TODAY’S picket of 10 Downing Street by the Chagos Islanders and their supporters is a vital one.
They are demanding that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, withdraw the Labour government’s appeal to the House of Lords against the decision of the High Court, that the evicted islanders should be allowed to return to 92 of the islands in the Chagos group.
The picket and the campaign for the right to return of the Chagos Islanders must be supported by every trade union and every worker and youth.
The issue is not only to right the huge wrong that was done to the people of the Chagos Islands who were evicted from their homes by the Wilson government in the mid ’60s and the Heath government that followed to make way for the biggest US air and naval base in the world.
The islanders were rounded up and taken by boat to Mauritius. They were exiled for perpetuity. Before they embarked into exile, their homes were destroyed and their animals and pets were killed in front of them.
They were left to rot in the slums of Mauritius, and the pittance of ‘compensation’ that was paid by the British government to its agents in the area never reached as far as the exiles.
However, the democratic rights of the British people were abused to secure this ethnic cleansing of the Chagos Islands.
The removal of the islanders was illegal ethnic cleansing.
In the year 2000, a British legal judgement was made that the Islanders had the right to return. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary of the day, pledged that Labour would not appeal against this verdict and would carry it out.
In 2004 with Cook out of the way, Blair went behind the back of the House of Commons and got an Order in Council signed by the Queen, overturning the legal verdict and threatening those that tried to return to the islands with three years jail.
In 2006 the High Court ripped up the Order in Council and reinstated the original judgement.
Blair lost an appeal against it in 2007, and now Brown has made an appeal to the House of Lords.
There is every reason to believe that the British government will seek to ignore, and get round any rejection by the House of Lords, as Blair did in 2004.
Why? Because the US government not only wants to keep its base in Diego Garcia, and with it the illegal Guantanamo Bay type prison that it has established on the island, it also intends to use the base to launch its coming major attack on Iran, to try to do what it did to Iraq in 1991, ‘bomb it back into the stone age’.
Brown by refusing to carry out the judgement of the High Court is placing himself as did Blair alongside the US and its war plans.
The issue of the Chagos Islands therefore takes up three inter-related issues, the struggle against imperialist ethnic cleansing, the struggle to defend democratic rights in Britain, and the struggle against imperialist war.
This is why all workers and youth must support the struggle of the Chagos Islanders.
Since a leopard does not change its spots it must be assumed that Brown will decline their request to change his policy.
When this becomes clear the trade unions must put their full weight behind the campaign of the Chagos Islanders and play their part in organising a series of major demonstrations to support their right to return, and for the dismantling of the massive US naval base on Diego Garcia.
The fact is, you cannot oppose imperialist barbarism to the oppressed nations and the threat of imperialist wars unless you give full support to the struggle of the Chagos Islanders.