Diego Garcia in Times of Globalization

Brief chronology
By Veena Dholah

1215
Magna Carta in England ensures right not to be exiled. 800 years later this human rights charter is referred to in the UK Supreme Court Judgment of 2000 giving Chagossians the right to return.

1715
Mauritius, including the Chagos Archipelagos and other islands of the Indian Ocean, becomes a possession of the French East India Company.  The French East India Company  later goes bankrupt and sells these “possessions” to the King of France.

1776
Permanent population begins; at first leper colony, stable links with Mauritius Island maintained.

1814
Chagos along with the whole of the rest of Mauritius is ceded to Britain by France in 1814 after the 1810 capitulation during the Napoleonic Wars. All these islands together make up the colony known as “The Mauritius”.

1815
Treaty of Vienna gives United Kingdom legal title to Mauritius and its dependencies, including Chagos Archipelago.

1960
The United Nations General Assembly adopts Declaration 1514 (XV) on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples. UN Declaration Paragraph 5 clearly states that the transfer of powers to the peoples of those territories which have not yet attained independence should be effected “without any conditions or reservations....”

1960’s
A Special Committee on Decolonisation is created by United Nations’ General Assembly (resolution No 1654), to monitor and report on the progress of all “ trust  and non self-governing territories” and their movement towards independence.

1965
Resolution 2066 (XV) is passed : “Noting with deep concern that any step taken by the administrative power to detach certain islands from the territory of Mauritius for the purpose of establishing a military base would be in contravention of the Declaration and in particular paragraph 6 thereof ...Invites the administrating power to take no action which would dismember the territory of Mauritius and violate the territorial integrity ...”

1965
Chagossians visiting relatives and friends in Mauritius, are not allowed to return to the Chagos. They are informed that “The Islands are closed”. This, and other tactics, continue until 1973.

1965
In the run up to full independence, a Mauritius Constitutional Conference is held at Lancaster House, London. Mauritius delegation is comprised of representatives from the Mauritius Labour Party (PT), the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD), the Independent Forward Block (IFB), the Muslim Committee of Action (CAM), and two Independent Legislative Assembly’s members.

1965
BIOT Order in Council of the Court of Buckingham Palace to dismember the territory of Mauritius and violate its territorial integrity. Date of the actual legal implement of the “stealing” of the Islands.

1965
First public announcement in regard of excision was made in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom.

1965
£ 3 million paid by the British Government to Mauritian Government for supposed “sale of Chagos Islands”

1965
Following the Constitutional Conference, the Chagos Archipelago is detached from Mauritius and, along with three islands from the British colony of Seychelles, they are made into the new Colony of British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

1966
United Kingdom signs a Defence Treaty leasing to the United States of America, the so-called BIOT for defense purposes. This turns US into a “receiver of stolen goods”.

1966
Forcible evictions of Chagossians from now onwards, by the British and US authorities.

1968
Diego Garcia Islanders given two months to pack up and leave forever. Most are placed on the other Chagos Islands of Peros Banos and Salomon.

1968
The Colony of Mauritius which had comprised, inter alia, the Chagos Archipelago is granted independence but without Chagos.

1970
Non-Aligned Summit Resolution adopts to make the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace.

1971
The British Indian Ocean Territory Immigration (BIOT) Ordinance exiles all the people of Chagos.

1971
United Nations General Assembly adopts Indian Ocean Peace Zone Resolution 2832.

1972 Agreement is signed between United Kingdom and the United States of America supposedly establishing no more than a “communication facility” on Diego Garcia.

1972
Compensation is paid by Britain (supposed to have been final)-£650,000 for resettlement.

1972
United Nations Ad-Hoc Committee is set up so as to implement the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace resolution.

1973
Throughout 1973 forced evictions continue.

1973
Christian Simon, in despair, commits suicide on the boat trip.

1973
Nordvaer is the ship bringing the last Chagossians. They hold a sit-in on the ship and refuse to disembark.

1973
Housing estate houses and dockers flats made available to some families because of demonstration onboard of Nordvaer.

1975
George Champion sets up “1966 Society for Diego Garcia” in UK to support Chagossians.

1976
Seychelles gains an important victory when Aldabra, Desroches and Farquhar Islands are returned to the Seychelles. The US cancels its 60-year lease agreement with the UK.

1976
Chagossian, Michel Vencatessen puts court action against British Government. He is assisted by his lawyer, Bernard Sheridan.

1976
Organisation Fraternelle supports Chagossians, sets up Comité Ilois OF.

1978
At Bain Des Dames in Port-Louis 6  women go on hungerstrike, including Marie Lisette Talate, Charlesia Alexis and Louise Latouche. Supporters who stayed overnight include Ragini Kistnasamy, Lindsey Collen, Marie France Favory, Rajni Lallah, Serge Rayapoullé, Lindsay Aza. Ram Seegobin assisted as medical practitioner.

1978
Demonstration in the streets of Port-Louis, organised by the MMM and others, over Diego Garcia and Tromelin.

1979
A “Comité” asks Sheridan (Mr. Vencatassen’s lawyer) to negotiate more compensation. British Government offers £ 1.5 m on the express condition that (i) Vencatassen withdraw his case (ii) sign a “full and final” and “never to return” document.

1979
Visit of sailors (Mauritians and Mauritians of Chagossian origin) to Chagos.

1980
Lalit de Klas distributes leaflets to US marines in Port-Louis harbour, calling for the closing of the Diego Garcia base.

1980
Organisation for African Unity passes resolution calling for the unconditional return of Diego Garcia to Mauritius, as its continued occupation represents a permanent threat to Africa as a Zone of Peace.

