You thought colonialism was dead, think again!

Other | Thursday 18th May 2017 | Patience

In another tale of foolishness that was obviously never taught to you in your British history lessons at school, let's take you right back to the 1960's when the UK set their sights on Chagos Island and the natives living there.

It all started in the 60's when Harold Wilson struck a deal with the US government to hand over the main island of Diego Garcia. However, the Americans demanded that the surrounded islands must first be "swept" and "sanitised" if they were going to lease the island.  

Unbeknownst to Parliament, the US Congress, and in direct breach of the United Nations Charter, Wilson and Washington plotted to wipe out an entire population of more than 2,000 people. Many with roots that go as far back as the 18th century.

To achieve their twisted goal the British government restricted food supplies to the island, gassed animals, and any Chagossians who left Chagos for any medical reasons or to visit families found that when they tried to return home they were not allowed.

By 1973 the deportation had concluded, but the struggle for many Islanders had just begun.

After being dumped by British officials in Mauritius and the Seychelles many promises of support and compensation offered by the government failed to come through. Yet when they did, it was five years later!

The pitiful compensation of less than £3,000 per person arrived too late for many Chagossians who were already living in poverty and dealing with a considerable amount of debt!

Also, the rampant inflation at the time meant that the real value of the payment given was reduced. Meaning that even the little money that was given to the exiled islanders was used to pay off their debts.

To make matters worse the select few that did receive money from the government first had to sign away any rights to their homeland. Rita Bancoult & Charlesia Alexis from John Pilger's film 'Stealing A Nation', remind us how the people of Chagos were tricked into signing away their right to return home.

"It was entirely improper, unethical, dictatorial to have the Chagossian put their thumbprint on an English legal, drafted document, where the Chagossian, who doesn’t read, know or speak any English, let alone any legal English, is made to renounce basically all his rights as a human being."

Nowadays the main island of Diego Garcia is America's largest military base, with more than 4,000 troops, two bomber runways and thirty warships, the Pentagon calls it an "indispensable platform" for policing the world.

Shrouded in secrecy, only military employees are allowed to set foot there and no journalist has ever been allowed to set foot on the base since its establishment.

Despite this, in May 2006 the high court ruled that the Chagossians were "entitled" to return to their home but by 2008 David Milliband and the Foreign Office began another appeal to the Law of Lords, and the government ruled in their favour instead.

Taking it even further, in 2010 the British government started a marine nature reserve around Chagos Island, several months later Wikileaks published a US Embassy diplomatic's cable message from 2009, which read: "Establishing a marine reserve might indeed, as the FCO's (Colin) Roberts stated, be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands' former inhabitants or descendants from resettling in the (British Indian Ocean Territory)."

Once again in 2016, the British Foreign office announced that the Chagossian refugees would still not be allowed to return to a home that was rightfully theirs to begin with!

As the four-decade long fight wages on, we can only hope that justice will prevail in the future. In the words of John Pilger, "judgement must be upheld and the people of a group of beautiful, once peaceful islands must be helped to go home and compensated fully and without delay for their suffering. Anything less diminishes the rest of us."