Wikileaks Cables Reveal Diego Garcia Marine Reserve Will Prevent Return of Chagos Islanders

Marine conservation zones as cultural genocide?    The British marine reserve in the Chagos islands was a deliberate attempt to prevent the return of the evicted Chagossians to Diego Garcia, one of America’s crucial military bases in the Indian Ocean.  The Chagos reserve was modeled on the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument and the proposed Mariana Island National Marine Monument, both of which contain broad exemptions for the military.  Mahalo to Marta Duenas for sharing the following comments and article:

The displacement of the Chagossian people of the island of Diego Garcia is justified using references to “strategic” purposes and “security.” These are the exact terms used in the rationale & promotion of the military buildup in Guam. The British Indian Ocean Territory – BIOT which encompasses the 55 islands surrounding and including Diego Garcia, and the Mariana Island National Marine Monument prohibit activities in the area. Military activities are EXEMPT from any of the prohibitions and regulations.

Diego Garcia and the Mariana Islands are poised to fulfill the United States Department of Defense “Full Spectrum Dominance Vision 2020.”

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/02/wikileaks-cables-diego-garcia-uk

The Guardian UK

Wikileaks Cables Reveal Foreign Office Mislead Parliament Over Diego Garcia

UK official told Americans that marine park plan would end the ‘Man Fridays’ hopes of ever returning home

Rob Evans and Richard Norton-Taylor

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Diego Garcia islanders protest WikiLeaks cables suggest the Foreign Office knows its plan to declare Diego Garcia a marine park will end any chance of islanders winning the right to return Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The Foreign Office misled parliament over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland to make way for a large US military base, according to secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

More than 2,000 islanders – described privately by the Foreign Office as “Man Fridays” – were evicted from the British colony of Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 1970s. The Foreign Office, backed by the US, has fought a long legal battle to prevent them returning home.

The islanders’ quest to go back will be decided by a ruling, expected shortly, from the European court of human rights.

New leaked documents show the Foreign Office has privately admitted its latest plan to declare the islands the world’s largest marine protection zone will end any chance of them being repatriated.

The admission is at odds with public claims by Foreign Office ministers that the proposed park would have no effect on the islanders’ right of return. They have claimed the marine park was a ploy to block their return, claiming it would make it impossible for them to live there as it would ban fishing, their main livelihood.

The disclosure follows years of criticism levelled at Whitehall over the harsh treatment of the islanders, many of whom have lived in poverty in other countries since their deportation.

In the past, National Archive documents have revealed how the Foreign Office consistently lied about the eviction, maintaining the fiction that the islanders had not been permanent residents.

The latest leaked documents are US state department cables recording private meetings between Foreign Office mandarins and their American counterparts.

In May 2009, Colin Roberts, the Foreign Office director of overseas territories, told the Americans Diego Garcia’s value in “assuring the security of the US and UK” had been “much more than anyone foresaw” in the 1960s, when the plan to set up the base was hatched.

“We do not regret the removal of the population since removal was necessary for [Diego Garcia] to fulfil its strategic purpose,” he added under a passage that the Americans headed “Je ne regrette rien”.

Roberts, admitting the government was “under pressure” from the islanders, told the US of the plan to set up the marine park on 55 islands around Diego Garcia, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). “Roberts stated that, according to [Her Majesty’s government’s] current thinking on a reserve, there would be ‘no human footprints’ or ‘Man Fridays’ on the BIOT uninhabited islands,” according to the American account of the meeting. The language echoes that used in 1966 when Denis Greenhill – later the Foreign Office’s most senior official – described the inhabitants as “a few Tarzans and Man Fridays”.

The leaked documents also record that Roberts “asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents”.

This private stance differs from the Foreign Office’s public line in April when a series of MPs asked if the marine park ruled out the islanders, known as Chagossians, ever returning home.

The Foreign Office told parliament the proposed park “will not have any direct or indirect effect on the rights or otherwise of Chagossians to return to the islands. These are two entirely separate issues”.

Leading conservation groups have supported the marine park plan. Roberts is quoted as telling the Americans that Britain’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the [islanders’] advocates”.

