Chagossians Have No Right of Self-Determination 300

“We do not agree the right of self-determination applies to the Chagossians”, says Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan, who later clarifies that they are not “a people”. If you can stand it, you can watch the urgent question in the Commons today which forced the government to defend the decision they had sneaked out via a written answer.

The debate starts at 10.34 – if you put the cursor to the bottom of the picture a slider appears. It is excruciating to watch. In an unusually full House of Commons (not a high bar) there is indignation and real anger on all sides, with even Tories describing the decision to continue the eviction of the Chagos islanders as “dishonourable”.

The government argues that the Chagossians are not “a people” distinct from the Mauritians, therefore they do not have a right of self-determination. This piece of sophistry is designed to answer the obvious question of why the Chagossians have less rights than the Falkland Islanders or Gibraltarians. The actual answer – that the Chagossians are not white – is not one the government wishes to give. It also begs the question, if the Chagossians are Mauritians, why are the islands not a part of Mauritius?

The government produced a paper on prospective resettlement, imposing arbitrary conditions on where and how the Chagossians could live designed to make life as difficult as possible. Those conditions included that there could be no civilian use of the airstrip – which I am glad to see Alex Salmond challenged in the Commons. Chagossians could work at the US airbase, but only on condition their partners and children would not be permitted to be with them. Fishing – their traditional activity – will be banned by the UK government’s marine reserve.

Given these conditions, Duncan kept reiterating, only 223 Chagossians actually wanted to return. And that was not a viable population (which will be news to many inhabited islands).

Support for the government was very thin. The most notable contribution was from the Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne MP, who oozing contempt for dusky foreigners intervened solely to state that it would be impossible to return the islanders because the government would be put to the expense of building a prison for them. (He really did say this, I am not making it up, you can see it on the link.)

It takes New Labour however to win the lying through your teeth prize, which the unctuous Chris Bryant duly did. He deplored the deportation of the islanders, ignoring the fact that he had served as a minister in the 13 year Blair/Brown governments which did nothing to right the wrong and indeed fought against the islanders as hard as the Tories. But Bryant wished it to be known that the Labour government’s introduction of the marine reserve had no connection at all to denying the islanders the right of return, as was frequently wrongly claimed. Having said that the lying little bastard sat down.

The most amusing moment was when Kate Hoey stated that she knew Alan Duncan personally and he was a decent chap whose heart was secretly not in this despicable decision. Duncan felt the need to deny this vehemently, knowing that being less than totally heartless, particularly in matters relating to Imperial treatment of foreigners, was career death in the May government. I must say, from Duncan’s demeanour I saw no sign he has ever been troubled by humanitarianism.

I was proud that no less than five SNP MPs intervened and many more bothered to turn up, while another Scottish MP. Alistair Carmichael made a very good and principled point on the absolute right of the islanders to live on their islands. It was the SNP who made the most obvious point of all, that it made no sense for the government to claim that a population which had sustained itself on the islands in the 1960’s quite happily could not do so again. Indeed modern technology will make it rather easier.

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300 thoughts on “Chagossians Have No Right of Self-Determination

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  • RobG

    A late night watch for those who have a problem with reality. It’s a twenty minute clip from a young Scottish man called Fraser:

    What I learned working in a UK job centre

    It gives me some hope, but at the same time the plebs need to mass on the streets in protest, otherwise we’ve had it.

    • Iain Stewart

      “France has been in total turmoil this year as a reaction to neo-con policies.” RobG 01:09
      What is this total turmoil to which you refer? The demonstrations against the Loi du travail?

      • Habbabkuk

        That is an excellent question, Iain, and the situation as described by RobG will come as a surprise to most people who have visited France extensively over the last twelve months.

        Perhaps we could ask commenter Laguerre – who lives in France (and in a city, not in the countryside) – whether he agrees with RobG’s description?

      • michael norton

        I believe Rob is correct France is going down the pan.
        They have an imbecile as President of France – not a good idea.
        They are always on strike, even the old bill go on strike.
        The air traffic controllers, the airlines, the trains, the ports,
        the place is crawling with unwanted migrants.
        Islamists keep blowing things up and cutting off heads.
        Marine Le Pen is about to become the first French Woman President.

        • michael norton

          When Frau Marine Le Pen gets to be President of France, she is going to ditch the Euro.
          She is going to stop all migrants from entering France.
          She is going to FREXIT the European Union.
          She is going to cosy up to Mr. Putin
          and she is not going to get talked into any more pointless wars in Africa /Middle East.
          Change is coming to France, get your lamposts ready.

  • bevin

    It is not just worse that anything that any of the ‘totalitarian’ regimes ever dreamed of. It is worse than anything that almost any other country today-certainly any country calling itself a democracy- does.
    It is becoming routine to learn, in the US media, that Parliament is even more opposed to Magna Carta principles than Congress.
    I suspect that the people who run the country consider this, with proud smirks, to be Britain leading the way, ‘punching above its weight’ and so on.
    I never did go to the GDR but I know this much about it: the people did not put up with the spy system, they tore down the Berlin Wall. And they are still pursuing the Stasi informants.
    Ironically they did so to with the applause of the very people- the Tories and the Blairites- who are now doing things that the East Germans would never have stood for.
    Edward snowden is quoted on the matter here:

    • Habbabkuk

      “I never did go to the GDR”


      Thought not.


