Mmm… how to choose the right emotion for the occasion?
Joy? No, too soon to say, the fight may not yet be over.
Satisfaction? Yes. The right thing has been done.
What am I talking about? This –
Thousands of British citizens who were evicted from their paradise island home to make way for a giant US air base have won the right to return.
In a landmark legal judgment, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Chagos islanders could rebuild a life that they lost in the late 1960s.
Yesterday the islanders packed the court to witness their victory, and then called on the Government to pay for about 5,000 of them to return and rebuild the life that they lost 40 years ago.
The court overturned an order made by the Government in 2004 banning islanders from returning. Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagossian community in exile, said: “I feel very happy not just for myself but all the people who have been separated from their motherland.
“It is a special day for justice because even though we are a small people we have shown big people that we have rights.”
I’ve covered this story before – see How many people does it take before it becomes wrong?, Misleading the House and If you can tear yourself away -and my earlier comments stand as written.
The treatment meeted out to the Chagos Islanders by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under successive governments since the late 1960s is a matter of national shame and, as the Court of Appeal has rightly decided, should be rectified immediately and without any further delay.
Although the majority of the chatter surrounding the question of how Britain’s approach to its ‘special relationship’ with the US may alter under Gordon Brown has centred, naturally, on questions of Iraq, Afghanistan and the ‘War Against Terror’ there is much simpler, and honest, way in which Gordon can signal the necessary shift in emphasis in British foreign policy from slavishly adoring poodle to honest, supportive, but sometimes critical, friend.
He can do the right thing, instruct the Foreign Office to drop any plans to appeal this decision to the House of Lords and allow the Chagos Islanders to go home.