Monday, 25 January 2010

A people's navy...

Pete and Jon have been arrested in Diego Garcian waters. We have been told they are well but we haven't heard from them since their arrest. See the Home page for more coverage on their arrest. Below we reproduce the statement that they have prepared to give to the UK and US governments: We have sailed our boat Musichana over 2000 miles to demonstrate to you the serious nature of our concerns about the plight of the Chagossians and about your military activities on Diego Garcia.

It is our duty as British citizens, to challenge and expose these activities in a peaceful and responsible manner.

We represent a growing proportion of the world's population, who disagree with the treatment of the Chagossians and demand their right to return.

--The Chagos people were the legitimate inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelagos.

--Three generations of Chagossians are buried on the island.

--The UK courts have consistently supported the Chagossians in their right to return.

--While commendable, it is simply not good enough to allow some Chagossians to come back to clean and restore graveyards. When the work is finished they have to leave again.

We are disgusted by your military activities, because history has proven that violent military conflicts and all forms of terrorism solve nothing. Yet your actions and those of your respective Governments, which corruptly entangle profit making business with political and military decisions, continue to increase militarization and the use of force as a first rather than a last option and only perpetuate global instability and terrorise innocent people.

Your base here is, together with the other US bases throughout the world, part of an axis of evil and represents all the corruption and subversion of human decency. From here your bombers have rained terror, horror and destruction, often onto the heads of innocent people. It has also been used for secretly transporting and holding prisoners without regard to even the most basic and accepted concepts of justice.

We urge you, in the name of humanity to cease your inhumane activities. You must leave Diego Garcia forthwith and end your shameful and harmful presence here, so that the rightful inhabitants, who you exiled nearly forty years ago can return to their homes and live in peace.

The story of the "People's Navy" voyage to Chagos.

Story of a deportation

Almost four decades have elapsed but Dervillie Permal remembers clearly the summer day in 1971 when the British Government evicted him from the Chagos Islands, the tropical idyll in the heart of the Indian Ocean that was his home.
Now 73, his face contorts with anguish as he recalls in his native Creole how he had just left work at a coconut plantation when armed soldiers stopped him, told him he had to leave immediately and escorted him to a ship that was packed with weeping islanders. He was not permitted a final visit to his home. He was allowed to take only the possessions he had with him. His dog and livestock were killed.
A week later the Nordvaer deposited its wretched human cargo 1,200 miles away in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, a British colony at the time. There he was reunited with his wife Marie Aimee, who had taken their two children to Port Louis for medical treatment two years earlier and had been barred from returning to the sun-blessed archipelago.
The islanders – mostly illiterate, unskilled and penniless – were given no help to resettle. They lived in dirt-floor shacks in the slums of the city. Mr Permal scraped a living unloading rice from ships. Mrs Permal earned a few extra pennies from sewing. They raised seven children. Last year Hengride, their daughter, brought them to live with her in a three-bedroom, semidetached house that is occupied by ten Chagossians in the Sussex commuter town of Crawley.

Further reading.

Social life in the Chagos: the folklore

Far from the hectic and consuming life of Mauritius, we led a very peaceful life on our small islands.

There was no mad rush, we all lived according to our own rhythm, never in fear or in stress of having to strive to make both ends meet in order to feed the members of our family. Our society was constituted in such a way that we always had whatever we wanted, there was no poverty and no misery.

We never knew the meaning of hunger, deprivation or starvation until we were moved to Mauritius. We always had plenty of food, we ate to our heart’s content and drank to our good fortune. This was due to the fact that many, if not all of us, reared animals and poultry (chickens, ducks, pigs, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl, rabbits), we also grew fruit and vegetable gardens and vegetables that one family did not have were always obtained from another family in exchange for a vegetable that it did not have. Some of us had beehives, which produced fresh honey for the community. All of us knew how to fish and take food from the resourceful lagoon. Some of us were full time fishermen, the rest would fish whenever they had to or felt like it. We had the best fish, lobster, octopus and crab, ever. We always had fresh fish, most often red snappers and ‘babonne’ which are sold at over $25 a pound on western and far eastern markets and which we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Inasmuch as fish have traditionally been a significant element of our diet, we were torn by the fact that we did not have the means to get fresh fish in Mauritius; all we could have was frozen fish, which, from all angles you look at it (nutritionally and taste), was a different thing altogether, if you could even get it. It is not that there is no fish in Mauritius, but on an island of 1.2m inhabitants, the lagoons having been emptied of their fish, fishermen have to be well organised to go outside the lagoons, which makes the fish much more expensive and not available to poor people like ourselves. I have a hard time imagining Italians being deprived of pasta and pizza, Chinese of rice and noodles, Americans of burgers, fries and ice cream: for us, fresh fish and other fresh sea produce was the basis of our diet. We cooked and had them in one hundred different ways.

