The Wikileaks Cables

On 2 December 2010, the Guardian Newspaper (Guardian 2 Dec 2010) published a CONFIDENTIAL US Embassy Cable containing revelations about the ulterior motives of FCO officials in pursuing a Marine Protected Area to cover the Chagos Archipelago.

Extracts are printed below (for the full text see the file below or the Guardian link above):

R 150700Z MAY 09      (15 May 2009)

FM: AMEMBASSY LONDON  (American Embassy London)
TO: RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2316  (Secretary of State Washington)

NOFORN   (No Foreigners)


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.

Roberts [Colin Roberts - the BIOT Commissioner] acknowledged that "we need to find a way to get through the various Chagossian lobbies." He admitted that HMG is "under pressure" from the Chagossians and their advocates to permit resettlement of the "outer islands" of the BIOT. He noted, without providing details, that "there are proposals (for a marine park) that could provide the Chagossians warden jobs" within the BIOT. However, Roberts stated that, according to the HGM's current thinking on a reserve, there would be "no human footprints" or "Man Fridays" on the BIOT's uninhabited islands. He asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago's former residents. Responding to Polcouns' observation that the advocates of Chagossian resettlement continue to vigorously press their case, Roberts opined that the UK's "environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians' advocates."

Roberts emphasized. "We do not regret the removal of the population," since removal was necessary for the BIOT to fulfill its strategic purpose, he said. Removal of the population is the reason that the BIOT's uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters are in "pristine" condition. Roberts added that Diego Garcia's excellent condition reflects the responsible stewardship of the U.S. and UK forces using it.

Roberts acknowledged that numerous technical questions needed to be resolved regarding the establishment and administration of a marine park, although he described the governmental "act" of declaring a marine park as a relatively straightforward and rapid process. He noted that the establishment of a marine reserve would require permitting scientists to visit BIOT, but that creating a park would help restrict access for non-scientific purposes. For example, he continued, the rules governing the park could strictly limit access to BIOT by yachts, which Roberts referred to as "sea gypsies."

[Joanne Yeadon - BIOT Adminstrator] ..urged Embassy officers in discussions with advocates for the Chagossians, including with members of the "All Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos Islands (APPG)," to affirm that the USG requires the entire BIOT for defense purposes. Making this point would be the best rejoinder to the Chagossians' assertion that partial settlement of the outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago would have no impact on the use of Diego Garcia. She described that assertion as essentially irrelevant if the entire BIOT needed to be uninhabited for defense purposes.

Embassy officials added the following comment:
Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed, as the FCO's Roberts stated, be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands' former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling in the BIOT.

Further Reading:

R P Dunne,
Feb 21, 2012, 3:00 AM