Sir Anerood Jugnauth GCSK, KCMG, QC Minister Mentor, Minister of Defence, Minister for Rodrigues, opened the oral hearings before the International Court of Justice yesterday in The Hague, Netherlands on the request for an Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.
In his opening statement, Minister Mentor underlined that Mauritius is a peaceful and stable democratic State which has maintained excellent relations with all States concerned with the questions referred to the Court. However, he recalled participating in the 1965 Constitutional Conference at the Lancaster House England during which the British Government threatened Mauritian representatives that they would not be granted independence unless they agreed to the dismemberment of Mauritius.
He underscored that during the conference, several small private meetings on defence matters were organised by the Colonial Secretary in London to which only five representatives were invited, including Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.
He added that the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson met the latter in private to persuade him for the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius. The object of the meeting was "to frighten him with hope: hope that he might get independence: Fright lest he might not unless he is sensible about the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago", emphasised the Minister Mentor.
Moreover, the Minister Mentor underpinned that the officials of the colonial power devised a strategy by which Mauritian representatives were given no opportunity to retain the Chagos Archipelago. "It was independence on condition of agreement to detachment or no independence with the detachment any way", he pointed out.
Sir Anerood Jugnauth stated that the United Kingdom had illegally excised the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its accession to independence due to which Chagossians were forcibly evicted from their home in total disregard of their basic human rights. Government, he emphasised, fully supports the right of return of Chagossians to their native place and reaffirms its determination to complete the decolonisation process.
The Minister Mentor reiterated that the request for an advisory opinion is not intended to question the presence of the military base on Diego Garcia in any way as Mauritius is also committed to the protection of the environment and has been a responsible guardian of other areas of great environmental significance within its territory.