Diego Garcia – The Island the UK sold for a military base

I recently heard of Diego Garcia , and was surprised that I had never heard about what happened there before. Apparently this was big news in the mid 70’s, and did have a slight resurgence of interest about 5 years ago, but I missed that, so I thought I would share anyway. Most of the information here I garnered from wikipedia (in particular, from here), which is quite well referenced, so I won’t reference much here, though I will put some links at the bottom.

So I essentially just want to give an outline of events, and what the current situation is, as well as a quick wikileaks quote on the issue. So the whole situation is a by-product of our (British) imperialism. We “owned” Mauritius as part of the commonwealth until the mid 1960s, and by the time we gave sovereignty back we had detached Diego Garcia as a separate entity, which remained “British”. The sole reason for this was in order for the US to use the island as a military base, as it had no others in the area.

Next came the depopulation, since the US cannot abide for people to live near to it’s military bases. This involved a couple of techniques. To start with all the companies on the island were bought out (or at least their islands operations were), and were then closed down, leaving everyone unemployed. This caused a number of people to leave for Mauritius, seeking work. Others stayed, living off what the island supplied. However, if any of these people were to visit other islands, they would be unable to get back, being told that the boat trips were only one way. Eventually the US navy, who had started settle there, removed and shipped away the few inhabitants that were left (there were about 2000 to start with).

To help demonstrate the political motives, I feel that a couple of quotes, from what were at the time internal and private memos, could not hurt:

“…avoid using the phrase ‘permanent inhabitants’ in relation to any of the islands in the territory because to recognise that there are any permanent inhabitants will imply that there is a population whose democratic rights will have to be safeguarded…”

“The purpose of the Immigration Ordinance is to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of the Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population. ”

“We shall continue to try to say as little as possible to avoid embarrassing the United States administration.”

“We would not wish it to become general knowledge that some of the inhabitants have lived on Diego Garcia for several generations and could, therefore, be regarded as ‘belongers’.”

The last two quotes are from the then head of the Indian Ocean department of Foreign Commonwealth Office. I think that they speak for themselves.

After the event, £625,000 was given to Mauritius as compensation. However, Mauritius did not recognise that they had any obligation to help resettle the people, and hence the money did not go to them. In the mid 70’s there was some media interest. There were hunger strikes from some of the Chagossians, there was literature published and even a 6 year one man protest outside the foreign office in London by a Methodist priest. After this, in 1978, £1.25 million was offered to the people that had been moved, if they gave up their right to request to return to the island. A large number signed the document, but later many who were illiterate claimed they had been tricked in to it.

Later, in both 2000 and 2002 islanders and their descendants secured British court rulings declaring that they should be allowed to return. However, before this could happen, the government made this illegal, and when this was taken to House of Lords, they over ruled the two previous court rulings. Now the case is being taken to the EU court.

The contract was meant to be for 50 years, starting in 1966, so in 4 years a lot more noise may be heard. On the other hand, as the wikileaks cables have informed us, the fact that the islands are currently being put up for being a marine reserve.

“HMG would like to establish a “marine park” or “reserve” providing comprehensive environmental protection to the reefs and waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official informed Polcouns on May 12. The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park — the world’s largest — would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and U.S. should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that U.S. interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.”

There has been a petition recently regarding the issue in America, which was sent on 4th April this year, and is awaiting a response.

For references and further reading (this is a very brief summary), I recommend:

Wikipedia (as always)

An open democracy piece

The Guardian

Finally, this documentary (for those who prefer a visual format).

Please let me know about the copious amount of errors that I am bound to have made!

My work website – unrelated http://www.personal.soton.ac.uk/jjt1e10/

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My little bit about the Falkland Islands

I recently read a short article in my university’s student paper regarding the Falkland Islands (in particular, it was criticising Sean Penn’s comments). Whilst some comments required no knowledge for me to criticise, over all I felt that I should make my self aware of what the situation was so I could form an informed opinion. What follows is  description of that opinion, stated with the caveat that I writing it down largely in order to receive criticism – I feel I know little more than the rudiments of the situation, and so in no way do I claim that my comment is of particular import.

The history seems to be the most discussed part of this topic, and I have to admit that I am not great at memorising a load of random dates. However, I certainly have gathered that at various times Britain, Spain, France and Argentina have (or have tried) to set up camp on (at least one of) the Islands. The French gave their possession to Spain, who in turn seem to have not done anything about it. This leaves the British and Argentinean claims to consider, both of which seem to have two main thrusts.

