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A Triangular Perspective on the Chagos Issue

A Triangular Perspective on the Chagos Issue

A Triangular Perspective on the Chagos Issue

picture: courtesy of

Let’s look at the Chagos archipelago issue from a new angle.  Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is whose interests this whole charade has served best? As things stand the real winners out of the sorry saga are most likely to be the law firms who stand to pocket the lion’s share of any further compensation awarded. If we are indeed all Chagossians, as some say, then it will be the lawyers who turn out to be the most ‘Chagossian’ of us all!  That is surely not the best outcome.

We should instead be thinking outside the box. There are at least three diverging views on this issue: Vencatassin has already proclaimed himself the President in exile of Chagos or Diego Garcia. He represents a group of Chagossians who have voted with their feet and mostly chosen to leave Mauritius – which has done precious little for them over recent decades. Many of them have taken up the offer to reside in Britain.

Then there is the group of Chagossians under the leadership of Bancoult. They tend to accept the notion that the archipelago should revert to Mauritian sovereignty and have been instrumental in fighting their case through the courts.

Thirdly there are the Chagossians, like Fernand Mandarin, who take a more pragmatic and sceptical approach.  They are wary of trusting either the British or Mauritian governments, and are looking for a solution which is the best and most just for those directly involved in the expulsion and their descendants.

We, as Mauritians, have a special duty to ask ourselves which group most deserves our support, and why. Are we really sure that the Mauritian government is the best custodian of the islands and would manage them in the best interests of the Chagossians? If we look at our history, and indeed at the way our political elite operates today, we have good cause to be doubtful. The records show quite clearly that the Mauritian politicians showed scant regard for the ilois in the 1960s during the pre-independence negotiations. Nor have their sons and successors revealed any great concern for either the ilois or other marginalized groups in Mauritius in the post-independence era. Who has been enriched by tourist income? Not the masses, including the Chagossians, who still live in the cités, not the squatters turned off their lands in the suburbs of Port Louis or in Rivière Noire when the developers want to move in.  Do we have politicians today in Mauritius whom we believe to be true idealists, wanting to serve the nation, or a bunch of fils-à-papa who accede to power on the basis of a family name rather than on merit, who allow the police to routinely beat up detainees and who engage in blatantly corrupt practices? We need to deal with political dead wood at home and be confident that we have the government we deserve before we try to manage additional territories.

Finally we need to look at the economic realities of a future ‘Chagos for the Chagossians’. Once the base is gone, and the way is cleared for those who wish to return, this can only happen if there is a viable social and economic infrastructure. If left to our present political elite, who can confidently assert that we will not end up seeing the ilois serving as the lackeys of some Asian hotel chain or industry as is the fate of our working classes today?

So let’s not allow blinkered nationalism to sway our judgement. Let’s find out what vision Vencatassin, Mandarin, Bancoult and other spokespersons for the Chagossians are each offering, and judge them on their merits. And let’s not assume that the marine reserve idea is merely a smokescreen. Perhaps, indeed, it would be no bad result to see Chagos managed not by an individual government but by an international group of scientists and intellectuals committed to preserving the unique natural and cultural heritage of these islands. And, we should remember that if, a long time ago, the Mauritian government had argued for the setting up of a viable Trust Fund for the ilois, the millions of dollars, pounds and rupees spent on legal wrangling could have provided a lifestyle and a future which would have been and still could be immeasurably better for the erstwhile residents of that troubled archipelago.


© ccuniah


One Response to “A Triangular Perspective on the Chagos Issue”

  1. Rajendra says:

    i agree with you about the politicians not lifting to help with the cause,i will support Olivier Bancoult,i was at the mass at cassis when they first went back fopr a week,it was really emotional,i felt tearful myself that day
    i feel we need to go on with the struggle and who knows one day they might suceed

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