• August 27, 2016

Nationalists are often accused of being introverted and caring little for that which goes on in the wider world.
In terms of Celtic nationalism over the years in the Celtic League we have confounded that stereotypical description by periodically at AGMs speaking out for oppressed peoples.
We have condemned China for its repression at Tibetan and Uighur peoples.
Closer to home we have pressed Spain for its obstinacy in the face of Basque and Catalan aspirations for independence.
However, perhaps no situation of an abused an oppressed people matches that of the Chagos Islanders who were ALL evicted from their homeland, Diego Garcia, (part of the so called British Indian Ocean Territory and removed to the Island of Mauritius many hundreds of miles away, in the late 1960s.
The reason for their removal was the desire of the United Kingdom to ‘present’ their United States allies with a secure military base facility in the central Indian Ocean. Nothing was to get in the way of this militaristic adventure – certainly not the plight of a few thousands Islanders.
The acclaimed documentary maker and social commentator, John Pilger made a documentary about the plight of the Islanders – you can view it online in good quality at this link:
As you see Pilger appropriately entitled his film about the Islanders – ‘Stealing a Nation’ and that is what it was a theft on a grand scale.
Four years prior to the Pilger documentary the Celtic League AGM (that year appropriately held on an Island – Mannin) considered the plight of the Chagos Islanders and the following resolution was adopted:
“This AGM:
Condemns and the forced removal, between 1966 and 1969 of the population of the island of Diego Garcia from their home by the British and American governments, as one of the most shameful examples of colonial exploitation.
Supports the campaign of the Islanders to both return to their island home and receive compensation from the British government for their forced removal and exploitation.”
Once adopted an AGM resolution becomes policy for the League and since July, 2000 we have been committed to supporting the right of the Islanders to return.
In 2012 the Islanders have won and lost several battles in UK and the European Court one of which ordered the government to facilitate their return home.
The full catalogue of what “Think Africa Press” called their “Sisyphean” fight can be read here:
The British still prevaricated and the depths of their duplicity with the United States was revealed when Wikileaks released a cable which showed the UK (perhaps conscious any future Court case could go against them) were planning to give the Islands ‘Marine Reserve’ status to block the Islanders return. The text of the cable is set out below:
“According to Wikileaks CableGate documents (reference ID “09LONDON1156”), in a calculated move planned in 2009, the UK proposed that the BIOT become a “marine reserve” with the aim of preventing the former inhabitants from returning to their lands. A summary of the diplomatic cable is as follows;
HMG would like to establish a “marine park” or “reserve” providing comprehensive environmental protection to the reefs and waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official informed Polcouns on May 12. The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park—the world’s largest—would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and United States should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that United States interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.”
Still the agonising wait for justice goes on for the Chagos people many of whom have died in poverty and deprivation in exile.
In 2012 the FCO told the Celtic League:
“”We welcome the end of this legal process, which has taken many years. We have made clear our regret for the wrongs done to the Chagossian people over forty years ago. Nevertheless, it was right for the Government to defend itself against this action.
“Now that this litigation is concluded, the Government will take stock of our policy towards the resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory, as we have always said we would. There are fundamental difficulties with resettlement in BIOT, but we will be as positive as possible in our engagement with Chagossian groups and all interested parties.”
In the meantime we continue to engage with Chagossian groups. For example we organised visits back to BIOT in Oct 2011 and Oct 2012. We have a very successful environmental education outreach project and as a result young Chagossians have taken part in the last three scientific expeditions to BIOT.”
Despite all the talk of ‘regrets’, ‘taking stock’,’resettlement’ and ‘positive engagement’ with the Chagossian people’ the situation remains unchanged.
The fight must go on and all people who believe in justice should lend whatever support they can to the Chagos Islanders.
J B Moffatt (Mr)
pp Celtic League Military Monitoring.
TEL: 01624 877918 or 07624 491609
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues

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