The first part of the British claim is that they were the first there, they owned it from that point, and at no point did they choose to cede this ownership. Whether or not a plaque is enough to keep ownership of a whole island might be debatable, this certainly seems a tenable position from, judging by the Wikipedia history I have read. The main Argentinean counter to this would perhaps be that they did colonise the country whilst Britain was not there from the late 1770’s to 1833, and then were forcibly removed. My personal opinion is that the history should be secondary to the affects on people now, and it personally is not very exciting for me, so I will leave it at that brief summary.

The second part of the British claim is that of self-determination, which certainly seems very reasonable. The inhabitants of the Falkland Islands certainly do want to be a part of the UK, and I don’t think this has been meaningfully questioned by anyone. In response to this it appears that Argentina would claim that geographical location gives them ownership rights. This includes the fact that they may feel threatened by the military that is based there (and clearly won’t be going after ’82). Personally, I think that it is unreasonable for us to have taken them.  By comparison, if Argentina had just discovered the Isle of Man and we hadn’t I hope they would inform us and let us have it. Obviously at the time this was certainly not the attitude, and it would have been very surprising if we had of done that. Also, Argentina was not a country in it’s own right, so we would have effectively just given the islands to Spain. However, just because it was not the done thing at the time does not make it right. Regardless of this though, there are people that now live there, and whilst it would be preferable that the islands had not been colonised at all, now they have I feel it would be unfair to make the inhabitants choose between moving or being ruled by a country to which they do not feel they belong without a pressing reason. I have not seen anything that Argentina claims they need the island for, other than the satisfaction of owning it (I personally do not give much credence to the military threat, not that I am a fan of us having our forces there).

The most pressing issue right now though seems to be the surrounding resources, such as oil. On this point I do not see how the UK has any claim in any way to these resources. Owning land does not imply one owns the water around it. It can only have an absolutely minimal affect on the people of the Falkland Islands as to who is getting the profit from the oil, so I don’t see on what grounds the UK can claim anything. If they were to give the rights to oil to Argentina, from what I have seen a large portion of the recent issues with regards to Falklands would be put to rest.

As I said at the start I looked in to this to try and educate myself, and I am sure that in spending only a couple of days looking at this I have missed hundreds of arguments at the very least, so please do inform me if you disagree – these are in no way concrete views.

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Why You Should Boycott Nestle

Nestle have participated in many unethical activities over the (very recent) years; formula milk sales in developing countries lead to approximately 1.4 million infants dying, an industry in which Nestle have a 40% share; claiming that “Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world“, harvesting palm oil in a manner that causes massive environmental damage, not least by further threatening endangered species such as orang-utans and child labour used in the production of chocolate. Some of these have improved or even stopped, others are ongoing in much the same manner as they always were.

We would ask you to join the international movement boycotting Nestle for all of the above reasons, which are explained in more detail later. However, given that many companies are worth boycotting, you may well ask why Nestle though. There are a few reasons that make Nestle stand out. One is the consistency, variety and magnitude of their actions. They have participated in environmental damage, human rights abuses and causing harm to animals. If a company has, for example, been testing on animals, then one could lobby the government and try to change the law. But here, that lengthy process would have to be repeated over and over again for each unethical action they take (not to mention in each country they take it in!). So they need outside pressure to really make them change. They have also been doing such things for such a long time (the boycott started over 35 years ago!) that they clearly haven’t “made a mistake”, they do not care about being a human or decent company. Finally, they have done very well in a number of “most unethical company” polls, as can be seen here and here.

The other reason you may choose Nestle over other companies is to ensure that you are having more of an effect by joining an already large boycott. By focussing on one company we can make them change much quicker and have a much bigger impact. Then, once they are acting ethically they will set an example to other companies (particularly with the size of Nestle, many smaller companies will look up to them), and give us an ethical option to purchase. For example, approximately half the student unions in the country boycott Nestle; if instead ten boycotted Nestle, ten other ones Coke-Cola, ten more Mars etc, the impact would be so watered down that it would have minimal effect. Currently, there are 19 Non-Governmental organisations, like Save the Children and Oxfam supporting the boycott, and in the UK 73 student unions, 102 businesses, 30 faith groups, 20 health groups, 33 consumer groups, 18 local authorities and 12 trade unions, as well as MPS and celebrities.

Formula Milk

One of the main points we have focussed on regarding Nestle their attitude to promoting formula milk for infants in developing countries. Here I will explain how they contribute to the 1.4 million infant deaths per year that formula milk use causes.

