By Jean Claude de l’Estrac
Next Year in Diego Garcia, the English version of L’an prochain à Diego Garcia by Jean Claude de l’Estrac, is now available in bookshops. Translated by Touria Prayag, Editor in chief of l’express Weekly, the book provides readers with a predilection for the English language with the opportunity to discover the poignant account behind one of the stories of the worst human rights violations in the region: the expulsion of the people of Diego Garcia. The book reveals the inner workings of a tale of subterfuge, power politics and deception and is the fruit of meticulous research into history and the author’s own experience of the events of the time.
The foreword of Next Year in Diego Garcia was written by David Snoxell, who has been closely involved with the Diego Garcia issue and the struggle over recent years of the Chagossians to regain their island. He has been Deputy Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory as well as British High Commissioner to Mauritius. He has also been coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group since 2008.
In his appreciation of Next Year in Diego Garcia and the situation it describes, he says, “De L’Estrac chronicles it all. He draws from his detailed knowledge and experience of the times. He presents the facts without value judgment. He is severe on his own countrymen, as I am on mine, but hindsight can set things in a different context from the one prevailing at the time. (…) The Chagos Islands were of little economic value to Mauritius at the time but they were of inestimable value to the people who lived there.”
Below is an excerpt from the book describing the web of complicity surrounding the deportation of the islanders:
“This story is one of deceit, lies and cowardice. Perhaps worse; it is the story of the British Foreign Office admitting that large sums of money were at stake in Whitehall negotiations which led to the butchering of the Mauritian territory. The decision to rip the Chagos Archipelago from the mainland was, thus, sealed as was the fate of its inhabitants who were forced to leave their birthplace to make room for the Anglo-American military base, Diego Garcia.”
The book, published by Editions Le Printemps, is at Rs 350.
* Published in print edition on 9 December 2011
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