Bill Rammel, accompanied by over a dozen police officers, arrived

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					                          Bill Rammell visit in Mauritius January 14, 2005

                                                Bill Rammell, accompanied by over a dozen police
                                                officers, arrived at the Baie du Tombeau Ilois
                                                community centre a little before 7:30 am last Friday.
                                                Members of Chagos Refugees Group, their
                                                supporters, and the local and international press were
                                                there to greet him. He entered the center and
                                                instructed the Mauritian police to keep all press
                                                outside. Baton-wielding policemen blocked the
                                                community center’s doors so that no cameras or
                                                journalists could enter. Many people crowded around
                                                the small, barred windows in order to witness part of
                                                the 20-minute meeting.

Mr. Rammell began the meeting by announcing that, although he was in favor of the visit to Chagos
this April, unfortunately the Mauritian government had prohibited the British from contracting the boat.
The announcement was delivered in the most unprofessional, undiplomatic, and condescending
manner possible.

There was an incredible stir in the room--the British were once again playing games with the hopes
and lives of Chagossians. No one present could have predicted Olivier's smooth, diplomatic, and
direct response. "You say, Mr Rammell that you support our visit, its financing, our right to go back to
Chagos, but the only problem is the boat? Well, Mr Rammell, we have a boat." Olivier handed
Rammell a dossier of the ship's information, informing those present that the boat is based in Dubai,
and is prepared to take Chagossians to Chagos. No one, including Olivier’s closest friends and
advisors, had been told about the ship in Dubai, and Rammell looked especially shocked.              Mr
Rammell said he would have to review Olivier's new information before commenting further.

                                           During the rest of the meeting, Mr Rammell avoided eye
                                           contact with members of CRG. He took about a half-
                                           dozen questions, but provided no real answers and no
                                           new information. One member of CRG asked; in slow
                                           but completely understandable English, if Chagos had
                                           been affected by the recent tsunami. Though perfectly
                                           comprehensible, Mr Rammell made a face at the man
                                           and had him repeat the question.             After not
                                           "understanding" the man a second time, the shouts of
                                           "Did the tsunami affect Diego?" proved that Rammell
                                           was the only English-speaker in the room who couldn't
                                           comprehend. When he finally decided to answer, "Not
                                           according to my information," was all he could manage
                                           to tell someone wondering if his ancestor’s graves had
                                           been damaged? Mr Rammell is responsible for these
islands and he should know precisely what condition they're in. His lac k of desire and inability to
effectively communicate with Chagossians were common themes during the morning. And the man
asked again “so if Diego has not been damaged by the Tsunami so Chagossians can leave there…?”

Mr. Rammell left the center to visit nearby Chagossian homes, and was followed by over a dozen
journalists and Chagossians who chanted and waved signs of protest. There was a unique tension in
the air.
                                             During the visit to the two Chagossian homes,
                                             members of the press were again forced to stay
                                             outside. After seeing these homes, Mr Rammell
                                             announced that Chagossians live no differently than
                                             some Mauritians, and it is clear to him that their poverty
                                             and their life in these communities has "absolutely
                                             nothing" to do with the fact that they are Chagossian.
                                             His whole visit was rushed, and constant checks of his
                                             watch reinforced his lack of discretion. It was almost as
                                             if he wanted everyone to know that Chagossians and
                                             this meeting were great inconveniences for him.

In the afternoon, Don McKinnon was to schedule to arrive at the CRG office at 4:00 pm. He finally
arrived at nearly 5:30, and met with Olivier, members of the CRG, and the press inside the office.
After Olivier welcomed him and presented him and his two colleagues with information, including the
recent John Pilger film, Stealing a Nation, he spoke about the institution of the Commonwealth, and
how he was unhappy to see that two of its members--Britain and Mauritius--were not pleased with
one another. He said that it made him sad to see a group in a country not feel part of that group. He
hoped steps could be taken to better integrate Chagossians in Mauritian society and the
Commonwealth. His speech was certainly tailored to the sovereignty issue of the Chagos
Archipelago, not the Chagossians with whom he was meeting. After addressing the group inside the
CRG office, he went outside and delivered an abbreviated version of the speech to about 100
Chagossians waiting outside.

                                         Mr McKinnon did say, however, that he was in Cassis to
                                         learn. He accompanied Olivier to visit two Chagossian
                                         homes. Although the day was hot and he had a car, he
                                         took of his jacket and walked with CRG members and the
                                         press to the houses. This gesture was certainly appreciated
                                         by Olivier and members of the CRG. While inside
                                         Chagossians' homes, Mr McKinnon attempted to converse
                                         with the family. Although his visit was also short, Mr
                                         McKinnon was diplomatic, polite, and took some time to
                                         listen to Chagossians.

In Cassis, Mr McKinnon was accompanied by other members of the Commonwealth Secretariat,
including the Undersecretary of African Affairs, Professor A. Adefuye. During the walks of about one
kilometers to the two homes, Prof. Adefuye made an effort to engage Chagossians in discussion. He
spoke with CRG members about the conditions of their exile: how they got to Mauritius, and how they
felt here. Prof. Adefuye told those present that he was embarrassed that, even though he is in charge
of the African region for the Secretariat, he had understood this as a sovereignty issue, not a human
rights one. He was anxious to learn more, and seemed deeply touched by his visit and this new
information. That he had no idea about the true plight of the Chagossians reinforces the fact that
there is still much work to be done to raise awareness, and bring more sympathisers like him to the
Chagossians' cause. Seeing his fascination, astonishment, and eagerness to find out more was

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