18 January 2012

Chagossian human rights defender joins the ancestors

Lisette Aurélie Talate - the departure of a freedom fighter

Chagos International Support

When in the 70's, Talate was dumped in Mauritius along with her children and other Chagossians, she immediately embarked on a relentless struggle to go back home to Diego Garcia. During her lifetime she undertook several hunger strikes to draw attention to the legitimacy of her cause and, in the process, became an icon of the Chagossian diaspora.

She was a frail woman in physical appearance but, like an iron fist in a velvet glove, she constantly told the authorities concerned that her land has been robbed. When finally she was “allowed” to visit Diego Garcia, everyone still cherishes the vivid image of how she kneeled down to kiss the soil and screamed “Diego, my land!” while the military who "occupy" the island, witnessed the scene unfazed. It was, sure, only a short visit, like being on transit -- not to say a humiliating way to be asked to come and look at your home from far and then politely be invited to sleep outdoors !

At the funeral service, Olivier Bancoult paid tribute to Talate in very emotional terms. He recalled how one day he was with Talate in London fighting for their case when she found herself with some British MP who sympathised with her cause, at the Cafetaria of the House of Commons. When invited by the MPs to have a coffee and eat a bite with them, she flatly refused. She would later tell Olivier how could she be eating and drinking in the very institution that had decided to deport her from her island home. For her, the Houses of Parliament represented a dramatic symbol. She was a woman of conviction, who always got her message across forcefully in the creole language.

Read the full article here.

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