Historical Truth

maurDeclassified British documents shed new light on the negotiations for Mauritius independence.

Having worked in a London ministry during the years 1968-69 I had a little knowledge of what happened with the run-up to Mauritius independence. However, I was not privy to the secret negotiations and any bargaining that took place. Like many Mauritian people, I got most of the story from what local politicians or political party expressed as their version of how independence was obtained in 1968. These versions are usually expressed in a romanticized way of how a certain political party and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR), termed as the Father of the Nation, were successful after a struggle.

Narainduth Sookhoo, a British/Mauritian academic university researcher, has obtained declassified British documents on the very subject of the secret independence negotiations in London. Some of his findings have been published in a book “A New Comprehensive History of Mauritius Vol.2” by author Sydney Selvon.

Mauritius-IndependenceThis research and the official documents sheds new light and indeed sensational truth of how exactly Mauritian independence was obtained. A forceful Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister, pressurized SSR on the question of Diego Garcia. It would seem that SSR was determined to obtain independence at any cost, probably as a personal political ambition.

BookReading the book on page 159 referring to “The Chagos Affair” you can come to your own conclusion on its excision and why the Chagossians were deported from the Chagos Archipelago and dumped in Mauritius. The Chagos Archipelago (Diego Garcia) and Chagossians were mere bargaining tools, on the British side for military strategic reasons and on the other side a weak and pressurized SSR bent on being the Prime Minister who obtained independence for the nation. SSR is quoted from the documents as capitulating to the British in a statement “convinced that the question of Diego Garcia was a matter of detail, there was no difficulty in principle“.

So that must have sealed the fate of Diego Garcia, Chagos and its people. They were sold in the annals of history for the sake of Mauritius independence. The compelled expulsions of Chagossians began in 1968 through 1973. Unceremoniously dumped in Mauritius the British government, in 1972, paid £650,000 to the Mauritian government for distribution as compensation to Chagossians. However, the amount was never distributed until 1977 and only after petitions and legal pressures.

Today the sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago is disputed between Mauritius and United Kingdom. Mauritius claims that it is a part of its territory and that the United Kingdom is thus violating a United Nations resolution. My first reaction would be; well who gave it away in the first place ? However, that might be somewhat harsh since the documents now show that it was a question of independence or not.

Resources
A New Comprehensive History of Mauritius Vol. 2 by Sydney Selvon
Mauritius Independence: Myths and Realities part 1 by Nairanduth Sookhoo (published in Weekend 3 March 2013)
Mauritius Independence: Myths and Realities part 2 by Nairanduth Sookhoo (published in Weekend 11 March 2013)
Depopulation of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago Sovereignty Dispute

4 thoughts on “Historical Truth”

  1. Additionally to my previous comment and to clarify, if in fact the U.K. Government did actually pay the Mauritian Government for compensation to those unfortunate & displaced peoples, then it is also down to the U.K. to look into the matter of where the original monies ended-up. Even today perhaps it should be also down to both Governments to properly and be public-knowledgeable, that the enhanced-payments should be immediately payable – as originally meant to be.

  2. If indeed the British Government (as my country’s Government) did not fully compensate the peoples who were forced to leave Diego Garcia albeit considering that the sum of £650,000 may have seemed to be a lot of money so many years ago, then it is certainly about time that this Government now fully compensate those peoples at the full rate at today’s value of that £650,000.

    There is well sufficient money available in the U.K. Government-coffers to pay-out the millions of £££’s to the Chagossians, especially considering how much of our cash which is allocated to/or given away to many other countries, often which does not do the good that is meant for.

    Therefore it is always better to pay-off debts early before squandering ones kitty elsewhere and I certainly would prefer any taxes that I would have paid to Government so many years ago, to be given to those who have not only been forced out of their homes, but their island of Diego Garcia too and just so that the United States and the U.K. have the sole use of the massive-enlargement of the existing military bases – subsequently built there…

    Reading-up on Wikipedia, is a quote as “This tactic was in hope that those that stayed would leave “willingly”. One of the more gruesome tactics utilised was that of the killings of Chagossian pets. Dogs were carried into sheds where they were gassed in front of their owners.” Whilst, like Mike, I was aware of much political-exercising of those islands, I must admit that I was far- from aware that such tactics would have been used and fairly-sure that the British and most likely the U.S. public were not aware of such awful (and nearly or completely in-humane) tactics at the time…

    Politics have so often contained such disgraceful-behaviour – even from a so-called fair Government and this item just shows how unfair those Governments can be…

  3. I believe the real questions should be:
    1. Why ask for it again when we all know it was sold!
    2. Who benefited from the amount the British government paid?
    3. In 1972, £650,000 was like a treasure in itself…where is the money?
    I feel for the people of Chagos and this gorgeous book : ‘Le Silence des Chagos, de Shenaz Patel’ shows what they went through…but the sole responsible for their fate is not the British, but the handful of Mauritians who sold away their home 🙁

    Well, in my opinion at least 😛

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