From: Our life in Chagos

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Always a pleasure to provide construction services on stolen land

Tutor Perini Corporation (NYSE: TPC), a leading civil and building construction company, announced that its subsidiary Black Construction, in joint venture with MACE International Limited, has been awarded a $19.2 million design-build contract in Diego Garcia by the Department of the Navy.

“We are pleased to be part of this program for the U.S. Navy. Our team at Black Construction continues to be a leader in providing construction services for the Navy and other governmental agencies in this part of the world.”

The U.S. Navy Support Facility (“NSF”) Diego Garcia is located in the Indian Ocean within the British Indian Ocean Territory. The project, called FY09 MCON Project P-181 Wharf Upgrade and Warehouse Facility, will support the relocation of a Land class vessel due to closure of the current ship homeport. This is the second phase of a planned three-phase construction program to provide facilities to support the Land class ship and the ships that it will service at NSF Diego Garcia in a timely manner. In addition, this project will upgrade the water and wastewater systems and construct storage facilities to support the operations.

Ronald Tutor, Chairman and CEO of Tutor Perini, said: “We are pleased to be part of this program for the U.S. Navy. Our team at Black Construction continues to be a leader in providing construction services for the Navy and other governmental agencies in this part of the world.”

Further reading

Black Construction is also concerned with the militarist destruction of the island of Guam.

Doutes sur retraite de Chagos

La récente décision des Etats-Unis pour un upgrading of the wharf facilties à la base militaire de Diego Garcia suscite des doutes quant à un éventuel retrait à l'expiration du bail initial de 50 ans et le retour de l'archipel des Chagos à Maurice en 2016. C'est ce qu'indiquent des observateurs qui suivent avec intérêt depuis plusieurs années déjà ce différend anglo-mauricien. Le dernier développement majeur en date demeure l'octroi d'un contrat d'un montant de Rs 300 millions pour des travaux au quai de Diego Garcia. Les travaux de modernisation des facilités portuaires devront durer jusqu'en octobre 2011, indique-t-on de sources militaires officielles.

Ainsi un consortium connu sous le nom de Black Construction Corp. / MACE International, JV, GMF Barrigada de Guam s'est vu octroyer en ce début d'année le contrat pour des travaux visant à upgrade the wharf facilities at Naval Support Facility à Diego Garcia. Mention est également faite qu'une firme spécialisée du Japon, The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Far East, à Yokosuka, comme faisant partie des contracting activities.

A ce stade, l'annonce publique de ce contrat d'un montant de Rs 300 millions pour des travaux échelonnés sur les prochains 22 mois, n'est pas accompagné de détails sur la nature des travaux envisagés par les militaires américains ou encore si ces travaux auront des répercussions sur l'environnement marin de l'archipel. Rappelons que Londres ambitionne de transformer les eaux des Chagos en une marine protection area.

Néanmoins, la succession de projets de nature militaire exécutés à Diego Garcia commence à susciter de malaises à Port-Louis. Les travaux pour la modernisation des wharf facilities at the Naval Support Base de Diego Garcia fait suite à la décision de Washington de doter cette base militaire de facilités pour accueillir des sous-marins équipés de lance-missile type Tomahawk. Ces nouvelles dispositions devront être opérationnelles à partir du mois d'avril prochain, avait annoncé la Marine américaine vers la fin de l'année dernière.

D'autre part, fin décémbre 2009, dans le sillage de l'attentat terroriste manqué sur un avion de la Northwest Airlines le jour de Noël avec pour principal suspect, l'étudiant nigérian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, la presse internationale avait fait état d'un projet des Américains pour l'utilisation des facilités militaires à Diego Garcia dans la nouvelle offensive contre Al-Qaeda au Yémen.

" The US has never publicly acknowledged the rapid build-up of its military presence in and near Yemen since last year but sources say that attacks already mounted by Yemeni government forces on al-Qaeda training camps would have been impossible without American hardware and knowhow. Future strikes could involve the use of US drones, fighter jets and ship-launched cruise missiles. "We are going to work with allies and partners to seek out terrorist activity [and] al-Qaeda", Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said. The US military has formidable firepower on permanent standby in the form of carrier battle groups stationed in Bahrain, and unimpeded access to Yemen from bases in Djibouti and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia ", rapporte le Times de Londres à cet effet.