      “but I know this much about it: the people did not put up with the spy system, they tore down the Berlin Wall.”


      It took them almost half a century to do it, I believe.


      ~” And they are still pursuing the Stasi informants.”



      Any comparison between the GDR’s Stasi system and the situation, current and future, in the UK is so absurd that I wonder why I bother.

  • Rob Royston

    As a life long Scottish Independence voter, I am quite dismayed at the way that the SNP are using the English people’s Brexit as a lever to try and make political gain.
    I voted Brexit because I talked to English colleagues and understood that they have basically similar issues as I have with Westminster and the EU.
    I think we need to fight this new battle together and push our Independence dream back until we defeat our common enemy first. This blackmail threat to all of us by government snooping is a step too far by the Tories, we need to get the sleeping voters roused and get decent people into power as soon as possible.
    Regarding the snooping, let’s say one of us gets into trouble with the law and our private affairs are shown to us as a threat to get us to make a confession. Surely it would also be lawful, in a just society, for our defence team to have similar access to the private affairs of our accusers. Now that would be good, almost making it worth breaking the law.

  • KingofWelshNoir


    I don’t have time to knock down each skittle of your response individually so will knock them all down with one bowl at the kingpin which is this:

    ‘Similarly, if you wish to keep quiet about being gay or indulging in adultery, then don’t advertise the fact that you are gay or adulterous by going into the internet…’

    But of course in visiting online sites you are not ‘advertising’ your interests at all, it is, or was, a private act. Replace the phrase ‘into the internet’ with ‘writing to your aunt’, or ‘going to confession’ and you’ll see the point. Would you be happy for the State to put listening devices in confessional booths and tape-record all confessions? If not, what is the difference?

    • Habbabkuk


      As a wordsmith you should know better than to base your point on my use of the word “advertise”, surely?

      I am not convinced that – for instance – availing yourself of a website which exists, in part at least, to facilitate adulterous relationships (to use your example) is a “private act”. Your possible desire to shag someone else’s wife or partner is certainly a private matter – until you exteriorise it by taking steps such as posting your availability on a website with many thousands (I suppose) of subscribers. Or to take the example of a paedophile: the desire is, I suppose, a private “act” but the realising the desire by the grooming of a potential victim is to enter into the public domain.

      I’ll not spend long on your question regarding the confessional except to say that the example is badly chosen because of the specific nature and purpose of the act of confesssion. Of course there should not be listening devices in the confessional but even if there were, the comparison is still invalid unless the person confessing were to precede his or her confession by audibly identifying him/herself. Which, I believe (well actually, I know) does not happen.


      This is all – for a multiplicity of reasons – a storm in a teacup (as, by the way, occurred during the debate on the introduction of identity cards).

    • Habbabkuk

      I recall that it was made clear publicly by Sir John – and indeed many others, including govt figures – that the purpose of the inquiry was to learn lessons and not to apportion blame.

      Hence the “scoop” you bring to our attention is not new news.

      In passing, let us note that the person whose FOI request brought out the govt papers is quoted as saying the following:

      “Avoiding blame is civil service code for not holding people accountable.”

      and that “civil service code” has nothing to do with the matter. That is because blaming someone is not the same as holding someone accountable. I hope you understand the difference?

      • Macky

        ” that the purpose of the inquiry was to learn lessons and not to apportion blame.”

        No, try re-reading it “was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal proceedings”.

  • David Kendrick

    The right of the British government to rule ye or yay on the rights of those it dispossessed (even if they were contract workers) is irrelevant “In 1965, three years before Mauritius was given its independence, the UK decided to separate the Chagos Islands from the rest of its then Indian Ocean colony. The Mauritian government claims this was in breach of UN general assembly resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies prior to independence.” Guardian. Lawfully, the US government has no right to base its forces on the Island since the UK has no legal basis for ownership(The US should have got a separate lease agreement from Mauritania), there is also ample space on the Island for an out of base township(though without many of the smallholdings which used to dot the island)-every base has a surrounding settlement where soldiers and contractors spend their money.

    The reality is that the UK has only itself to blame, rather than purchasing, it stole. It acknowledged Mauritanian sovereignty by forcibly repatriating the Islanders to Mauritania (rather than giving them British Citizenship ‘and’ full compensation because the Island was a sovereign UK dependency). the UK government has acknowledged it will return the Islands to Mauritanian rule after the US lease expires(in the Guantanimo bay sense). Any ‘compensation’ islanders received in the 1980’s is not a settlement for loss of the Island, since as contract workers they never owned it, Mauritius did and it can allow its citizens anywhere it likes on its territory. Compensation was for the illegal forcible removal, loss of Income and emotional stress.

  • Christoph Jensen

    In his UN General Assembly speech in September, Spanish King Felipe VI urged Britain “to end the colonial anachronism of Gibraltar with an agreed solution between both countries.”

    The British overseas territory was quick to fire back, accusing the Spanish monarch of being “stuck in the 18th century” and not coming to terms with having lost Gibraltar over three centuries ago.

    “This is not 1704, when Britain conquered Gibraltar, or 1713, when Spain ceded it by treaty forever. This is 2016, when what matters most is the right of a people, however small, to determine their own future,” a spokesman for Gibraltar’s government said.

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