Mauritius challenges Britain’s ownership of Chagos islands

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The message was played on a speaker to the Chagossians, Mauritian officials and media assembled on the beach…reports Asian Lite News

Britain’s ownership of the Chagos archipelago is officially being challenged. This happened after the Mauritian ambassador to the UN, Jagdish Koonjul, in a ceremony on Monday, raised his country’s flag. The Mauritian officials also sang their country’s national anthem.

In a report by The Guardian, the ambassador said, “We are performing the symbolic act of raising the flag as the British have done so many times to establish colonies. We, however, are reclaiming what has always been our own.”

Mauritian prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, in a pre-recorded message said, “This is the first time Mauritius has led an expedition to this part of its territory. I feel sad that I have not been able to be part of this historic visit. I’m delighted that our Chagossian brothers and sisters are able to travel to their birthplace without any foreign [ie British] escort.”

The message was played on a speaker to the Chagossians, Mauritian officials and media assembled on the beach.

When asked what will happen if UK officials later removed the Mauritian flag, Jugnauth told the Guardian, “I don’t know what they are going to do. If they remove the flag, this will amount to a provocation on their part. The UK is not abiding by international law judgments.”

Several British Indian ocean territory signs were also removed from the island. A metal plaque close to the flagpole read, “Visit of the Mauritius delegation to Peros Banhos archipelago, Republic of Mauritius, in the context of the scientific survey of Blenheim Reef.”

Britain sealed a deal in 1966 allowing the U.S. to use Diego Garcia for defense purposes. The United States maintains a base there for aircraft and ships and has backed Britain in the legal dispute with Mauritius.

Britain evicted about 2,000 people from the Chagos archipelago in the 1960s and 1970s so the U.S. military could build its base. Many resettled in Britain and have fought in courts there to return to the islands.

Jugnauth in 2019 told the U.N. General Assembly their forcible eviction “remains a very dark episode of human history akin to a crime against humanity.”

Jugnauth said the vessel commissioned by Mauritius, Bleu de Nîmes, is to sail Tuesday from Seychelles to the Chagos archipelago, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

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