Seychelles’ Chagossians seek to be part of ongoing negotiations between UK and Mauritius
Overhead view of Diego Garcia, the island which became a US military base and the main reason why the Chagossians were deported from the islands. (Wikimedia)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Chagossians living in Seychelles have also called for them to be part of ongoing negotiations between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over the return of Chagos Islands to Mauritius.
The spokesperson of the Seychelles Chagossian Committee, Pierre Prosper, made the statement to SNA when contacted with regards to the dispute between the Mauritius government and the Chagos community over their lack of inclusion in the negotiations.
“We, the Chagossians from Seychelles, have already sent a letter to the United Kingdom asking that we be as part of the negotiations,” said Prosper, who says he feels the Chagossians have right to be heard in this matter.
It is to be noted that the letter refers to the fact that the Mauritius government, which lost the Chagos Islands before the country was granted Independence from Britain in 1968, and now are looking for the islands to be returned to them.
Three years before independence, the U.K. severed the Chagos Islands from the rest of Mauritius’ territory so it could lease one of the islands, Diego Garcia, to the U.S. for the establishment of a military base, which still exists there today.
The British government then forcibly deported 2,000 Chagossians.
According to a book published by barrister and historian Philippe Sands, The Last Colony, the British shut down the islands’ plantations and cut off food supplies, with families told they had no option but to leave by ship by April 27, 1973, or slowly starve.
With Mauritius seeking to be given back the islands, according to Prosper, what the Chagossians want is to be given priority to return to the islands should they want to, while they also want the Chagos to be autonomous, the same way another island that is part of Mauritius is - Rodrigues.
“In case Mauritius does not agree to want we want, then we are asking that a referendum is done, so that Chagossians can vote as they whether they want to be part of Mauritius or the UK,” added Prosper.
According an article published this month in the UK newspaper The Guardian, “A legal attempt has been launched to halt negotiations between the UK and Mauritius over the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands, Britain’s last African colony, claiming Chagossian people’s views are being ignored.”
It further states that, “Bernadette Dugasse, who was born on Diego Garcia, an island within what is known today as the British Indian Ocean Territory, is seeking judicial review of the government’s approach to the talks.”
According to Prosper, they are supporting this, but they also want full reparations to be paid from the British government to all the people who were made to leave their homes all these years ago.