Friday, 27 June 2008

Putting right the injustices of the past.

Over on Fora I have (unusually) been having a difference of opinion with the Political Umpire over the rights and wrongs of pardoning the soldiers who were executed for cowardice during the Great War (I think the decision was right, he begs to differ). I will post on this here in due course, offering my views at greater length.

There is another injustice that demands correction though, and I suspect that the Umpire will agree with me on this one. Probably the most shameful act of Harold Wilson's premiership was his forced evacuation of the Chagos Islands in order to allow the US to take out a fifty year lease on Diego Garcia for a military base. The Islanders have been conducting a campaign through the courts against the UK Government for some years now, seeking the return of their home. At every stage the courts have upheld their right to return, and every time the Government has done its very best to thwart that right.

Next week the Government is appealing the decision to the Law Lords, and it is to be hoped that their appeal will be rejected and that they finally accept defeat. Even then there will still be the matter of the US lease on Diego Garcia. When the US took out that lease, I very much doubt that they ever intended to hand the island back. So lets hope that we have a Foreign Secretary who's prepared to tell them that their tenancy (due to finish within the next ten years) is not up for renewal, and that they should make sure that the place is clean and tidy before they leave.


Political Umpire said...

1. US, biggest kid in the playground, wants Chagos for airstrip in pursuit of world domination. Doesn't want any islanders there for security reason. Hard to see what threat they'd pose, but no people = no problem and the US therefore flies its most secret aircraft (B2 bombers) there. Britain acquieses because frankly the wish of our chief ally (this being the cold war) outweighs a few thousand unfortunate innocents.

2. Falkand Islanders had their homes occupied by a ruthless dictatorship whose presence they detested. Britain, with US approbation and then US material help (fuel, intelligence, vital sidewinder missiles etc), overthrew the invasion. Justice done.

3. Hong Kong has to be returned to a ruthless dictatorship. US not interested; giant bully by the name of China is. Britain has no choice.

Mrs Lozidou (sp?) has had a similiar problem as the Chagos Islanders writ small: her house was taken by the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Every court worth the name has said she should have it back; the second largest army in Nato says otherwise.

In other words, it all comes down to realpolitik. Justice, morality, fairness etc play second fiddle. Or the US would argue that its strategic power enabled us to live in conditions that otherwise allowed justice and morality to prevail. The islanders should be happy with a few quid by of compensation.

Of course I agree it's all very wrong, but what can you do? It's like the Saudi arms deal: dirty, corrupt, and worth thousands of jobs.

Stephen said...

Even I am realistic enough about such matters to have laughed inwardly when Robin Cook foolishly promised the impossible - an 'ethical foreign policy'.