A leaked U.S. cable suggested the marine park around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean was a ploy to prevent native islanders from returning home. In light of the WikiLeaks revelation, the indigenous Mauritius plan to contest the legality of the maritime reserve park, reported Maars News.
“The cable, part of the massive stash acquired by WikiLeaks, quotes a British diplomat saying that creating the marine reserve would stymie the return of former islanders,” noted Science Magazine on December 7.
Britain leased the archipelago’s biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States in 1966, preparing for the construction of a massive airbase, which required the forced removal of some 2,000 Chagossians, reported IndyBay.org.
In the public eye, the British portrayed establishing the marine park as a necessary environmental measure. The Wikileaks-exposed U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 2009 revealed otherwise. The British Foreign Office official had privately told the Americans that the move to create a maritime reserve would “effectively end the islanders’ resettlement claims,” reported DemocracyNow.org.
Roch Evenor, secretary of the UK Chagos Support Association, described the marine reserve as “a natural injustice,” when it was proposed. “The fish would have more rights than us,” he told the the U.K. Guardian on March 29, 2010.
In California, tribes wage a similar battle. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation, attempts to dismiss the rights of California tribes and fishermen, reported IndyBay.org, which refers to the exploitation of people by disguised “marine protected areas” as “green washing.”
“This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years,” said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok tribal citizen and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition, to IndyBay.org. “It is about respect, acknowledgment and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is it systematically decimates our ability to be who we are. That is the definition of cultural genocide.”