Big Green vs. human rights in the Indian Ocean

Diego Garcia is the largest island of a tropical atoll in the Chagos Archipelago of the Indian Ocean, named after a 1500s Spanish explorer. It is actually a loop of about 50 islands atop one peak in a vast submarine mountain range. But if it looks less like a tropical paradise than a massive U.S. naval support facility, a ship and submarine support base, a military air base, and a military sealift command center, that’s because it is.

The British own the Chagos — they “separated” the archipelago from the tiny island nation of Mauritius in 1965 — and the U.S. has leased Diego Garcia since the Cold War era because it’s a handy place from which to visit regional troublemakers in force.

But there’s a hitch: People used to live in the Chagos — about 2,000 of them. French colonial coconut plantation masters brought most Chagossian ancestors from Madagascar as slaves in the 1700s. The British had to get rid of them at the insistence of the U.S. when we built our military base.

So between 1968 and 1973, Her Majesty’s Government expelled the Chagossians to Mauritius and Seychelles. The exiles began a running battle to return to their homeland, feeling that forced expulsion and dispossession must be illegal. Moreover, Mauritius wants the Chagos back.

On Feb. 9, 2009, a British newspaper, the Independent, published this story: “Giant Marine Park Plan for Chagos. This green project is to be launched in London by the Chagos Environment Network, which includes the Pew Environmental Group, a powerful U.S. charity which successfully lobbied the Bush administration for marine reserves in America.”

Read more at Conservative Action Alerts. By Ron Arnold.

Photo credit: Stephen Edgar – Netweb (Creative Commons)

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