Originally Nestle started to promote their use of formula milk on the grounds that if the mother of a child has AIDS and breast feeds, there is a chance of this being passed on. However, after this was started, it was realised that the risks from feeding a child formula milk made with unclean water far outweighed these risk of passing on infection. UNICEF has estimated (using data from the medical journal the Lancet) that 15-20% of ALL INFANT DEATHS could be prevented by breastfeeding. On the other hand, the chance of a child being infected if breastfed by a mother with HIV for 24 months is about 15%; obviously if the mother has not got HIV then there is no risk at all!

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have clearly assessed that the risk from dirty water is greater, their recent guidance being to use formula milk only if clean water is available (and even with the guidance of a health care professional etc.). The first time WHO gave any guidance was in 1981, their article “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes“.

There were many clear points in the article that Nestle have continued to ignore. For example, the code says both that formula milk should not be advertised and should be clearly labelled as being for use of infants over 6 months old only. However, this promotional leaflet, as well as being advertising they said they would not participate in, claims it is appropriate for “the first year of life”. This is despite signing up to the code. This also shows it as being advertised as “suitable form birth”. They also sell it in local, shops with no effort to make sure that people have been advised how to use the formula (never mind being told to use it at all) as stated in the code. There is anecdotal evidence of them still giving branded items to hospitals and healthcare professionals. Even in America they some how seemed to think they could advertise juice drinks (which they falsely claimed had no sugar added) as suitable for infants under 2 years old.

Other problems include the fact that mixing breast milk and formula milk massively increases the chance of contracting HIV, breast milk provides better nutrition and immune defence, many people start using formula and can’t afford it any more – however, as they cannot provide breast milk any more they have to mix the formula to weakly or use formula milk not intended for infants. For some 30 years (barring a brief respite when Nestle claimed they would follow the WHO guidelines in 1981) the boycott has been running. And Nestle have shown some degree of progress, but as they are both the market leaders (they have a 40% share) and as they flout the WHO code more than any other company I feel that they still need to have pressure put on them.

Child Labour

Chocolate production has a well known track record of employing children to harvest coca beans. A panorama report came across two brothers, aged 8 and 11, who were working for a cooperative that supplies Nestle. Companies are quite capable of getting away with this as the production of the cocoa beans is performed in other, normally developing, countries with less human rights laws and with poor people who need money. Nestle continue to either deny claims despite clear evidence or they abdicate any responsibility for what they purchase by saying “the vast majority of cocoa farms are not owned by the companies that make chocolate or supply cocoa and therefore we do not have direct control over coca farming and labour practices”. I would say they could buy their products from someone who doesn’t give kids machetes.

Environmental

In 2008 Nestle made the ludicrous claim that “Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world”. Ignoring that fact that they based this claim on lies about how much they recycled, clearly using a tap is better for the environment.

Also, the method of production of palm oil sparked a massive anti-Nestle campaign in 2010 [15]. Palm oil is an ingredient used in many Nestle products, and in 2009 Nestle used some 320,00o tonnes of the stuff. In the process, this destroyed the habitat of orang-utans, a threatened species. Since then Nestle have made some improvement; they have allowed an independent organisation to look at their supply chain and audit it. Of course, some would say that they could start by taking some responsibility for looking at this themselves, and then checking that they had done enough, but something is better than nothing.

More Information

If you want more information about Nestle’s malpractices, then KnowMore and Wikipedia are good places to start. Baby milk action (http://info.babymilkaction.org/) has a lot of information regarding formula milk, and the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” is a good place if to start if you want to learn more about the role of child labour in chocolate production.

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Milk is the Key to Being Vegan

This is very much based on personal experience, and I am sure there are lots of ways to get in to being vegan, but knowing failed vegans, current vegans and people who go on about how hard it must be, I have come to the conclusion that dairy is one of the most significant factors in being vegan.

For me personally, I didn’t have dairy for years and years before I went vegan, for health reasons. It might have been part of the reason that I didn’t go veggie – no meat and no dairy is pretty close to being vegan and I assumed it would be very hard. Now that I am vegan, I think that the years of experience not having dairy help me a lot. I am used to all the alternatives, know what to use instead and what things to avoid that you might not realise straight away. And getting used to these things was quite easy, because when I was eating meat I could easily make a meal centred around chicken, lamb or beef and no-one would really care that there was cheese on the table or yoghurt in the curry (sorry, that was the best example I could think of).

