Today, the British government announced its intention to turn 210,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean archipelago into the world’s largest marine reserve.
According to the BBC, the British Foreign Secretary David Milliband, said of the project:
Its creation is a major step forward for protecting the oceans, not just around BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] itself, but also throughout the world.
“This measure is a further demonstration of how the UK takes its international environmental responsibilities seriously.”
The British government, it seems, is to be applauded.
Or, is it?
In a recent post on Sparrow Chat, I wrote of the US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Indian Ocean chain, and how it’s presently being stocked to the gills with armaments, including “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.
The area fell to Britain in 1814 with the defeat of Napoleon (originally, the islands had been conquered by the French), which probably would have made little difference to its 2,000 inhabitants, except that in the 1960’s the United States decided it needed a military base in the area. Diego Garcia was perfect for the job, or would have been were it not for the locals.
The last thing America wanted was a load of curious islanders delving into their affairs, so the British (who were being well paid for their skulduggery) forcibly ejected the lot. Some were shipped to Britain, the remainder dumped on a Mauritian quayside and left to fend for themselves.
The British government responsible for this disgusting act of barbarity was headed by the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Edward Heath, his Tory successor, happily continued the policy.
For forty years the Chagossians have fought a bitter battle in the UK courts, for the right to return to their homeland. Finally, in 2007, seven judges agreed that their right of abode was so fundamental the British government could not take it away.
In response, the UK government appealed to its own legislative body, the Law Lords, who happily overruled the decision.
Well, they would, wouldn’t they?
Undeterred, the Chagossians have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights. A verdict is expected this autumn.
Meanwhile, the British government announces its decision to turn the area into a marine reserve.
Which means a ban on fishing.
Which means the Chagossians, if they win their battle, will be unable to pursue the only livelihood open to them on the island.
With no means of support, they’ll be unable to return.
Such is the devious nature of the British government.
 “UK sets up Chagos Islands marine reserve” BBC, April 1st 2010
 “Matters We’re Not Supposed To Know About” Sparrow Chat, March 15th 2010
Filed under: David and Goliath