ARVIN BOOLELL

Congratulations and there is reason to celebrate after the outcome of the advisory opinion given by ICJ.

« The Court concludes that as a result of the Chagos Archipelago’s unlawful detachment and its incorporation into a new colony, known as the BIOT, the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when Mauritius acceded to Independence in 1968. « 

Birds of same feathers

The State of Mauritius is reinvigorated and has the moral, political, diplomatic and legitimate authority to exercise its Sovereignty Rights. The issue of SOVEREIGNTY and RESETTLEMENT of MAURITIANS of CHAGOSSIAN origin is inseparable. If Chagossians feel a sense of ownership over their territory they know that CHAGOS Archipelago is not a separate unit within Mauritius irrespective of its geographical location. Hence, the ‘freely expressed and genuine will of the people of the territory concerned’ does not refer solely to Chagossians but to all Mauritians. We are birds of the same feathers indeed and for the feathers not to be ruffled Chagossians should be full-fledged citizens of the Republic.

Roadmap 

Before the ruling of ICJ is brought for debate at the UNGA, the PM has stated that a roadmap would be prepared. I expect the views of parliamentarians and civil societies will be heard. The PM should invite former Heads of Government for exchange of views. If the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been sidelined and was not even asked to attend the Press Conference I doubt if the circle would be widened.

Never mind, let us walk down memory lane.

LONG WALK 

• It has been a long walk since the Lancaster House undertakings agreed by the British during the Constitutional talks in London in September 1965. But we have to keep walking. The policy of the state has always been to insist, resist, persist, and enlist. Successive Governments have walked the talk together with the GRC much to the displeasure of UK GOVERNMENT. Double dealing by UK or not, our legitimate case was heard before the ICJ.

Tribunals

• The ICJ Tribunal is an instrument of preventive diplomacy, has peacekeeping virtues and the means of strengthening peaceful relations between states. Sir Philippe Sands and his able team had every reason to give the thumps up. Volumes of documents were submitted when the case was referred before the Arbitral tribunal under UNCLOS. These papers were of great relevance to support our case before the ICJ.

Commenting on the decision of UNCLOS tribunal in the European Journal of International law Michael Waibel, a lecturer at Cambridge University, wrote on 17/4/2015 « more immediately the UK will find it difficult to avoid engaging in serious consultation with Mauritius on the renewal of the lease of Diego Garcia to the US in 2016. The renewal is likely as significant for the condition in which the Archipelago will eventually return to Mauritius as the MPA which the tribunal considered unlawful. Mauritius will likely insist that the UK recognize it for the first time as an equal partner in these decisions. Likewise the award keeps the issue of return of the Chagossians to the Archipelago high on the agenda. » By acting in blatant breach of the letter and spirit of the Award of the ARBITRAL delivered on 18th March 2015, the bad faith of the British remains of great concern.

UK remains steadfast and maintains that ICJ had no locus or jurisdiction to determine a bilateral dispute. But the cradle of democracy which UK claims to be has been guilty since 1965 of violations of several UNGA resolutions relating to Human Rights and dismembering of Territorial Integrity.

WEDGE

On the historical day the Mauritian legal team led by Sir Anerood Jugnauth was addressing the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the right of Republic of Mauritius to exercise its sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, Pierre Prosper, Chairperson of the Chagos community in Seychelles, reportedly told the Seychelles News Agency that the demands of the Mauritian Government are commercial and have nothing to do with the welfare of the Chagos community. Prosper went on to say that Mauritius is seeking rent from the US and new fishing grounds. He was worried that if the demands of Mauritius for sovereignty are acknowledged the Chagossians will find themselves in a darker hole. In other words Mauritius is not interested with the plight of the islanders and the Mauritius-based Chagossians have been misled.

Isolating the Chagossians

As expected the carefully crafted statement made by Prosper was echoed worldwide in the International press and could not have been missed by the judges of the ICJ. It must have rejoiced the UK side. It concords with their strategy to isolate the Chagossians and sever any support to Mauritius in its claim to exercise its sovereignty over its islands. The regular meetings of Chagossians who hold UK citizenship with the British authorities have always been politically motivated. A young University student of Chagossian origin and reading International Affairs made a statement on Channel 4 highly critical of Mauritius. This statement has totally surprised the entire UK population. Unfortunately, we have to dodge the brickbats from Mr Allen Vincatassin, President of DG and CHAGOS islands Council.

He stated that the majority of Chagossians who live in UK have expressed their interests to resettle on the Islands as BIOT CITIZENS.

Mr Vincatassin should never forget that two Immigration prohibition orders were introduced to deny the Chagossians the right to resettlement. Even the High Court decision of 2000 to quash the Immigration ordinance of 1971 did not deter our British friends to act perfidiously. It is worthy to note that irrespective of whichever UK political party is in power it is the stand of the FCO which will prevail.

« May we remind the ardent advocates for BIOT that the United Kingdom not once deemed it important to address their plight at the ICJ? Were the BIOT fans ever invited to intervene at the ICJ? »

Many Chagossians who repeatedly expressed their loyalty to the UK successfully failed to grasp that Sovereignty is a matter for the State to decide.

Late Ferdinand Mandarin, a great patriot of Chagossian origin, had the foresightedness to impress upon all Chagossians that we had to put a common front, ie the issue of Sovereignty and resettlement is of an organic link.

Bancoult’s Dilemma?

Following the ruling of ICJ has Mr Bancoult the full-fledged Mauritian citizen exhausted all legal avenues as a British passport holder? What advice has been tendered to him by his legal advisers? Since there is good working relations between both legal teams I am sure nothing would be done to loosen the bond between Sovereignty and resettlement issue.

The opinion expressed by an expert in International Law is thought provoking.

« The Chagossians should neither fall prey to innovative strategies which will be deployed and nor should Mauritius neglect the needs of the community or undermine its importance. One must acknowledge the fact that the ICJ has given a faithful account of all litigations undertaken by the Chagossians without rebuking the latter for having opted for such course of actions. We should no longer be a prisoner of past traditionally rooted fears, arguments and propagandas that these litigations pose a threat to our claim on the Chagos Archipelago. We hope the subsequent measures that the Chagossian Community intends to endorse, be in the spirit of the present Advisory Opinion, given that innumerable member states have expressed their solidarity with them and Mauritius has ensured that their voice is heard. »

WAY Forward 

The way forward whatever form it takes, needs to engage UK. Mauritius should first invite UK for bilateral talks to officially hear UKs response if any on the advisory opinion. Then Mauritius should propose the holding of a multilateral conference with the good offices of a neutral third party. If good will prevails the composition of the delegation could easily be worked out between Mauritius and UK. Of course, representation of Chagos Islanders and Human Rights Commission is non-negotiable.

Since the ICJ opinion is not legally dispositive and non-binding, a structured process towards an agreed outcome such as conciliation or mediation should not be ruled out.

Timor Leste engaged Australia in such a process in 2016 and this resulted in a new treaty concluded in New York in December.

ICJ opinion set the tram lines and UK cannot say ICJ is wrong.

A socioeconomic study to assess financial and social loss incurred by Mauritius and Chagossians’Community since 1968 should not be ruled out.

Finally, why is Britain refractory to rules-based order even though it no longer rules the waves?