A ce stade, le gouvernement est encore au stade de la confirmation officielle des intentions militaires des Américains. Le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Arvin Boolell, interrogé par Le Mauricien, ce matin, sur ces nouveaux travaux d'infrastructure à Diego Garcia, a laissé entendre qu'il compte soulever cette affaire pour des précisions sur les composantes de ces travaux lors de sa prochaine rencontre avec le nouveau Chargé d'Affaires des Etats-Unis demain.

Entre-temps, le froid diplomatique entre Port-Louis et Londres est toujours de mise car le Foreign Secretary britannique, David Miliband, n'a pas encore répondu aux demandes d'explications et d'éclaircissements de Maurice au sujet du " Consultation Paper " sur le projet visant à faire de l'archipel des Chagos une marine protection area. Une des conséquences est que le troisième round des consultations bilatérales sur les Chagos, qui aurait dû se dérouler cette semaine à Londres, a été gelé à l'initiative de Maurice.

Source: Le Mauricien

The destruction of torture flight papers

The Observer, 9 August 2009:

Foreign affairs select committee calls for disclosure on why Diego Garcia documents have vanished

Ministers must explain why crucial documents relating to CIA "torture flights" that stopped on sovereign British territory were destroyed, a panel of MPs has said.

A damning appraisal by the influential foreign affairs select committee on Britain's role in the rendition of terror suspects and alleged complicity of torture condemns the government's lack of transparency on vital areas of concern.

In particular, the MPs, in a report released today, call for an explanation for the missing papers, which might explain the role of Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory, in the US's "extraordinary rendition" programme. The report says: "We recommend that the government discloses how, why and by whom the records relating to flights through Diego Garcia since the start of 2002 were destroyed."

Foreign secretary David Miliband admitted 18 months ago that two US planes refuelled on the Indian Ocean island. The committee now wants a detailed account of the record-keeping and disposal policy regarding flights through the territory and "elsewhere through UK airspace".

It also criticises the government's inability to offer assurances that ships anchored outside Diego Garcia's waters were not involved in the rendition programme. "The government must address the use of UK airspace for empty flights that may be part of a rendition circuit," says the report.

Amnesty International said the MPs' verdict underlined the need for a full, independent inquiry into the UK's involvement in "war on terror" and human rights abuses.

The committee also voiced disquiet over claims that British intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of detainees held overseas. According to documents revealed by the high court last month, an MI5 officer visited Morocco three times during the time British resident Binyam Mohamed claims he was secretly interrogated and tortured there.

Of concern to the foreign affairs committee were claims relating to the involvement of the British security services and the practices of Pakistan's ISI intelligence officers, who are known to routinely condone torture.

Details of the investigations the government has carried out into any of the claims should be made public, according to MPs. Mike Gapes, chairman of the committee, said it was time ministers also disclosed the guidance given at the time to intelligence officers interviewing suspects.

He said details of people captured by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and placed in US custody should be divulged as part of a drive to improve transparency. The committee report notes: "We conclude that the potential treatment of detainees transferred by UK forces to the Afghan authorities gives cause for concern, given that there is credible evidence that torture and other abuses occur within the Afghani criminal justice system."

Remaining question: whatever happened afterwards?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Diego Garcia: The Other Guantánamo

David Vine

On the small, remote island of Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean halfway between Africa and Indonesia, the United States has one of the most secretive military bases in the world. From its position almost 10,000 miles closer to the Persian Gulf than the east coast of the United States, this huge U.S. air and naval base has been a major, if little known, launch pad for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past year, the Bush administration has made improvements that point toward its use in a possible attack on Iran. The administration recently admitted what it had long denied and what journalists, human rights investigators, and others had long suspected: The island has also been part of the CIA's secret "rendition" program for captured terrorist suspects.

While few know about the base on Diego Garcia – it has long been off-limits to all non-military personnel – even fewer know how it came into being. To create the base, the United States, with the help of Great Britain, exiled all the indigenous people of Diego Garcia and the surrounding Chagos Archipelago. Between 1968 and 1973, U.S. and U.K. officials forcibly removed around 2,000 people, called Chagossians, 1,200 miles away to islands in the western Indian Ocean. Left on the docks of Mauritius and the Seychelles with no resettlement assistance, the Chagossians, whose ancestry in Chagos dated to the 18th century, have grown deeply impoverished in exile.

