‘WE HAVE RIGHT TO RETURN!’ – Chagos Islands hearing begins today

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Chagos Islanders campaigning in Crawley last Saturday for today’s picket of the Court of Appeal and next Saturday’s demonstration in Crawley
Chagos Islanders campaigning in Crawley last Saturday for today’s picket of the Court of Appeal and next Saturday’s demonstration in Crawley

Chagos Islanders are at the High Court in London today, where the British government is making a second appeal against the ruling that they were illegally removed from their island of Diego Garcia in 1966.

They are holding a march through Crawley in Sussex this Saturday and over the weekend were campaigning for support.

Campaign leader Hengride Permal told News Line: ‘We are at the High Court on Monday.

‘The British government is having a second appeal against the High Court decision that it was illegal to take us out from our island and we should have the right to go back.

‘They lost the first appeal and they are appealing again. So we will see what happens.

‘Since we started our demonstration in front of Crawley social services, more people have started supporting us. Now trade unions and some MPs and lots of members of the public are supporting us.

‘We were there 24 hours a day for almost four months until January 5th. It ended after the judge ruled that it was private land and we were trespassing.

‘We were trespassing on their land, but what about what they are doing on our land!

‘Anyway, since then we’ve had more and more support. Our campaign is continuing until we get our rights.’

Retired US navy officer Patrick Kennerson, stopped at the table to support the campaign on Saturday.

He said: ‘I was 23 years in the US navy and I’ve been to Diego Garcia and a lot of us have. It’s one of the big stopping-off points.

‘I know the history. It’s common sense that what we did was wrong. We had no right.

‘Not only do I think they should give back the island, they are also entitled to big reparations from both the British and American governments.’

Local resident Jan Lusty said: ‘When they were outside the council offices, I went with my friends to support them.

‘I’m horrified that the High Court should pass a judgement that they can go back to their island and that the government thinks it can overturn that decision.

‘I think the government is acting in a very colonial, imperialistic way, which should have died a death decades ago.’

Amicus member and secretary of Crawley Trades Council, Paul Smith, said: ‘We’ll be on the march with our banner. This is a fundamental fight for justice for the people evicted by the British government.’

Local resident Peter Keal said: ‘They bloody well should be allowed to go back. The Wilson government had no right to dispossess them during peace time.’