Declassified 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.
This 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.
Reading 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) Diego Garcia: Creation of the Indian Ocean Base Pages 15-16 Depopulation of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago Chagos Archipelago Sovereignty Dispute