This is the first letter I sent to the CCT:
Mr Simon Hughes
Secretary of the Chagos Conservation Trust
29 Champion Hill
0207 738 7712
CC: David Cromwell of Media Lens, and John Pilger, journalist
"Dear Mr Hughes,
"I reference your website: http://www.chagos-trust.org
"The indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were forcibly evicted with brute force by the UK government in the 1960s, and have been living in exile and poverty on Mauritius ever since. Undemocratic royal decree has overturned the many court rulings made in their favour about the injustices they suffered. The islands were handed on lease to the US military who currently use the largest island, Diego Garcia, as a base. Your petition and website makes virtually no reference to this heinous crime, and the little that does (a single small bullet on the homepage) is couched in some of the most evasive language I have ever read.
"For example, the CCT blandly states that ‘most of the Chagos is uninhabited’. No reasons as to why this might be the case are offered. The people, in a couple of sentences spaced inbetween eloquent paragraphs on turtles, sharks, marine birds and coral, are referred to as mere itinerants, former slaves, contracted labour, ‘only’ in habitation there for 150-200 years. Essentially it reads that you are trying to tell us they are ‘people without rights’: ‘non-people’ whom we needn’t worry about and who might as well still be slaves for all the recognition they get from the CCT. The ‘inhabited’ part of the islands also receives scant attention – especially when what actually goes on here is in itself an international scandal.
See John Pilger's prize winning documentary on the subject: 'Stealing A Nation' http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3667764379758632511
"Unless 'environmental protection' is to become a cosy guise for imperial oppression, it is absolutely mandatory to state that a Chagos nature reserve must include a resettlement of the indigenous inhabitants back onto their islands. Neither is any genuine care for the environment compatible with an imperial military base, well known for its role in bombing defenceless civilians worldwide in war crimes from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan - and for its recent use as an incarceration facility for abducted prisoners (illegal under the UN charter of human rights).
"I therefore call on you to unambiguously implement the changes above, and to recognise that environmental protection, human rights and international law are indivisible. These noble values cannot be twisted and perverted by a colonialist expulsion of unwanted dark-skinned people, in cahoots with a criminal military occupation."
I received the following patronising reply from the CCT today:
"I have referred you separately to more information on the Chagossians. As we are conservationists we keep out of politics as much as we can, however you might like to read more and gain a fuller understanding of what actually happened to the Chagossians.
"A few of you have asked us about our position on the pending legal case against the British government brought by some former Chagos islanders.
"We’ve uploaded a note to our new Facebook page with background on this issue, as well as our own position and ways in which we are working with the Chagossian community.
"Making the Chagos a Protected Area now will benefit all now, and if in the future circumstances, sovereignty etc change, then whoever has sovereignty can make further changes, but the archipelago will be in better shape."
My response was as follows:
"I have read this statement and I do not like it. Your organisation is still sidestepping the issue. The language used is a fudge and does not recognise the islanders as legitimate inhabitants (‘pending a court settlement in their favour’, you add – just how many do they need?) For a mere handful of people with no money, they have won many battles in UK courts, only to have these decisions ignored/overruled by the government. The High Court ruling in their favour wasn’t enough either - they had to use an autocratic royal decree to block that one. The islanders you say ‘had to leave’ when the ‘plantations were closed down’, oh yes, and by pressing ‘defence concerns’. That slippery language makes it quite okay sounding, doesn’t it? Natural wastage, failing economy, supply and demand. Until one wonders exactly how the ‘defence of England’ many thousands of miles away is enhanced by leasing the islands as a bomber runway to a superpower so it can dominate the world. The people did not move because ‘the plantations closed down’ either – there was a secret agreement between the 1960s Wilson government and the US military – the people were then evicted by force, their animals gassed, driven into the hold of a container ship and dumped on a quayside in Mauritius.
"I reiterate that protection of the environment, human rights and international law are indivisible. You say that you hope to keep politics and environmentalism ‘separate’. But there are not any state or political party games here on the side of the islanders. It’s a very simple one of justice and human rights. If say the Israeli government allowed you to turn the entire Gaza strip into a people free ‘safari park’ for ‘endangered Levant flora and fauna’, would you be happy with this too? If the CCT is prepared to compromise on this simply to retain gracious favours from the British government and the US military (so they can both engage in criminal activity), then this deals a potentially fatal blow to the environmental cause you are championing, and its worldwide consequences will be resounding."
Please EVERYONE who reads this article contact Mr Hughes using the addresses or numbers above and express your outrage at green issues being twisted in such a way. Tell him that saving the environment, the ethics of international law, and achieving justice for the islanders are not divisible. They are one in the same. Ask him if his real motive is to use a 'Chagos nature reserve' simply as a means to maintain the criminal expropriation of the islands by the British government and the US military.