UK’s refusal to hand back Chagos Islands doesn’t just make it an 'illegal colonial occupier' – it antagonizes a host of allies
Mauritius is understandably miffed at the British Government’s refusal to hand back control of the disputed Chagos Islands, but help may just come from an unlikely source and see them finally win their long-sought Chexit from colonial control.
Because, while the UK has failed to cede the disputed archipelago in the Indian Ocean to Mauritius by the UN-appointed deadline of November 22, this will not have gone unnoticed by the other 115 nations who backed Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty over the islands earlier this year.Also on rt.com ‘Illegal colonial occupier’: Mauritius blasts UK as it skips UN deadline to return Chagos Islands housing US airbase
When that vote went down in May at the General Assembly in New York, there were only six states who opposed an end to Britain’s colonial rule, but there were 56 that abstained.
Among those abstainees were former firm Euro buddies Germany and France.
The UK’s EU links with nations like those two have, in the past, been enough to either rely on support at the first call or, with a bit of arm-twisting, to at least talk them around to seeing things through a UK lens.
The future of that diplomatic strategy is now certainly in doubt, following the fallout from the frankly disastrous Brexit, and could well see allies who were formerly abstainees turned into votes against a UK position having finally become sick of the legendary British obstinacy.
And it’s not just the General Assembly the UK is choosing to ignore. The UN High Court told the UK it should leave the islands “as rapidly as possible” way back in February of this year, saying the de-colonization process was handled unlawfully.
And in September even Pope Francis, on-tour in Mauritius, took a position on Britain’s failure to heed the United Nations and weighed in to accuse the UK of placing greed over humanity.
“Not all things that are right for humanity are right for our pocket, but international institutions must be obeyed,” said the Pontiff.
The UK has behaved pretty poorly. It leveraged the islands away from Mauritius in 1965, when it was still a British colony, in return for £3million and, Mauritius claims, independence, only to then team up with the US and use some prime real estate on Diego Garcia to agree on building a joint military base, despite the fact that the island was already inhabited by 1,000 Chagossians.
Nevermind, they were simply evicted between 1967-73, sent off to Mauritius and the Seychelles 1,400 miles away and have never been allowed back. Many of those have since moved to the UK, as the housing they were offered was so poor, and to this day live in Crawley, West Sussex.
Meanwhile, the US has used its base on their home island of Diego Garcia to fly bombing missions over Afghanistan and Iraq and reportedly employed it as a CIA black site to interrogate terrorism suspects, so it is no surprise the locals are not welcome back.
The Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth, while condemning the forcible eviction of Chagossians as “a crime against humanity” has offered assurances that his country would continue to allow the military base to operate “in accordance with international law” if Mauritius were given control of the islands, but that still hasn’t been enough for the UK.
But now, with the UN General Assembly, the UN High Court, 116 opposing nations and some pretty powerful players on the fence, pressure is mounting on the Brexit-bamboozled British Government to play ball and do the right thing.
There could be one other shortcut for the Mauritians in achieving their goal, in the shape of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He said on the day of the UN deadline that he would “right the wrongs of history” and hand sovereignty of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius if he becomes Prime Minister.
Now, if those general election polling figures would just head the right way, the Chagos Islanders could be celebrating this Christmas at home.
By Damian Wilson, UK journalist & political communications specialist
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.