Diego Garcia has become another Guantánamo in more ways than one: The product of years of deception and lies, a far more secretive detention facility than the Cuban prison, the cause of immense suffering and pain for an entire people, Diego Garcia has become mark of shame for the United States that must be repaired.

Further reading.

Guantánamo’s ghosts and the shame of Diego Garcia

Andy Worthington

One of the more sordid and long-running stories in Anglo-American colonial history –- that of Diego Garcia, the chief island of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean –- reared its ugly head again on Friday when the UK’s all-party foreign affairs committee announced plans to investigate long-standing allegations that the CIA has, since 2002, held and interrogated al-Qaeda suspects at a secret prison on the island.

The shameful tale of Diego Garcia began in 1961, when it was marked out by the US military as a crucial geopolitical base. Ignoring the fact that 2,000 people already lived there, and that the island –- a British colony since the fall of Napoleon –- had been settled in the late 18th century by French coconut planters, who shipped in African- and Indian-born labourers from Mauritius, establishing what John Pilger called “a gentle Creole nation with thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a prison, a railway, docks, a copra plantation,” the Labour government of Harold Wilson conspired with the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to “sweep” and “sanitize” the islands (the words come from American documents that were later declassified).

Although many islanders traced their ancestry back five generations, a British Foreign Office official wrote in 1966 that the government’s aim was “to convert all the existing residents … into short-term, temporary residents,” so that they could be exiled to Mauritius. Having removed the “Tarzans or Men Fridays,” as another British memo described the inhabitants, the British effectively ceded control of the islands to the Americans, who established a base on Diego Garcia, which, over the years, has become known as “Camp Justice,” complete with “over 2,000 troops, anchorage for 30 warships, a nuclear dump, a satellite spy station, shopping malls, bars and a golf course.” So thoroughly were the islands cleared –- and so stealthy the procedure –- that in the 1970s the British Ministry of Defence had the effrontery to insist, “There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation.”

Further reading.

From one Nobel laureate to another

The 2008 Nobel Literature Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio has asked Barack Obama to help Chagossians return to their homeland.

In a letter to the Nobel-peace-prize-wining US president, the French-Mauritian writer asked Obama to authorize the return of Chagossians to Diego Garcia, L' reported.

The Chagossian people were the habitants of Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomon Islands, as well as parts of the Chagos Archipelago, like Egmont and Eagle Islands.

Mostly coming of an African heritage, Chagossians were brought by the French from Mauritius as slaves in 1786.

"I would draw your attention to an injustice that has lasted forty years. I mean the deportation of people Chagossians," reads the letter published in the French newspaper Le Monde on Oct. 17, 2009.

"These unfortunates were forced to abandon their homes and their property in dire conditions. To those who refused to obey the militia responded with the threat," Le Clézio wrote in his letter. 

Further reading.

Diego García, pire que Guantánamo : L’embryon de la mort

Cristina Castello

C’est une prison secrète qui se lève dans les terres qui ont été volées aux habitants originaires du lieu. De sa piste de vol ils ont décollé les bombardiers des USA, pour envahir le Cambodge, l’Afghanistan et l’Irak, à coups de feu, crimes et impiété ; pour contrôler le Moyen Orient et ... plus encore, mais voyons déjà.
« Diego García » est un embryon de la mort. C’est l’abîme qu’ont choisi les barbares — avec l’excuse d’un « terrorisme » supposé — pour mieux torturer. C’est un vrai trésor pour l’Amérique du Nord et le Royaume-Uni. C’est la base militaire la plus importante que l’Empire a, pour surveiller le monde ; et près de ses paires — les bases de Guam et d’Ascension — sont les clés pour l’envahisseur. C’est un endroit idéal pour accueillir des missiles de l’ogive nucléaire, bien qu’ils soient interdits par les traités internationaux. Mais : est-ce que cela importe aux barbares ?
Les barbares ne demeurent pas dans l’océan Indien, où « Diego García », cet atoll qui, né avec un destin d’oasis s’est lui-même converti en enfer. Non. Les barbares donnent les ordres aux barbares de la CIA nord-américaine, appuyés par la Grande-Bretagne et par l’Union Européenne, qui savent si bien se taire quand le Pouvoir est cause de la terreur.


Soyez les bienvenus, la seule place où vous serez les bienvenus sur l'archipel de Chagos.

Welcome to Chagos, islands of no return.