Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Chagos Islands...stealing a nation?

The Chagos Archipelago is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. Officially part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Chagos were home to the Chagossians for more than a century and a half until the United Kingdom evicted them in the early 1970s and allowed the United States to build a military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands. Since 1971, only the atoll of Diego Garcia is inhabited, and only by military and civilian contracted personnel.

The sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago is being disputed between the UK and Mauritius. The United Kingdom excised the archipelago from Mauritian territory prior to Mauritius' independence. On 1 April 2010, the British government Cabinet established the Chagos Archipelago as the world's largest marine reserve. At 640,000 sq.km., it is larger than the country of France or the state of California. The setting up of the Marine Reserve would appear to be an attempt to prevent any resettlement by the evicted natives in the 1960s and 70s. Leaked US Cables have shown the FCO suggesting to the US counterparts that setting up a protected no-take zone would make it "difficult, if not impossible" for the islanders to return. The reserve was then created in 2010. (source: Wikipedia)




John Richard Pilger (born 9 October 1939) is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger has lived in the United Kingdom since 1962. Since his early years as correspondent in the Vietnam War, Pilger has been a strong critic of American and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. The practices of the mainstream media have also been a theme in his work.

Pilger supported Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, by pledging bail in December 2010.  Pilger's bail money was lost in June 2012 when a judge ordered it to be forfeited. Assange had sought to escape the jurisdiction of the English courts by entering the embassy of Ecuador. Pilger visited Assange in the embassy and continues to support him.

His career as a documentary film maker began with The Quiet Mutiny (1970), made during one of his visits to Vietnam, and has continued with over fifty documentaries since then. Other works in this form include Year Zero (1979), about the aftermath of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy (1993). Pilger has long criticised his native country's treatment of indigenous Australians and has made many documentary films on this subject including The Secret Country (1985) and Utopia (2013).

Pilger's 2004 documentary film Stealing a Nation tells the story of the late 20th-century trials of the people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s and 70s, British governments expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, settling them in Mauritius, with only enough money to live in the slums. It gave access to Diego Garcia, the principal island of this Crown Colony, to the United States (US) for its construction of a major military base for the region. In the 21st century, the US used the base for planes bombing targets in Iraq and Afghanistan in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

In a 2000 ruling on the events, the International Criminal Court described the wholesale removal of the indigenous peoples from the Chagos as "a crime against humanity." Pilger strongly criticised Tony Blair for failing to respond in a substantive way to the 2000 High Court ruling that the British expulsion of the island's natives to Mauritius had been illegal.

In March 2005, Stealing a Nation received the Royal Television Society Award, Britain's most prestigious documentary prize.

In May 2006, the UK High Court ruled in favour of the Chagossians in their battle to prove they were illegally removed by the UK government during the depopulation of Diego Garcia. This will pave the way for a return to their homeland. The leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, described it as a "special day, a day to remember". In May 2007, when the UK Government's appeal against the 2006 High Court ruling was dismissed, they took the matter to the House of Lords. In October 2008, the House of Lords ruled in favour of the Government, overturning the original High Court ruling.


(source: Wikipedia)

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