Attached is a copy of the cable archived by Wikileaks:

This is not the original Wikileaks document! It’s a cache, made on 2010-12-01 23:11:00. For the original document check the original source: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/05/09LONDON1156.html
ID 09LONDON1156
SUBJECT HMG FLOATS PROPOSAL FOR MARINE RESERVE COVERING
DATE 2009-05-15 07:07:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
ORIGIN Embassy London
TEXT C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 001156

NOFORN
SIPDIS

EO 12958 DECL: 05/13/2029
TAGS MARR, MOPS, SENV, UK, IO, MP, EFIS, EWWT, PGOV, PREL
SUBJECT: HMG FLOATS PROPOSAL FOR MARINE RESERVE COVERING
THE CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO (BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY)
REF: 08 LONDON 2667 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills for reasons 1.4 b and d

¶1. (C/NF) Summary. HMG would like to establish a “marine park” or “reserve” providing comprehensive environmental protection to the reefs and waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official informed Polcouns on May 12. The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park — the world’s largest — would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and U.S. should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that U.S. interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve. End Summary.

Protecting the BIOT’s Waters
—————————-

¶2. (C/NF) Senior HMG officials support the establishment of a “marine park” or “reserve” in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which includes Diego Garcia, Colin Roberts, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Director, Overseas Territories, told the Political Counselor May 12. Noting that the uninhabited islands of the Chagos Archipelago are already protected under British law from development or other environmental harm but that current British law does not provide protected status for either reefs or waters, Roberts affirmed that the bruited proposal would only concern the “exclusive zone” around the islands. The resulting protected area would constitute “the largest marine reserve in the world.”

¶3. (C/NF) Roberts iterated strong UK “political support” for a marine park; “Ministers like the idea,” he said. He stressed that HMG’s “timeline” for establishing the park was before the next general elections, which under British law must occur no later than May 2010. He suggested that the exact terms of the proposals could be defined and presented at the U.S.-UK annual political-military consultations held in late summer/early fall 2009 (exact date TBD). If the USG would like to discuss the issue prior to those talks, HMG would be open for discussion through other channels — in any case, the FCO would keep Embassy London informed of development of the idea and next steps. The UK would like to “move forward discussion with key international stakeholders” by the end of 2009. He said that HMG had noted the success of U.S. marine sanctuaries in HAWAII and the Marianas Trench. (Note: Roberts was referring to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. End Note.) He asserted that the Pew Charitable Trust, which has proposed a BIOT marine reserve, is funding a public relations campaign in support of the idea. He noted that the trust had backed the HAWAIIan reserve and is well-regarded within British governmental circles and the larger British environmental community.

Three Sine Qua Nons: U.S. Assent…
———————————–

¶4. (C/NF) According to Roberts, three pre-conditions must be met before HMG could establish a park. First, “we need to make sure the U.S. government is comfortable with the idea. We would need to present this proposal very clearly to the American administration…All we do should enhance base security or leave it unchanged.” Polcouns expressed appreciation for this a priori commitment, but stressed that the 1966 U.S.-UK Exchange of Notes concerning the BIOT would, in any event, require U.S. assent to any significant change of the BIOT’s status that could impact the BIOT’s strategic use. Roberts stressed that the proposal “would have no impact on how Diego Garcia is administered as a base.” In response to a request for clarification on this point from Polcouns, Roberts asserted that the proposal would have absolutely no impact on the right of U.S. or British military vessels to use the BIOT for passage, anchorage, prepositioning, or other uses. Polcouns rejoined that
designating the BIOT as a marine park could, years down the road, create public questioning about the suitability of the BIOT for military purposes. Roberts responded that the terms of reference for the establishment of a marine park would clearly state that the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, was reserved for military uses.

¶5. (C/NF) Ashley Smith, the Ministry of Defense’s (MOD) International Policy and Planning Assistant Head, Asia Pacific, who also participated in the meeting, affirmed that the MOD “shares the same concerns as the U.S. regarding security” and would ensure that security concerns were fully and properly addressed in any proposal for a marine park. Roberts agreed, stating that “the primary purpose of the BIOT is security” but that HMG could also address environmental concerns in its administration of the BIOT. Smith added that the establishment of a marine reserve had the potential to be a “win-win situation in terms of establishing situational awareness” of the BIOT. He stressed that HMG sought “no constraints on military operations” as a result of the establishment of a marine park.
…Mauritian Assent…
———————-
¶6. (C/NF) Roberts outlined two other prerequisites for establishment of a marine park. HMG would seek assent from the Government of Mauritius, which disputes sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago, in order to avoid the GOM “raising complaints with the UN.” He asserted that the GOM had expressed little interest in protecting the archipelago’s sensitive environment and was primarily interested in the archipelago’s economic potential as a fishery. Roberts noted that in January 2009 HMG held the first-ever “formal talks” with Mauritius regarding the BIOT. The talks included the Mauritian Prime Minister. Roberts said that he “cast a fly in the talks over how we could improve stewardship of the territory,” but the Mauritian participants “were not focused on environmental issues and expressed interest only in fishery control.” He said that one Mauritian participant in the talks complained that the Indian Ocean is “the only ocean in the world where the fish die of old age.” In HMG’s view, the marine park concept aims to “go beyond economic value and consider bio-diversity and intangible values.”

