THE WikiLeaks revelations prove once again that British imperialism, although greatly weakened, remains just as poisonous and rotten as ever.
This comes out clearly in its treatment of the Chagos Islanders, who were driven from their homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make way for a gigantic US imperialist war base, from which the US could attack its targets in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
The WikiLeaks cables show that the UK secretly assured the US that establishing a marine conservation area around the Indian Ocean military airbase of Diego Garcia would prevent the people of the Chagos Islands from returning to their homes.
According to WikiLeaks, the Foreign Office overseas territories director, Colin Roberts, said in 2009, that ‘establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement’.
This assurance contradicts the public comments from the Foreign Office that the creation of the ‘environmental haven’ did not mean that the Islanders would be barred from returning home.
The Islanders, described by the Foreign Office official as ‘Man Fridays’, are currently fighting a legal battle in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to be allowed to return.
Last April, the then Labour Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said that the plan for a ‘haven’ would not prejudice the outcome of the ECHR case.
A US cable released by WikiLeaks however states that in 2009 the Foreign Office Director of Overseas Territories, Roberts stated that, ‘according to the HMG’s current thinking on a reserve, there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands.’
Nothing changes for the FO, even down to using the original racist term ‘Man Friday’.
Roberts ‘opined that the UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians advocates”.’
The cable added: ‘He agreed that the UK and US should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that US interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.’
In May 2009, the just-leaked US cables show that Colin Roberts told the Americans that Diego Garcia’s value in ‘assuring the security of the US and UK’ had been ‘much more than anyone foresaw’ in the 1960s, when the plan to set up the base was drawn up.
‘We do not regret the removal of the population since removal was necessary for Diego Garcia to fulfil its strategic purpose,’ he added, under a passage that the Americans headed ‘Je ne regrette rien’.
All this was being said and done behind the back of the the UK and Chagossian people and behind the back of the UK parliament.
On this point, the Foreign Office states that ‘As we have made clear to Parliament and the public on many occasions, the decision to establish a Marine Protected Area is without prejudice to the current proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights.’ The duplicity continues! It is ingrained.
The Tory-LibDem coalition is carrying on where the Labour government left off. As is his way, Cabinet member Vince Cable has already changed his position. This was that the Chagos Islanders would be allowed to return home.
The British coalition government is only too desperate to be seen to be backing US imperialism.
The trade unions in the UK must champion the Chagossian cause and insist that they be allowed to return to their homes and that the base be shut down.
There must be a national campaign of meetings and demonstrations, and the campaign must include industrial action.