conservation Trust, commented: "Today's decision by the British government is inspirational. It will protect a treasure trove of tropical, marine wildlife for posterity and create a safe haven for breeding fish stocks for the benefit of people in the region."

Mauritius has asserted a claim to sovereignty over the islands; and the UK has agreed to cede the territory when it is no longer required for defence purposes.

But in a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper earlier this year, Mauritius' High Commissioner Abhimanu Kundasamy said: "There can be no legitimacy to the [marine protected area] project without the issue of sovereignty and resettlement being addressed to the satisfaction of the government of Mauritius."

The former residents of the islands, who were evicted from the British overseas territory between 1967 and 1971 to make way for the US Air Force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia, have fought a long-running battle in the UK courts for the right to return.

Of the islands, only Diego Garcia, which has played a key role in the US-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is currently inhabited.

Resettlement fight

Some Chagossians claim the marine protected area (MPA) would "severely jeopardise" any resettlement, because it would prevent them from fishing - their main livelihood.

The islanders' legal saga is not over; Chagossians are now pursuing their cause through European courts.

In a statement on its website, The UK Chagos Support Association said the Foreign Secretary's announcement left several key questions unanswered and called on Mr Miliband to involve Chagossians in the marine protection project.

We don't want another state to come and exploit the area, do massive construction of hotels and bring in commercial fishing. Then the area will be finished
Allen Vincatassin Diego Garcian Society

The association said the announcement did not make clear whether zones could be established within the MPA in which "limited, sustainable fishing could take place".

The statement also criticised the timing of the decision: "It is... bitterly disappointing that the government has felt it appropriate to make its announcement now, whilst parliament is [in] recess."

In his statement, Mr Miliband pointed out that the decision had been taken following a consultation (in which 90% of those who responded supported greater marine protection). He also said the Foreign Office intended "to continue to work closely with all interested stakeholders".

He added that the decision over the protection zone "is, of course, without prejudice to the outcome of the current, pending proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights".

'Conservation legacy'

Some Chagossian representatives back the reserve. Allen Vincatassin, from the UK-based Diego Garcian Society, told BBC News: "I am personally delighted that the Foreign Secretary has made the brave decision to protect the (BIOT)."

Mr Vincatassin told me he regarded the issue of the MPA as separate from the question of the right to return: "If a resettlement occurs in future on the outer islands, the marine protected area can be adjusted. These are two separate issues and I think there has been a deep misunderstanding."

He called the exile of the Chagossians "a great injustice", but added: "We don't want another state to come and exploit the area, do massive construction of hotels and bring in commercial fishing. Then the area will be finished."

Conservationists said the 545,000-sq-km (210,000-sq-mile) protection zone - an area twice the size of the UK - would prohibit activities such as industrial fishing and deep-sea mining.

Alistair Gammell, from the Pew Environment Group, said he was "thrilled" with the decision, adding that the oceans "desperately need better protection".

He commented: "In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, the UK has secured a conservation legacy which is unrivalled in scale and significance, demonstrating to the world that it is a leader in conserving the world's marine resources for the benefit of future generations."

The Foreign Office said it had been advised that the BIOT was crucial for repopulating coral systems along the East Coast of Africa and hence to the recovery in the marine food supply in sub-Saharan Africa.

The conditions of the MPA are expected to be enforced by the territory's patrol vessel.

Paul.Rincon-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


© BBC MMX

The history of USA/British

The history of USA/British Crimes Against Humanity on Diego Garcia is one of the most under-reported events in history. What a cover-up! The true history of events has been kept out of history text books and almost no citizens in the US are aware of the atrocities.

Reparations should be paid to the people who were forced off the island. The taxpayers in the US and Britain owe a big debt. This was a case of genocide that is rarely discussed.

The US should leave the island immediately and large reparations should be paid for the clean-up and also for the time that the island was under US occupation and the rightful residents were prohibited from returning even to visit the graves of their loved ones.

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