Picked up on a piece in AlJazeera about the Botswana Bushmen who have been handed a victory in their long-running court battle to be allowed to return to their ancient hunting lands. In a move which reminded many of the old Apartheid South African Government’s attitude towards their indigenous population, the Bushmen were unceremoniously dumped in re-location camps, mainly because the diamond companies suspected there were a lot more precious stones just sitting exactly where the Bushmen used to hunt their game! The Botswana Government states it will appeal, but in one of the very, very, very few Black African States where the Rule of Law still holds firm, it looks as though the Botswana Government will acknowledge that this is one they’ve lost, and move on! Now that’s Democracy in action!
So where are the cries of protest about a group totalling some six thousand British citizens who have been deported from the land of their birth, and who, despite many years of protest and legal struggle, remain barred from returning! This fact is true, these people do exist, and they were removed from British soil some thirty years ago, so where are the marches? Where are the daily protests on radio and television? Where are the full page adverts against the vicious treatment of six thousand British citizens? These demonstrations just do not exist! There is just a deafening silence!
Dammit! I forgot to include one word from my second paragraph. That word is “Commonwealth”. The six thousand people do exist, and the British soil was the British Commonwealth territory of Diego Garcia. These people were uprooted from their homes at the dictate of the British authorities and literally “dumped” on the dockside of Mauritius. They were given virtually no help whatsoever during their enforced deportation, no housing assistance, no counselling, hardly any money. Part of the Government’s argument for the continued removal was the fact, or rather their version of the fact, that there was virtually no fresh water sources on the island chain, the community was unsustainable from a long-term viewpoint, and the Diego Garcians, or the Chagos Islanders as the Government calls them, were being given a great favour by their removal and re-location!
The islander’s struggle to return, after a decade or more of complete denial, began in failure, but became complete with a ruling from the British High Court that the actions of the British Government, in both the removal and continued exile, of British Commonwealth citizens was both unjust and illegal! So there’s and end to it; the islanders have been told they can return, the Government has been told that their actions were both illegal and indefensible, Well, not exactly! Not really!
Why? Yes, why indeed? Trouble is, there’s another bunch of people sitting on Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Islands, with the complete approval of the British Government. The Americans are there, along with two B-52 bomber squadrons, four huge military deployment vessels loaded to the gunwales with tanks, guns and artillery; base facilities for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier battle group; consisting of three cruisers, ten destroyers, three nuclear submarines, eighty-four F-18A fighter-bombers and about four thousand base personnel, apart from the crews of the various ships! The base staff wear tee-shirts saying “Paradise Island” and they mean it! The swimming is safe, the beach facilities are superb, U.S. forces have an enviable life style when on the islands. Oh, and one last thing, there is plenty of fresh water!
So why have the protests and legal actions ceased? Why have the islanders not been returned to their ancestral homes, even if they have to share with nuclear-powered warships? Because the British Government, in the name of the British people, prepared a document called an “Order in Council”, a document from which there is NO APPEAL, which permanently bars the islanders from returning to their homes, and this document was signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, on the morning of the last General Election during a regular meeting of her Privy Council!. The High Court ruled just recently that the ‘Order’ was irrational, but the islanders still face further battles to gain the simple right to go home!
Now that’s also Democracy in action!
I wrote the post above for a blog called A Tangled Web some ten years ago; but I thought I would reprint it under my own name, just as the final nails are slammed into the coffin which holds the forlorn hopes of the Chagos Islanders by the pronouncements of the British Supreme Court, which states that the Islanders can go just about anywhere, but they cannot go home!