‘IT’S UNACCEPTABLE. All they are doing is making their own decisions and taking away our rights,’ the chair of the Chagos Islands Community Association said yesterday.
Hengride Permal reacted angrily to the announcement by Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the government is establishing a ‘Marine Protection Area’ of 545,000-square kilometres around the Chagos Islands, from where the Chagossian people were evicted by Britain in the 1960s and 1970s and sent into exile.
A case is pending in the European Court of Human Rights about the Chagossians’ right to return to their islands in the Indian Ocean, including Diego Garcia, where the British government has allowed the United States to construct a giant military base.
With parliament in recess, Miliband said the ‘conservation area’ around the islands would ‘double the global coverage of the world’s oceans under protection’.
Commercial fishing will be banned, yet US warships, nuclear submarines and giant bomber planes – which have been used in the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan – plus troops and supplies, will continue to come and go from Diego Garcia.
Hengride Permal told News Line yesterday: ‘I’m very disappointed and I think it is very outrageous what he is doing because the Chagossian people still have their hope to go back to the islands.
‘We demand the right to return to our islands. it looks like he is trying to take away all our hope, but we will keep on fighting for our rights to go back. We will not give up.
‘And the way he did it, he did it like a thief in the night, I should say.
‘I want the trade unions in Britain to help us: they should call a demonstration now to expose what’s going on and demand the withdrawal of this announcement immediately.’
She rejected any suggestion that the Chagossians had been consulted and supported Miliband’s decision.
She said: ‘I think they are just ignoring us like they did 40 years ago, when they forced us out of our islands without our say and now they are doing the same thing again, without consulting us.
‘They are just ignoring our voice.
‘I sent a letter without anyone inviting me to be consulted on this, saying that the government here should listen to what the Chagossian people have to say.
‘We don’t want this marine protection area declared, we want to be able to return to Diego Garcia and the rest of our islands and to be able to fish there.
‘This is exactly what they’re doing, trying to stop us ever returning by taking away our livelihood.
‘It is a nonsense; they are saying we are not allowed to go there but big ships and lots of planes and people are going in and out of Diego Garcia all the time, so I don’t know how they can call it a marine protection area.
‘I hope that Mr Miliband will reconsider this decision.
‘The Chagossian community hasn’t been properly consulted.
‘Maybe he’s consulted a few people who are on his side, but he hasn’t consulted the Chagos Islands Community Association and we are opposed to this move because the Chagossian people are not involved in it at all.
‘This is an attack on our rights, and we continue to demand the removal of the US base and our return to the islands with our children.’