…Chagossian Assent
——————–

¶7. (C/NF) Roberts acknowledged that “we need to find a way to get through the various Chagossian lobbies.” He admitted that HMG is “under pressure” from the Chagossians and their advocates to permit resettlement of the “outer islands” of the BIOT. He noted, without providing details, that “there are proposals (for a marine park) that could provide the Chagossians warden jobs” within the BIOT. However, Roberts stated that, according to the HGM,s current thinking on a reserve, there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands. He asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents. Responding to Polcouns’ observation that the advocates of Chagossian resettlement continue to vigorously press their case, Roberts opined that the UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’ advocates.” (Note: One group of Chagossian litigants is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the decision of Britain’s highest court to deny “resettlement rights” to the islands’ former inhabitants. See below at paragraph 13 and reftel. End Note.)

Je Ne Regrette Rien
——————-

¶8. (C/NF) Roberts observed that BIOT has “served its role very well,” advancing shared U.S.-UK strategic security objectives for the past several decades. The BIOT “has had a great role in assuring the security of the UK and U.S. — much more than anyone foresaw” in the 1960s, Roberts emphasized. “We do not regret the removal of the population,” since removal was necessary for the BIOT to fulfill its strategic purpose, he said. Removal of the
population is the reason that the BIOT’s uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters are in “pristine” condition. Roberts added that Diego Garcia’s excellent condition reflects the responsible stewardship of the U.S. and UK forces using it.

Administering a Reserve
———————–

¶9. (C/NF) Roberts acknowledged that numerous technical questions needed to be resolved regarding the establishment and administration of a marine park, although he described the governmental “act” of declaring a marine park as a relatively straightforward and rapid process. He noted that the establishment of a marine reserve would require permitting scientists to visit BIOT, but that creating a park would help restrict access for non-scientific purposes. For example, he continued, the rules governing the park could strictly limit access to BIOT by yachts, which Roberts referred to as “sea gypsies.”

BIOT: More Than Just Diego Garcia
———————————

¶10. (C/NF) Following the meeting with Roberts, Joanne Yeadon, Head of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate’s BIOT and Pitcairn Section, who also attended the meeting with Polcouns, told Poloff that the marine park proposal would “not impact the base on Diego Garcia in any way” and would have no impact on the parameters of the U.S.-UK 1966 exchange of notes since the marine park would “have no impact on defense purposes.” Yeadon averred that the provision of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea guaranteed free passage of vessels, including military vessels, and that the presence of a marine park would not diminish that right.

¶11. (C/NF) Yeadon stressed that the exchange of notes governed more than just the atoll of Diego Garcia but expressly provided that all of the BIOT was “set aside for defense purposes.” (Note: This is correct. End Note.) She urged Embassy officers in discussions with advocates for the Chagossians, including with members of the “All Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos Islands (APPG),” to affirm that the USG requires the entire BIOT for defense purposes. Making this point would be the best rejoinder to the Chagossians’ assertion that partial settlement of the outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago would have no impact on the use of Diego Garcia. She described that assertion as essentially irrelevant if the entire BIOT needed to be uninhabited for defense purposes.

¶12. (C/NF) Yeadon dismissed the APPG as a “persistent” but relatively non-influential group within parliament or with the wider public. She said the FCO had received only a handful of public inquiries regarding the status of the BIOT. Yeadon described one of the Chagossians’ most outspoken advocates, former HMG High Commissioner to Mauritius David Snoxell, as “entirely lacking in influence” within the FCO. She also asserted that the Conservatives, if in power after the next general election, would not support a Chagossian right of return. She averred that many members of the Liberal Democrats (Britain’s third largest party after Labour and the Conservatives) supported a “right of return.”

¶13. (C/NF) Yeadon told Poloff May 12, and in several prior meetings, that the FCO will vigorously contest the Chagossians’ “right of return” lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). HMG will argue that the ECHR lacks jurisdiction over the BIOT in the present case. Roberts stressed May 12 (as has Yeadon on previous occasions) that the outer islands are “essentially uninhabitable” and could only be rendered livable by modern, Western standards with a massive infusion of cash.

