22 December 2016

UK continues to justify illegal removal of Chagossians from their homeland

Update on the British Indian Ocean Territory:Written statement - HCWS260

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Made on: 16 November 2016
Made by: Sir Alan Duncan (The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs )

Update on the British Indian Ocean Territory

My right Honourable Friend, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns), has made the following written Ministerial statement:

On 24 March 2016 the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) informed the House that the Government would be carrying out further work on its review of resettlement policy in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). I would now like to inform Parliament of two decisions which have been made concerning the future of BIOT.

Parliament will be aware of the Government’s review and consultation over the resettlement of the Chagossian people to BIOT. The manner in which the Chagossian community was removed from the Territory in the 1960s and 1970s, and the way they were treated, was wrong and we look back with deep regret. We have taken care in coming to our final decision on resettlement, noting the community’s emotional ties to BIOT and their desire to go back to their former way of life.

This comprehensive programme of work included an independent feasibility study followed by a full public consultation in the UK, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

I am today announcing that the Government has decided against resettlement of the Chagossian people to the British Indian Ocean Territory on the grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer. In coming to this decision the Government has considered carefully the practicalities of setting up a small remote community on low-lying islands and the challenges that any community would face. These are significant, and include the challenge of effectively establishing modern public services, the limited healthcare and education that it would be possible to provide, and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly job prospects. The Government has also considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility – a vital part of our defence relationship.

The Government will instead seek to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live. I can today announce that we have agreed to fund a package of approximately £40 million over the next ten years to achieve this goal. This money addresses the most pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improved education and employment opportunities. Moreover, this fund will support a significantly expanded programme of visits to BIOT for native Chagossians. The Government will work closely with Chagossian communities in the UK and overseas to develop cost-effective programmes which will make the biggest improvement in the life chances of those Chagossians who need it most.

Parliament will also be aware that the agreements underpinning the UK/US defence facility will roll over automatically on 31 December if neither side breaks silence. In an increasingly dangerous world, the defence facility is used by us and our allies to combat some of the most difficult problems of the 21st century including terrorism, international criminality, instability and piracy. I can today confirm that the UK continues to welcome the US presence, and that the agreements will continue as they stand until 30 December 2036.

December 7, 2016
|Tom Guha & Stefan Donnelly

It will come as no surprise  that the UK Chagos Support Association are deeply saddened by the Government’s recent decision against pilot resettlement of the Chagos Islands. The decision came as a shock to us and has paralysed many in the community.

As a group dedicated to supporting the people of the Chagos Islands, we do not speak on their behalf. However we are in regular contact with many in the Chagossian community and those conversations have formed the basis of our position.    

The UK Chagos Support Association do not accept the Government’s decision. We believe it was based on flawed evidence and we will support the Chagossian community however they choose to respond.  

However, we welcome the Government’s new commitment to “improving the lives of the Chagossians in the places where they are now” and we hope we can work constructively with both Government and the Chagossian community to come to a settlement that works for both parties.

With regards the Written Ministerial Statement that announced the decision, while we are pleased that the Government acknowledged that historic treatment of Chagossians was wrong, we believe it should be acknowledged as illegal. The basis of Chagossian exile was a falsehood and should be recognised as such.

It is also misleading to suggest Chagossians wanted to “go back to their former way of life.” The Foreign Office consultation demonstrated Chagossians understood that life on the returned islands would be different from the life they used to lead. There was great enthusiasm for modern industries like eco-tourism, environmental protection and administrative roles within BIOT and the US base.

The enthusiasm found in the consultation was matched by requisite skill found in the KPMG study, which states, “the wide range of employment skills present in the Chagossian community has allowed the team to identify major livelihood options for a resettled community”. This seriously brings into question the Government’s concerns around “job prospects”.

Chagossians are not naive. They are aware of the challenges that return presents. But all these challenges were accounted for in the KPMG study - on which after completion, Ministers accepted return was “practically feasible”

The KPMG study also addressed security and defence concerns - concerns that have never been properly outlined. Almost all US military bases have an attached civilian population and the base on Diego Garcia has a large population of temporary labourers. The statement says that Ministers had “considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility”, which prompts the question; what are the outcomes of these considerations?

The idea that “costs to the British taxpayer” are a barrier is difficult to accept and frankly insulting. Firstly, many Chagossians are the British taxpayers mentioned. Moreover, the £60m resettlement start-up costs over three years are a tiny proportion of the international aid budget, over which citizens of British Overseas Territories have first call. We would also expect contributions from the US, the EU, the private sector and NGOs.

Recently the Government spent £285m on an airport on St Helena. It is not even fit for purpose. Every year defence of the Falklands costs UK taxpayers upwards of £60m. Why is the Government so opposed to funding a resettlement programme on the Chagos Islands?

We absolutely welcome the Government’s new commitment to make “improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live” and are willing to work with the Government to make this happen. However, we are sceptical of the £40m funding package.

The fund’s stated aim is to “[address] the most pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improved education and employment opportunities”. This raises a number of questions: how was the fund calculated? What will it be spent on? How will it reach the community? Who will be eligible to receive it?

We know that the fund will “support a significantly expanded programme of visits to BIOT for native Chagossians”. Visits to BIOT (the Government name for the Chagos Islands) used to take place almost annually - what does a “significantly expanded programme” mean? It is also vital that the criteria of ‘native’ is clarified. If it only means those who were born on the islands then anyone under the age of 40 will be excluded, robbing younger Chagossians of their identity and links to their birthplace.

