‘On Diego Garcia no one never got ill’ (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)



The history of the Chagos Islanders was recently highlighted in a semi-fictionalised production A few man Fridays performed by the Cardboard Citizens Theatre company at the Riverside Studios in London. The month-long run finished on March 10. I went to the penultimate performance. Also in attendance were a small number of native-born Chagossians and their children. During the interval, I fell into conversation with Anthony, a 50-year-old Chagossian, who was born on the island of Diego Garcia. Along with other members of his family, Anthony was deported from his homeland by the British authorities to make way for a strategically important US base. With 500 or so compatriots he was taken by boat and dumped in the Seychelles. Around 1500 other Islanders were taken to Mauritius. In 2002, however, Chagossians were granted British citizenship. Some 1500 islanders, mainly those from Mauritius but a few from the Seychelles, have now settled in Crawley in West Sussex. But Anthony, along with his sister and her children, is living in rented accommodation in Pimlico in south London. According to Anthony, a primary motivation for his coming to the UK was to seek better healthcare to deal with his type II diabetes. “On Diego Garcia no one ever got ill,” he said. Perhaps this claim should be taken more seriously than conventional functionalist explanations allow.