1980
Supplement: “Diego Lamor” in Lalit de Klas magazine.

1980
Francoise Botte publishes her research on “The Ilois Community and Ilois Women”.

1980
A unanimous resolution is taken at the Heads of State OAU Conference at Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1-4th July 1980, to demand dismantling of the Diego Garcia base, and the retrocession of Chagos to Mauritius.

1981
Chagossian women’s hungerstrike at Company Gardens. 3 days street demonstration by 200 women including MLF and Lalit women. Arrest of 8 women and detention in Line Barracks for three days.

1981
Trial of 8 women arrested at the demonstration under the POA (Public Order Act).

1981
Front National de Soutien aux Ilois set up.

1981
Publication of Hervé Silva’s Report on the “Survey on the Conditions of Living of the Ilois Community Displaced from the Chagos Archipelago”.

1981
Delegation of Chagossians goes to London for negotiations, as a direct result of street demonstrations and massive mobilisation.

1981
Lagazet Lalit de Klas publishes proof of nuclear materials being transshipped at Diego Garcia.

1982
Select Committee of Parliament set up by a Standing Order, with terms of reference to look into the circumstances which led to and followed the excision of the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia, from Mauritius in 1965 and at the exact nature of the transactions that took place.

1982
As a result of the popular mobilization, street demonstrations, arrests and trials of women demonstrators, and after the 1981 negotiations, UK pays Rs75,880,000 compensation to the Chagossians. Ilois Trust Fund is set up.

1983
Report of the Select Committee on the Excision of the Chagos Archipelago is published.

1983
The 7th Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, when it meets in Delhi, votes a resolution for the dismantling of the base and for the retrocession of Diego Garcia and Chagos to Mauritius.

1989
The US, UK and France pull out of the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace Ad-Hoc Committee to prevent the Colombo Conference of 1990 from going ahead.

1990
Hungerstrike of the Organisation Fraternelle is held at Pointe aux Sables.

1990
The Mauritian State tables an official motion to put Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago on to the United Nations General Assembly agenda. Some weeks later , it withdraws this motion.

1991
US uses Diego Garcia base to bombard civilians in Iraq.

1992
Mauritian new Republican Constitution names Chagos including Diego Garcia as part
of Mauritius.

1994
Agreement is signed between Britain and Mauritius on Fishing. This is the first official agreement in which the Mauritian State accepts the existence of a military base on its territory.

1994
Publication of novel The Rape of Sita by Lindsey Collen, with fictionalised accounts of Chagos struggles.

1995
The UN Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee draws attention to the fact that self determination has not been implemented in the case of Mauritius because of illegal occupation of Chagos in its Concluding Observations, when Mauritius country report is being reviewed.

1996
Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear-Arms-Free Africa is drawn up and signed. The Mauritian State accepts that dotted lines be put around Diego Garcia in the Treaty map.

1997
Lalit “Open Letter to Tony Blair”.

1997
From here onwards, Official Secrets Act in UK 30-year secrecy rule expires. Documents now public.

1997
“Diego Files” series by Henri Marimootoo published in Week End newspaper.

1997
Rann Nu Diego Committee is set up by Lalit and Grup Refizye Chagos. Some 12 organizations members. Negotiations with Greenpeace to visit Diego Garcia by boat.

1998
Ferdinand Mandarin and his legal advisor, Hervé Lasemillante, present case for Chagossians as “autochtone” at United Nations Committee in Geneva.

1999
Lalit runs international campaigns for electors in their countries to put pressure on US President Clinton and UK Prime Minister Blair to close the US base, compensate Chagossians, and make way for re-uniting Mauritius.

1999
Victory in Bancoult v Queen case, granting Chagossians the right to return, and exposing the State conspiracy of the 1960’s. Historically important judgment.

2000
African Growth and Opportunity Act is passed.

2000
Ram Seegobin, Lalit member, exposes link between AGOA and Diego Garcia at international workers’ meetings in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

2000
Publication of novel Mutiny by Lindsey Collen, with account of fictional Chagossian woman’s life.

2001
US bombs Afghan civilians from its base on Diego Garcia.

2001
United Nations General Assembly adopts new Resolution on Indian Ocean Zone of Peace.

2001
Lalit circulates open letter to citizens of UK and US.

2001
Lalit runs poster campaign: “SSR ti vann Diego ar UK, Bérenger ek Jugnauth pe vann Diego ar US”.

2001
Anti-War Lalit forum at Port Louis Theatre. Base closure called for.

2002
Mauritian government for the first time officially receives an official of the BIOT.

2002
Lecture on Diego Garcia by Lindsey Collen at History Conference in Liverpool, UK.

2002
Chagos Refugees Group and their legal advisor, Robin Mardaymootoo, sue the British state for damages and reparations. (As we go to press)

2002
Chagos Refugees Group and their legal advisor, Robin Mardaymootoo sue the US State, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and US corporations for damages, for torture and genocide. (Still in courts as we go to press)

2002
Sahringon holds Strategy Workshop in Mauritius. Organizations and individuals present vote a resolution for US Base Closure, for reunification of Mauritius, for reparations and resettlement, for an ecological assessment, and for the Mauritian Government to create a 22nd Constituency for Chagos, and to present a bold resolution at the UN. The resolution is now being circulated for Africa-wide endorsement. (As we go to press).

2002
US uses African Growth and Opportunity Act (Trade Law) to silence Mauritian State.

2002
US Armed Forces prepare Diego Garcia for war against Iraq.

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