There are extremely serious problems affecting the Chagossian community that urgently need to be addressed and could be with minimal funding.

Families are routinely torn apart because the Home Office does not recognise Chagossian identity. Many Chagossians have been deported or are in Immigration Removal Centres. Simply trying to keep a family together is an inconceivable challenge to many - costing time and money and removing any chances of social or economic mobility.

If the Government is to do just one thing to improve the lives of Chagossians where they are now, it must be to fix the immigration laws that are literally ripping their community apart. One Chagossian put it very poignantly; “these laws are causing a second exile”.

We do not accept the decision and we will support Chagossians in any campaign they mount against it. However it is also important that we hold the Government to account on their commitment to improving the lives of Chagossians.

It is embarrassing that the Government threw away such a perfect opportunity to right a historical wrong. To address these laws would at least offer them some redemption - but crucially it would offer some hope to a community that has been on history’s losing side for far too long.  

Dutch violation of democracy in Bonaire raises serious concerns amid ongoing settler colonialism in defiance of international law

"Member States shall adopt the necessary measures to discourage or prevent the systematic influx of outside immigrants and settlers into Territories under colonial domination which disrupts the demographic composition of those Territories and may constitute a major obstacle to the genuine exercise of the right to self-determination..."  - United Nations General Assembly Resolution 35/118 of  11 December 1980
Open letter

 from James Finies 
Nos Kier Boneiru Bek

Kingdom Day and commemoration of one year 
of Dutch anti-democracy governance

To: Second Chamber of the Netherlands

 First Chamber of the Netherlands, 
Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 
Public Entity of Bonaire 

Kralendijk, December 15, 2016

Subject: Kingdom Day and commemoration of one year of Dutch Anti-Democracy governance

Dear Colleagues,

Today, December 15, 2016, we are celebrating Kingdoms day, or previously Statute-day, commemorating December 15, 1955 where the Dutch Government with the consent of the elite of the colonized Caribbean territories, not the people, officially manipulated the world community in the United Nations with a very disputed vote (U.N. General Assembly Resolution 945 X), and the majority of the world community distrusted this statute-arrangement to dissolve you from your reporting obligations towards the so-called autonomous country Netherlands Antilles. Since then this new country Netherlands Antilles political deficiency has been hided from the world as this well planned and executed imposed governmental structure intended road to self-destruction has became reality on October 10, 2010 with the dissolution and dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles.

As we are reaching December 18, 2016, a year after the Bonerian peoples (and Statian peoples in December 2014 referendum) has by a referendum officially and democratically rejected the imposed constitutional status and ratified these results by their democratic elected leadership in the Island Councils and made these indisputable legally binding democratic decisions.

By not respecting the democratic decision and voice of the peoples of the Dutch administered Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius and moving forward to annex and anchor these territories in the Dutch constitution on a on-equal base the Dutch State and Kingdom has degraded itself to a anti-democratic state and nation. 

Your government should reach out to start a corrective justified process according to the democratic vote and decision of our innocent peoples, whose are desperate to maintain their own culture and identity as we are experiencing a inevitable gloomy future of being assimilated and exterminated by substitution by your open immigration influx of European Dutch flocking our island. We expected from your government respect to democracy but are now under a seemingly military intimidation regime with clear bullying practices to suppress our only other democratic pillar and defense our fundamental right of expression and manifestation.

We may understand that you may feel uneasy that our people will stand up one day and say enough is enough, maybe it is this 18th December or maybe not, or maybe another time, but you may be sure that history will not dissolve you of your crime against democracy and our fundamental rights, because we all are born equal in rights and dignity and maybe one day your conscience will turn you back towards humanity, towards your brothers in the Kingdom which you agreed and signed in the United Nations to be as equal and free as yourselves. 

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Spain’s plenary Constitutional Court – tasked with determining the constitutionality of acts and statutes – voted to admit a motion by the State’s counsel arguing that the resolution passed by the regional parliament of Catalonia was unconstitutional.

The court also warned the Catalan regional government it could incur penal responsibilities if it ignored the court’s mandate.

The Spanish government accused the Catalan parliament of disobeying previous Constitutional Court decisions when the regional legislative passed a resolution on Oct. 6 titled “The Political Future of Catalonia,” with references a “referendum” and a “constituent process.”

The resolution passed the chamber with favorable votes from independence coalition party Together for Yes (JxSí, primarily made up by the center-right Democratic Convergence of Catalonia and progressive Republican Left of Catalonia) and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), as well as the abstention of Catalonia Yes We Can, a left-wing coalition that supports the right of self-determination but does not explicitly back Catalonia’s secession from Spain.

The document called for a binding referendum to be held no later than Sept. 2017, and for “constituent elections” to be held six months after a hypothetical win for the “yes” to independence option.

The President of Catalonia’s parliament, Carme Forcadell, is set to appear before the Catalan High Court of Justice on Dec. 16 under charges of disobeying previous decisions by the Constitutional Court that blocked any attempts at creating a legislative roadmap for Catalan independence from Spain.

Catalan nationalism has long been an important political force that started as an effort by 19th-century intellectuals to restore self-government and obtain recognition for the Catalan language.

Following four decades of brutal repression by the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, Catalan nationalism re-emerged from clandestinity in the late 1970s and has since become a growing political movement with vast support among the population of the region, which has the highest GDP in Spain and is the country’s most industrialized and prosperous territory.