Comment
——-

¶14. (C/NF) Regardless of the outcome of the ECHR case, however, the Chagossians and their advocates, including the “All Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos Islands (APPG),” will continue to press their case in the court of public
opinion. Their strategy is to publicize what they characterize as the plight of the so-called Chagossian diaspora, thereby galvanizing public opinion and, in their best case scenario, causing the government to change course and allow a “right of return.” They would point to the government’s recent retreat on the issue of Gurkha veterans’ right to settle in the UK as a model. Despite FCO assurances that the marine park concept — still in an early, conceptual phase — would not impinge on BIOT’s value as a strategic resource, we are concerned that, long-term, both the British public and policy makers would come to see the existence of a marine reserve as inherently inconsistent with the military use of Diego Garcia — and the entire BIOT. In any event, the U.S. and UK would need to carefully negotiate the parameters of such a marine park — a point on which Roberts unequivocally agreed. In Embassy London’s view, these negotiations should occur among U.S. and UK experts separate from the 2009 annual Political-Military consultations, given the specific and technical legal and environmental issues that would be subject to discussion.

¶15. (C/NF) Comment Continued. We do not doubt the current government’s resolve to prevent the resettlement of the islands’ former inhabitants, although as FCO Parliamentary Under-Secretary Gillian Merron noted in an April parliamentary debate, “FCO will continue to organize and fund visits to the territory by the Chagossians.” We are not as sanguine as the FCO’s Yeadon, however, that the Conservatives would oppose a right of return. Indeed, MP Keith Simpson, the Conservatives’ Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, stated in the same April parliamentary debate in which Merron spoke that HMG “should take into account what I suspect is the all-party view that the rights of the Chagossian people should be recognized, and that there should at the very least be a timetable for the return of those people at least to the outer islands, if not the inner islands.” Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed, as the FCO’s Roberts stated, be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling in the BIOT. End Comment.
Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom
TOKOLA

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2 Comments

Déborah B. Santana

This is typical of the military – setting aside ecological reserves to prevent people from going home. That’s how they’re avoiding cleanup of Vieques, by not returning the land and holding on to it as ‘nature reserves’. Land that’s closed as “nature reserves” only get cleaned up to the level considered necessary to protect human health – and if humans aren’t allowed to live there, no cleanup!

Be very afraid whenever military lands get designated as “nature reserves.”

Sheridan Collins

Nature reserve was exactly what the land on Kauai was called when military grade dioxins were dumped everywhere from Mt. Waialale to the Wailua reservoir and across the headwaters of the Wailua River in the 1960s – supposedly testing application rates. Wailua Wildlife Reserve. This area is directly adjacent to the Wailua Homestead housing development. There are public health records indicating that studies are “on going” in the area, and the Wailua Homestead wells are contaminated. There are several references throughout the years to research being done to determine contamination in the Waikoko watershed and other areas. I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO LOCATE ANY DATA RESULTING FROM THE RESEARCH. Also, I have searched and searched for information regarding the contaminated wells. No contaminant is identified.

Now tourists are using the Experimental Ag Station at the Wailua Reservoir as a landmark to find the road into the area. They want to go to the Jurassic Park gate movie set. The set is in the middle of the Agent Orange, Super Orange, White, Blue, Pink, Purple poisoned area. It is not known how many decades it takes for the poison to disperse.

My first thought was to question why it was considered OK to poison and defoliate a wildlife preserve. It’s just a way to steal the land from the people. I have also seen Utube videos of local folks hunting boar in the area. No one knows what went down on the ground up there because UH agronomists verified that the chemicals were mixed up together – no one knows what the synergistic chemical results were.

The first person I contacted from the area stated that she had relatives living behind the Sleeping Giant who are weirdly chronically ill.

It was a perfect crime – go play in Hawaii, dump poison everywhere, produce “test” results that make no sense, bury the poison near a reservoir and disappear. Even though people died, and many had their lives destroyed (including me), no one could prove anything because it would be years before the horrendous health effects were evident.

It was during those years that the Na Pali Coast was made a “park.” Then nobody could fish there. All of life changed. I exactly remember driving down to Haena one day and seeing my friends all sitting on their front porches doing nothing. What was going on??? Nobody could fish anymore.

In my opinion, the entire tourist industry in Hawaii is a smoke screen for what is really going on. It’s great free PR reaching to all the states and many foreign countries. It also shuts up the local population whose livelihoods have been taken from them. They are dependent on the tourist dollars and their own exploitation to feed their children. I remember statements in the paper that “the locals” are lucky to have the hotels. Everyone could go work at Coco Palms or the Kauai Surf waiting on tourists.

The last job I had managing road construction in a subdivision in Northern New Mexico owned by developers from Los Angeles didn’t last long. One of them told me that they were the luckiest thing to ever happen to the people here in this ranching community. I completed my work obligation there and quit.

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