The spokesperson of the Seychelles Chagossian Committee, Pierre Prosper, has made a statement about their lack of inclusion in the negotiations between the Mauritius government and Britain.
Pierre Prosper, of Seychellois parents, was born in Peros Bhanos, in the Chagos Islands in June 1972 is of the opinion that Chagossians living in Seychelles must be part of ongoing negotiations between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over the return of Chagos Islands to Mauritius.
Pierre’s parents were employed on the islands by BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory). They returned to Seychelles in the last batch of deportees from Peros Bhanos in late 1973. Pierre Proper does not remember the islands or life there.
Pierre Prosper said that Chagossians from Seychelles had already sent a letter to the UK asking to be part of the negotiations, as they feel Chagossians, wherever they are, have the right to be heard in this matter.
It must be noted that three years before independence, the UK had separated the Chagos Archipelago from the rest of Mauritian territory to lease one of the islands, Diego Garcia, to the US for the establishment of a military base, which still exists today. The British government then forcibly deported 2,000 Chagossians.
According to barrister and historian Philippe Sands’ book The Last Colony, the British shut down the islands’ plantations and cut off food supplies, telling families they had until 27 April 1973 to leave by boat or face slow starvation.
According to Prosper, the Chagossians want is to be given priority to return to the islands should they want to, while they also want the Chagos to be autonomous. They go further to say that a referendum must be held so that the Chagossians can decide whether they want to be part of Mauritius or the UK.
According to an article published in The Guardian in January of this year, “a legal bid has been launched to halt negotiations between the UK and Mauritius over the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands, Britain’s last African colony, on the basis that the views of the Chagossian people are being ignored”.
Bernadette Dugasse, who was born on Diego Garcia, an island formerly known as British Indian Ocean Territory, is seeking a judicial review of the Government’s approach to the talks. Prosper Group is supporting this, but they also want the British government to pay full reparations to all the people who were made to leave their homes all these years ago.