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Context of 'Early November 1965: Britain Insists it Will Retain Chagos Archipelago after Independence of Mauritius'

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France issues leases to companies permitting them to establish coconut oil and copra plantations on the Chagos Islands. Enslaved Africans from Madagascar and Mozambique are brought in for labor. [Gifford, 5/27/2004; ZNet, 10/22/2004]

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Concerned about the prospects of Soviet expansion in the Indian Ocean, the US government asks Britain to find an uninhabited island where the US can build a naval base. [US Congress, 6/5/1975; Sunday Times (London), 9/21/1975; US Congress, 11/4/1975; BBC, 11/3/2000; Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; CBS News, 6/13/2003] In return, the US says it is willing to waive up to $14 million in research and development fees related to Britain’s Polaris missile program. [US Congress, 6/5/1975; US Congress, 11/4/1975; BBC, 11/3/2000; Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; CBS News, 6/13/2003] The US puts its sights first on the island of Aldabra, located north of Madagascar. But the island is a breeding ground for rare giant tortoises, whose mating habits would likely be disturbed by military activities. Fearing that ecologists would bring publicity to US activities on the island, the US looks for an alternative. The US decides on Diego Garcia, the largest island of the Chagos Archipelago. It is strategically located in the heart of the Indian Ocean just south of the equator. There is one problem, however. The islands have a population of roughly 1,800 people (who are known as Chagossians, but also referred to as Ilois) who have inhabited the 65-island archipelago for more than 200 years. [Sunday Times (London), 9/21/1975; BBC, 11/3/2000] Most of them are descendants of African slaves (see 1770s) and Indian plantation workers. [BBC, 1/10/2001] To deal with this “population problem,” British politicians, diplomats and civil servants begin a campaign “to maintain the pretense there [are] no permanent inhabitants” on the islands. They fear that if the international community learns about the existence of the population, it will demand that the Chagossians be recognized as a people “whose democratic rights have to be safeguarded.” [BBC, 11/3/2000]

Entity Tags: Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Commenting on the US and Britain’s plan to evict the inhabitants of Diego Garcia so the two countries can establish a military base on the island (see 1963-1965), British Colonial Secretary Anthony Greenwood warns that it must be presented to the United Nations “with a fait accompli.” [BBC, 11/3/2000]

Entity Tags: Anthony Greenwood, Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

During negotiations with Mauritius over independence, Prime Minister Harold Wilson insists that Britain retain the Chagos Archipelago. [Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; BBC, 1/10/2001] Britain plans to forcibly remove the archipelago’s inhabitants from their homes so the largest island, Diego Garcia, can be leased to the US, which intends to establish a military presence on the island (see 1963-1965).

Entity Tags: Chagossians, Harold Wilson

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Britain issues an Order in Council (SI 1965/1920) separating the Chagos Archipelago, Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches from Mauritius and making them into a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). [BBC, 11/3/2000; British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003] Britain pays the Seychelles and Mauritius three million pounds for their “loss of sovereignty” over the islands. [Sunday Times (London), 9/21/1975]

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

A British Foreign Office official writes of “convert[ing] all the existing residents [of the Chagos Islands] into short-term, temporary residents” in order to justify their removal to make room for US naval facilities planned for the island of Diego Garcia (see 1963-1965). [Guardian, 10/2/2004; ZNet, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Sir Paul Gore-Booth, a senior official at the Foreign Office, writes to diplomat Dennis Greenhill about the “population problem” on the island of Diego Garcia where the US and Britain want to establish a military base (see 1963-1965). “We must surely be very tough about this,” he says. “The object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours… There will be no indigenous population except seagulls… The United States Government will require the removal of the entire population of the atoll by July.” In his reply, Greenhill says, “Unfortunately along with the birds go some few Tarzans or Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully being wished on to Mauritius.” [BBC, 11/3/2000; Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; National Post, 3/1/2001; CBS News, 6/13/2003; British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003; Guardian, 10/2/2004; ZNet, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Dennis Greenhill, Paul Gore-Booth, Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Under the heading “Maintaining The Fiction,” an unnamed British official recommends in a memo that Britain reclassify the residents of the Chagos Archipelago as “a floating population.” He also suggests making “up the rules as we go along.” [ZNet, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

On two separate voyages, plantation workers and residents leave the Chagos Islands on the Mauritius, a ship operated by Rogers & Co., to Port Louis, Mauritius’s capital. Many of the passengers are going to Mauritius only temporarily and intend to return to the island. But when they try to return to the Chagos Islands in 1968, they are refused passage and told they will not be permitted to return to their homes. The islanders are thus left stranded in Mauritius, without resettlement assistance or compensation. [Washington Post, 9/9/1975; BBC, 11/3/2000; Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003] Olivier Bancoult later recounts to the BBC how his 11-member family went to Mauritius in 1968 so that his ill sister could see a doctor. After she died, family members tried to return to the islands, but “were told the land had been given to the Americans for a US military base.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000] The British also purchase the islands’ copra plantations and shut down their medical facilities. [BBC, 11/3/2000] Ships carrying food and medicine to Diego Garcia are turned back. [CBS News, 6/13/2003] These measures are taken with the knowledge of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Conservative successor, Edward Heath. [BBC, 11/3/2000]

Entity Tags: Harold Wilson, Chagossians, Edward Heath

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

The US informs Britain that it will proceed with an “austere” communication and other facilities on Diego Garcia, the largest atoll of the Chagos Archipelago. This information is not made public. [British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003]

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart notes in a memo to Prime Minister Harold Wilson that Parliament and US Congress were not informed that the US had waived several million dollars worth of fees associated with Britain’s Polaris submarine program (see 1963-1965). The US had agreed to waive the fees in exchange for an agreement that the British would rid Diego Garcia of its indigenous inhabitants so the US could build a military base there. [BBC, 11/3/2000; Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2000; CBS News, 6/13/2003]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Robert Maitland Michael Stewart, Harold Wilson

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Roy Jenkins and Secretary of State for Defense Denis Healey approve plans to completely evacuate the Chagos Islands in order to make way for the construction of a US communications facility on Diego Garcia, the archipelago’s largest island. [British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Roy Jenkins, Harold Wilson, Chagossians, Denis Healey

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson approves a recommendation (see April 21, 1969) by Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart to mislead the UN about the population of the Chagos Islands. [ZNet, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Chagossians, Robert Maitland Michael Stewart

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

US Congress approves plans to construct a defense facility on the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago. [British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

A British ordinance denies the inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago the legal right to return once they have been evicted from the islands. The British government claims that the measure is necessary in order to ensure “the peace, order and good government of the territory.” [Guardian, 9/1/2000]

Entity Tags: Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

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