Resettling Diego Garcia?

UK announces new feasibility study into resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory

MercoPress, 9 July 2013.
The British government announced to Parliament that it will commission a new feasibility study into the resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory, BIOT, whose indigenous population the Chagossian was removed in the sixties and early seventies for defense reasons and is an issue that remains highly controversial and sensitive.

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Wow! I thought reading the headlines from MercoPress. Resettlement of the remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean? After all these years? Why now?

A flashback in time… 1975, when I first viewed the bay of the largest Chagos Island—Diego Garcia.

A private yacht, I helped crew, got stuck on a coral reef and capsized. Our crew was reluctantly rescued by the British and American navies. Although civilians and women in the military weren’t officially allowed on the island, the British governor invited all of the crew to dine with him at his home. We women went first, showered and later dined, wondering all evening why the male members of the crew didn’t arrive for dinner. The governor said he didn’t know what happened to them. He assured us they would come later. Much later, we returned to the yacht. The men were furious. Seems the governor wanted to have only women guests that evening.

Several days later, after repairs, we sailed on to the Seychelles and spent several weeks enjoying a real paradise.

What I didn’t know, at the time, was the brutal history of the Chagos Island. After landing in the Seychelles, I started hearing stories from natives about how NATO had forcibly removed the entire population. Descendants of African slaves, the original Chagos Islanders, were expelled and relocated to other islands in the area, so the British and Americans could have a secret military base in the remote center of the Indian Ocean—a listening site for NATO, a place to refuel bombers, and later reportedly used for the infamous American ‘renditions.’ This military base has been crucial to U.S. military strategy for the past 25 years, and has functioned as a launch pad for bombing raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. A great location to wreak havoc on people most British and Americans don’t know, or care, exist.

This ignorance serves the needs of multinational (i.e., extra-national) corporations to extract resources for profit, regardless of the human costs among humans who apparently don’t count.
So why now, would the British government care about restoring the island to its original inhabitants?

In 2016 America’s 50-year lease on the island of Diego Garcia expires. The option to extend the leasing rights must be agreed upon by December 2014. At issue is the question of sovereignty.

To me, it smells. And not good.

One Reply to “Resettling Diego Garcia?”

  1. Does seem like a game is afoot. The US doesn’t give up its undeclared military empire so easily. Nor does the UK blithely hand back colonized islands and rocky outposts to earlier populations.

    Diego Garcia was never entirely secret, but many of its uses were – especially the immoral and extra-judicial extraordinary renditions by the CIA. Likewise its use for surveillance during the Cold War. For the most part, only naval afficionados, geography geeks, and Shortwave Listeners and Ham Radio operators like me paid much attention to it. It was a great QSL card “catch” either for AFRTS for SWLs or to have a QSO (a contact) with the military ham radio club there. General public pretty much ignored it. But in recent years its many uses, overt and once-covert, became better known.

    Is this perhaps like Briarcliff, West Virginia? The underground bunker beneath a luxury resort that was formerly the secret alternate location for the US government? Not for that purpose, of course, but analogous – once it leaked out, it was abandoned, and now there are public tours of this “relic”. Meanwhile, we have no idea where the government bunkers really are now. So abandon Diego Garcia, then we have no idea where the NSA cable intercepts are happening nor where the CIA is now doing secret illegal ops?

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