Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Forgotten islanders

It was great delight that I learned of the legal victory for the Chagos islanders who were forcibly removed from their native islands during the 1960s and '70s.
The High Court in London last week ruled that the Chagossians had been illegally evicted by the British authorities from their island homes in the Indian Ocean to make way for an American military base.

This despicable act of brutality was covered up for years by the British Foreign Office and has been largely ignored by the mainstream media and the wider world. The plight of the islanders first came to my attention after having seen a television documentary by the veteran journalist John Pilger about a year ago. The islanders as British subjects residing in British Indian Ocean Territory were given little choice by their colonial overlords and were relocated against their will to Mautitius, the Seychelles and the UK where many of them lived in poverty.

Particularly harrowing was the killing of all the dogs on one of the islands, employed as a cruel ploy to intimidate and subdue the islanders into submission. In a further sickening twist the US military base subsequently built on the island of Diego Garcia has more recently been used as a base to launch attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Credit must go to John Pilger for flagging up this blatant abuse of human rights. His work in this area has been outstanding, having also highlighted the plight of the "Stolen Generation" of Australian aboriginals (which inspired the film Rabbit-Proof Fence)and the crippling effects of the trade embargo on medical products to Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Although it is uncertain whether the displaced islanders will be allowed to live in their native homelands, their return would be highly symbolic. To set foot on the place of one's birth after so many years of enforced exile would be a deeply uplifting experience.


Lorainne said...

Interesting - hadn't heard about this. However Britain does not have a great track-record of understanding other cultures and nations and has a lot in its history to be ashamed about. Whenever a nation has the power to do so it always mistreats other nations - it is just the way the world is. Do you think this would still be the case if we lived in a world governed by socialist principles (don't think this will ever happen as humans are too naturally competitive)??

CW said...

Lorainne, power corrupts. In a world governed by socialist principles, it would still be the same. Compare Nazi Germany with Soviet Russia - two opposite extremes of the politicial system, yet each as oppressive as the other.

Caroline said...

Lets just hope it isn't a case of what goes around comes around if world economics are shuffled to favour the underdog.

Paybacks are hell.

Lorainne said...

Ciaran - you are right of course - socialism can only work if it is implemented by people who value fairness and equality and want the best for the country - Hitler and Stalin were particularly evil individuals - I think a socialist system may work if implemented in the right way. It doesn't look very likely at the moment though.