P/N/13 Stealing A Nation by John Pilger
During the last two weeks of June, the award winning documentary Stealing A Nation, by John Pilger, will be shown at venues across Hackney (see bottom of page for details). The film describes the struggle of the Chagossians, a population of 2000 or so people who were forcibly removed from their homes by the British government in the late sixties and early seventies. In doing so, it provides an insight into the particular form of democracy practised in Britain.
In the middle of the Indian Ocean is a group of coral atolls named the Chagos Archipelago. On the main island, Diego Garcia, is a vast United States military base. The islands are British territory that was illegally separated from Mauritius when that country won independence from Britain in 1968. The United States needed a foreign base strategically located for future wars in Asia and the Middle East, and in exchange for a discount off some nuclear weapons, have leased the islands from the UK since 1966.
The inhabitants of Chagos, who had lived there for several generations, are the descendants of slaves who worked coconut plantations on the islands. Using a combination of deceit and force, the British government removed the Chagossians from the islands and dumped them at the port side in Mauritius. Their removal was hidden from Parliament and the US Congress. Foreign Office correspondence from the time, as highlighted in Stealing A Nation, reveals the racist ignorance of the British government, for whom the islanders are 'Tarzans or Men Fridays', 'unsophisticated and untrainable' plantation workers.
Since their removal the Chagossians have been fighting to return home. In the last fifteen years their campaign has achieved some significant victories in British Courts but the government is playing a macabre waiting game with the Chagossians, many of whom have died during the decades of suffering and fighting. Stealing A Nation describes how, following a High Court judgement in favour of the Chagossians, the government used the un-democratic, archaic powers of the Queen's Order in Council to overturn the ruling.
More recently the British government has imposed a Marine Protection Area around the islands which restricts human activity in the area (it ignores the 3,500 military and maintenance personnel who live and work on the US base). A Wikileaked US diplomatic cable confirmed the Chagossians' suspicions that the governments' intention was to use the political clout of the environmental lobby against them. These are the processes by which the British government upholds democracy. By refusing to recognise the Chagossians' human rights, and refusing to compensate them appropriately, Britain perpetuates this colonial era injustice.
The lease between Britain and the United States lasts for fifty years with an option to extend it for another twenty years. Negotiations, if any, must be complete by December 2014. This presents an opening in the government's indifference to the islanders' campaign. Greater public awareness of the Chagossians' struggle and the crimes of past and present governments might force the negotiations to take on some meaningful purpose.
The screenings are free and all are welcome. The film is one hour long and will be followed by some discussion - though no-one is obliged to join in.
Screenings are to be held at Pogo Café on Clarence Road, X Marks the Bökship on Cambridge Heath Road, Project/Number on Cazenove Road, The Russet on Amhurst Terrace, and two more venues yet to be confirmed. Full details of venues are below.
Screenings will begin at the times stated below.
Pogo Café, 7:30PM on Monday the 17th of June
76, Clarence Road, London. E5 8HB - 020 8533 1214
X Marks the Bökship, 7:00PM on Wednesday the 19th of June
210 / Unit 3, Cambridge Heath Road, London. E2 9NQ
Project/Number, 7:00PM on Friday the 21st of June
10, Cazenove Road, London. N16 6BD
The Russet, 7:30PM on Tuesday the 2nd of July
Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, London. E8 2BT
Contact Adam Burton for more information -
firstname.lastname@example.org - 07746927412.
For information about how to support the Chagossians please visit the UK Chagos Refugees Group / Chagos Support web site, or Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter:
Stealing A Nation is available to watch free on-line here -