Dear Everyone Against Military Bases,
As we write from LALIT in Mauritius to wish you a good 2005, with special thoughts for people living in the aftermath of the cataclysmic tsunami in the north east of the Indian Ocean, we also look back at the whole of the year 2004: It has been a year very rich in events for the campaign to close down the US military base on Diego Garcia, to re-unite Diego with Mauritius and to get compensation for the people forcibly removed in the 1960s and 70s. Here's an update (first) and then, in case you know people who would like them, some ideas on what to do to help get the base closed down. (By the way, the Pentagon says Diego Garcia base was unaffected by the tsunami.
Here, the Mauritian Island of Rodrigues which is to our east WAS affected (the main town Port Mathurin was inundated) and the Reunion Island (French colony to our west) WAS affected (dozens of boats ruined), while Mauritius' main island hardly felt it.
So, here's a brief update. No sooner had the idea of the PEACE FLOTILLA TO DIEGO GARCIA got off the ground and got supported by the NO U.S. BASES network which had its first face-to-face meeting in Mumbai at the WSF in January, than the effects of the movement began to be felt - in partly predictable and partly unpredictable ways:
1.Under political pressure, the Mauritian government, for the first time, publicly threatened to take the UK Government to the UN International Court of Justice at the Hague. To do this, the Prime Minister announced, he would withdraw Mauritius from the Commonwealth. This was necessary because Britain had accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ from only non-commonwealth countries. No sooner had this threat been made than Tony Blair sent his UN representative to change what jurisdiction Britain accepts the ICJ for. Now it refuses to accept jurisdiction for disputes involving any country that was ever in the Commonwealth. And, for good measure, only concerning disputes that date from before the 1960s.
2. The British Government came up with one of the Queen's little dictatorial laws called Orders in Council, which for the first time banned all Chagossians from ANY of the Chagos Islands, not just from Diego Garcia island as the first Order in Council of 2000 had done. These proclamations just OVER-RIDE the British supreme court. And the Queen meanwhile acts behind the back of the British parliament. And apparently even she doesn't know what she signs.
3. Once our campaign got off the ground, it contributed to the vast numbers of British citizens getting to know about the issue, despite their Government's attempts to keep it all a secret. This was done through the beautiful John Pilger film entitled STEALING A NATION.
4. The British Government has agreed to the Chagossians visiting Diego Garcia and the other islands in April 2005.
5. The Red Cross has been informed by Lalit of the possibility that prisoners are being held (or have been held) or rendered on Diego Garcia or in a ship based at Diego Garcia. The Red Cross has tried to get answers from the USA and UK Governments on this issue. We are calling for journalists to be allowed to visit the base, as well as the Red Cross to be allowed to visit.
Editor's note: The Red Cross is a Rockefeller organization.
6. In Mauritius all social, union, and left political organizations have signed up to the PEACE FLOTILLA declaration.
7. The NO U.S. BASES network that LALIT is in (Against all foreign military bases) is preparing for a international conference against military bases for the second half of 2005.
So, no one can say that mobilization doesn't have ANY effect. The closing down of the base on Diego Garcia, full reparations and the right to return, the re-unification of Mauritius - none of these has yet been gained, of course. But now the precondition, of many people KNOWING about the problem, makes victory more possible. And bigger victories (against all bases) possible too.
Just to express our warm appreciation for all that you have all done to help do this.
Below I'm pasting a letter from my colleague Cindy Clelie which she prepared for those who asked for ideas as to what to do.
From LALIT, best wishes for 2005,
Yours, Lindsey Collen, for LALIT, Mauritius. You can get detailed articles and the whole book (with a double click) on http://www.lalitmauritius.com
ACTION you can take to help close the base on DIEGO GARCIA
Many of you have written to us recently, specially after the haunting John Pilger film, STEALING A NATION. People who have seen the film want to know what they can do to help. Their questions often take three forms:
1. "What can I do to help to get the USA-UK military base on Diego Garcia closed down?"
2. "What can I do to help the 2,000 people and their children who were forcibly removed 35 years ago and just abandoned on the dockside in Port Louis, on Mauritius' main Island?"
3. "What can I do to help decolonize the Islands of Chagos, and put an end to this fiction of British Indian Ocean Territories?"
The first answer is simple: In all things you do PLEASE KEEP ALL THESE THREE ISSUES UNITED INTO ONE ISSUE. Experience has taught us that victory lies in understanding how history has worked and how we can, if we understand the issues, work together with "a future history" to win.
What we must remember is that it was the very same historical forces (the USA and UK State) that created these apparently "three different problems that can be dealt with separately." In fact, they did them all in one-and-the-same-thing. And then it led to these three different cruel legacies.
The USA and UK gm's (often behind the backs of elected representatives and of the people) wanted a joint military base to from which to control Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. They needed no people there. They, therefore, needed to dismember the State of Mauritius, de-colonizing part (where they would deposit the displaced people) while keeping part for their base.
The enemy is weak when we hit all three issues at once.
Thanks for your help.
Below are some ideas of how you can help in the whole process around Diego Garcia, until the huge idea of a whole PEACE FLOTILLA to Diego Garcia gets to be a reality on the high seas.
1. You could write to your MP or Congressman or woman, asking them to bring up the issue with the Prime Minister of President, as the case may be, mentioning all the points:
o Decolonization of Diego Garcia and the Chagos, by re-unification of Mauritius.
o Immediate base closure! (Add that no new base should be built either!)
o The right to return, and full compensation to all Chagossians.
o To let journalists come and investigate the allegations that there are prisoners on Diego Garcia.
o Demand an ecological clean-up of Diego Garcia
2. You could also write direct to your PM or President on these points, calling on them to change their policies.
3. Your letter can also become a "petition" from a group of people, or from an organization, club, association, union branch.
4. You can join and support the NO U.S. BASES campaign whose aim is to "Close down all military bases worldwide," and which has put Diego Garcia as one of its four priorities amongst the 702 U.S. bases in 140 countries outside the U.S.
5. You can put the Diego Garcia issue on to the agenda of the anti-war movement in your country. "The General Assembly of the Global Anti-War Movement" which met in Mumbai, India in January 2004 adopted the resolution to work on base-closures world-wide, including Diego Garcia as a priority. The Social Activists Assembly at Mumbai rejoiced in the closing down of the enormous U.S. Navy base in Vieques, Puerto Rico, 63 years after the forcible removal of the inhabitants. REMIND PEOPLE THAT BASE CLOSURE IS POSSIBLE, just look at Vieques!
6. Support the idea of the PEACE FLOTILLA TO DIEGO GARCIA.
7. If you are lucky enough to have an MP like Jeremy Corbyn (who has kept the Diego Garcia issue on the table for years) or live near Professor Stoddard (I think he is at UCLA), you could invite people like them to give a talk on what is happening around the issue (at your school, university, or in your neighbourhood).
8. You can write a short article for your local newspaper or for a newsletter, based on information on our site.
9.You can perhaps get a copy of the John Pilger film and organize showings so that other people can join the campaign. Apparently you can write to Video Library, ITV1, Gas Street, Birmingham B1 2JT, UK for a copy.
10. You can also visit our website http://www.lalitmauritius.com . There's a whole book available if you double click on the picture of the book of Diego Garcia. Please feel free to invite other people who want peace and justice to visit our site too.
11. Let us know of anything you do organize (however small you might think it is), because when we put all these things together, they become big.
Editor's note: See the demand at the end of this edition to close down Diego Garcia. Please send that Demands page to the Speaker of the House in Washington D.C.