Rajni Lallah of Lalit leads a protest march
On 23 May the United Nations General Assembly voted massively – 116 in favour, 6 against – to get the UK to end its illegal occupation of part of Mauritius, Chagos, including Diego Garcia.
This is a significant victory for de-colonisation. The issue of decolonisation of Chagos has finally hit the headlines world-wide in a big way.
The reporter from The Guardian, Owen Bowcott, has gradually since 16 November 2016 caused the breach in the black-out that amounted to an international D-Notice that lasted until then. The extent of the victory was completely unexpected.
The vote was 116 in favour to a humiliating 6 against. The Resolution, presented by the African Union, means putting into practice the opinion of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which is the UN’s highest Court and which was set up by inter alia by the UK and USA.
The UK and USA’s position was pathetic. The balance of forces has swerved wildly away from the UK-USA and towards forces in favour of decolonisation and demilitarisation, as well as for the rights of the people forcibly removed from Chagos.
According to The Guardian, the US and UK put up a huge operation to attempt to force, cajole, threaten and bribe other countries to vote against the motion. They only convinced 4 countries to maintain their vote against the motion: Israel, Hungary, Australia and poor Maldives. Other countries stood firm.
Lalit has fought for 40 years for the Mauritian state to take this route – in order to set the scene for the re-unification of Mauritius and for the right of free movement within the entire country for all Mauritians, including Chagossians, and for a date for the closure of the US military base on Diego Garcia.
In response to the Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth having made the self-evident comment that removing all the inhabitants forcibly was “a crime against humanity”, the UN British Representative went ballistic – she is more outraged about being told the truth than the Mauritian Prime Minister is about the crime itself.
If it’s not a crime against humanity to force people from their homes by cutting health care, then food supplies, then killing their pet dogs, then forcing them into the hold of a ship, and dumping them on the quayside of Port Louis, and covering up so shamefully for decades, then what is?
Another important shift – as well as the massive shift towards the decolonisation vote yesterday compared with the original 22 June one in 2017 to request the ICJ opinion (94-15) – was the European countries that shifted. These include Spain, Norway, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland.
Two big powers, China and Russia, too, have shifted towards voting the resolution against continued colonisation. This is a massive change in the balance of forces.
At a more political British level, there is another massive change. The Labour Party Opposition, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has publicly committed to respecting the ICJ judgment.
This judgment, just to remind readers, is three-fold: That the continued colonisation of part of Mauritius is unlawful; that Britain must end its occupation rapidly; that other countries must concert to make this come true. Now the Resolution takes that ICJ advice and calls for a 6-month time-frame.
Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader to take this bold stand. It was particularly painful for Labour because the original crimes (breaking up a colony illegally, deporting two thousand people illegally, and secretly plotting a military base outside all democratic purview) were done under the Harold Wilson Labour Party.
But, since Tony Blair and the Iraq war debacle, Labour had, in any case, lost any high moral ground. Corbyn’s stand represents a shift in the balance of forces within the British state.
So, the struggle that Lalit has been spearheading for some 40 years is moving ahead now, with a new balance of forces – internationally, in Britain and in Mauritius. We, in Lalit, have had demonstrations, arrests of members and trials for illegal demonstrations, long and fruitful alliances with Chagossian groups, international and national petitions and common declarations, international open letters, national poster campaigns, two international conferences, talks by members in conferences on all continents, and constant leafletting over the years, as well as forums, articles and a whole 200-page book – all to maintain the pressure.
The struggle has three constant intertwined aims: de-colonisation, de-militarisation and the rights of Chagossians.
The anti-colonial part of the struggle is at the forefront right now, having been silenced for nearly 50 years.
• Lalit is a socialist group in Mauritius: bit.ly/lalit-c