Chagos Islanders are determined to return to their homes!

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NEXT week the British government will be hauled kicking and screaming before judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague over the despicable treatment of the Chagos Islanders at the hands of British and US imperialism.

50 years ago Britain seized control of the Chagos Islands, a small archipelago in the Indian ocean of enormous military strategic importance, from neighbouring Mauritius which at the time was a colony of the UK.

The islands’ inhabitants were then brutally evicted from their homes by British government agents and US Navy personnel, their livestock and pets killed in front of them before they were transported en masse and dumped in the backstreets of Mauritius with no compensation or resettlement payments.

Having ‘cleansed’ the islands of its people the British government at the time then invited the US to take over the islands in order that they could build a multi-billion dollar Navy and Air Force base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos islands, turning it into a massive US military base in the region.

The base is stuffed full of nuclear weapons from which US imperialism can attack not just the Asian countries, including China, but every country in the Pacific region with even the Middle East within easy striking distance. Recently, Diego Garcia was doubled up as not just a military base but also a secret CIA ‘black site’ where ‘terrorist suspects’ could be held and tortured.

In order to cover up the brutal and inhuman treatment of the Chagossians, British and American governments spread the lie that the Chagos Islanders were not true inhabitants but simply transient ‘migrant workers’ with no rights and the islands were in fact uninhabited.

After independence, Mauritius has been in dispute with Britain over ownership of the islands and in 2017 the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to refer this dispute to the ICJ to clarify what it described as being a territorial dispute – a humiliating defeat for British imperialism.

This has provoked outrage from the Tory government which clearly hates the idea of all their dirty dealings and their inhuman treatment of Chagossians being aired in a court of law.

So concerned are they, the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, has complained that Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had demanded that Mauritius back down. Jugnauth said: ‘We have been threatened with retaliation … on issues of trade and on issues of investment, you know, and on our relationship with the UK.’

A UK Foreign Office spokesman responded: ‘We have repeatedly undertaken to cede it to Mauritius when no longer required for defence purposes.’ However, US imperialism will never give up its base in Diego Garcia which is central to its plans for military domination of the region.

In the meantime, the Chagos Islanders are condemned to living in abject poverty in Mauritius and, along with Chagossians living in the UK, condemned by British imperialism never to return to their homeland.

However, the Chagossians are determined not to accept this fate and are battling for their right to return to their homes. Along with their children, they recently occupied Trafalgar Square for a week to demand their right to return. They demand that the US-UK nuclear base be closed down, along with its annexe the US-CIA torture centre.

On Sunday September 9th they will be lobbying the start of the Trades Union Congress to demand that the UK trade unions champion their cause. The TUC unions and the Labour Party owe the Chagossians since it was the Wilson Labour government that evicted them from their island homes.

Congress delegates must move an emergency resolution supporting their right to return to the Chagos Islands, and to take action to bring down the Tory government. A Corbyn-led Labour government must right the wrong that was done to them by Wilson and return the Chagossians to their homes.

Justice for the Chagos Islanders will be achieved by their revolutionary action alongside the UK workers – not by international courts!