By comparison, not having meat is very easy. Few things do not have a meat substitute if it is imaginable at all; veggie pies, sausages, burgers, nut roasts etc. – the list goes on. Psychologically it feels like a bigger step (to me at least) but in reality it is very very well catered for (in the UK at least). And I really didn’t notice or even think about not having dairy – at no point did it occur to me that it might be convenient to use anything dairy based.

However, I think (and obviously this can only be my opinion) that if someone starts by going vegetarian, it is very easy to end up being reliant on dairy. Obviously dairy products will probably already be a regular feature in most people’s cooking, even to the extent that one could probably make a lot of dishes featuring some sort of dairy product as a central part of the meal. And of course, it is a ready-made replacement for meat in terms of its universal appeal, protein content and the ability to have a lot of it. There are other specific circumstances, such as a lot of sweet products containing milk, the creaminess of meals  and milkshakes. And once you become so reliant on something it can be at least a huge psychological barrier, even if not a real one, to finding alternatives.

On the flip-side, by not having dairy you get used to a whole host of dairy free meals and cooking, and as already stated, many of these have alternatives that are exactly the same (bar their meat content). So practically no adjustment is needed to start cooking the new versions of all your favourite dishes.

Lastly, a quick comment on the egg situation – the only things that are significant for me for eggs were omelettes and cakes. I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, and how many omelettes can you really eat!!

So, I genuinely think that if you are having an issue with going vegan, focus on the dairy. Maybe cut that out before the eggs (I imagine most people wouldn’t want to go back to meat), and really try a whole range of alternatives and new meals and veget

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Petition to recognise Palestine

Just a quick post to point out that there is currently a HM Government petition calling for the UK to vote in favour of the Palestinian bid to join the UN. The fact that it is done through HM Government epetitions means that if over 100,000 people sign then the Govt. is bound to discuss it in the House of Commons. Anyway, the petition is well worth signing in my opinion, as it will mean that Palestine can get a proper hearing and that Israel will not have free reign to do want they want to them. However, I am not going to do an analysis of the situation here at all, just sign if you agree 🙂

The link again is here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/593

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Help the World by Doing Nothing

When your computer is turned on, there is no way it will be using all of it’s power – it could be thinking about hundreds or thousands of other things while you are browsing the internet. And I recently found that medical and other research groups have found out how to use this to combat cancer, AIDS and global warming. So please have a look at the full list on Wikipedia and choose one, or choose one from the short list below.

A list of highlights of these programs includes:

Hopefully this will encourage a couple of people to use this and help the cause 🙂

There is a bit more info on my other blog.

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Five Reasons to be a Vegan

I am a vegan. A lot of people end up asking why when they eventually find out, enough that I now have a “standard” response. My five reasons make up this response:

  1. It is cheaper
  2. It is healthier
  3. it is easier (and fun)
  4.  It is better for society at an international level
  5. Animals get a pretty raw deal when it comes to meat production

I will give an overview of these points here:

1. Per kilo, meat, eggs and dairy are some of the most expensive bulk ingredients. I think this is quite a clear point to be honest, and will leave it at that.

2. This is probably a controversial point. According to the American Dietic Association it is at least as healthy, and is okay for “individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes“. The NHS also say this.

One reason it is healthier is the generally large increase in fruit and veg that is consumed. This may be the reason that the NHS  say that “vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes“.

Also, meat causes negative health effects. For example, red meat can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Also awful is the absolute scandal that is the dairy industry selling milk as a good source of calcium. This is wholly false. Milk actually increases your chance of getting osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

3. I have always  I enjoyed cooking a lot. Given this, being vegan means two things. If I can’t do a meal at all then it means I have less to choose from for dinner, so it is an easier choice. Alternatively, I can try different things and see how they work.

4. There are many, many social effects of eating animal products. This is a brief overview of the main ones.

The most obvious and humane issue is the fact that eating meat deprives people of food. In short, if you give food straight to people, rather than give it to them through an animal, it is much better, and there will be more food.

Another massive issue is that of global warming. Meat production contributions to greenhouse gases range from 18-51%!!

Antibiotics are made less effective by use on factory farms.

Lack of space – eating meat means you takes up ten times more land space.

5. The classic reason is the cruelty to animals. I can not really say anything that you won’t know already, but I will include a video, which has disturbing scenes and I advise caution before watching.

I have given a more detailed analysis here.

DISCLAIMER: If you wish to change diet, obviously consult the appropriate literature  before hand, just to make sure. The NHS website has plenty of info on their website for example.

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