Freedom Next Time
** Chagossian society continued to grow with the arrival of indentured labourers from India in the mid-19th century. By the 20th century they had developed a distinct language that was a lilting variation of French Creole. There were now three copra factories, supplying the coconut oil that lit street lamps in London, and a coaling station for ships en route to and from Australia; by the 1960s, there were plans for tourism. The workers received a small wage or payment in kind with commodities such as rice, oil and milk. They supplemented this by fishing in the abundantly stocked coastal waters, growing tomatoes, chilli, pumpkins and aubergines, and rearing chicken and ducks. As if celebrating a perfect vision of empire in such a place, a Colonial Office film from the 1950s describes the population as "born and brought up ... in conditions most tranquil and benign". The camera pans across a laughing woman hanging out clothes to dry in a coconut grove while her children play around her. This is Charlesia Alexis.
I met Charlesia recently, 50 years after she was filmed. She was sitting in the shade of her small, sparsely furnished house on the edge of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, more than 1,000 miles from her home. I asked her for her fondest memories of Diego Garcia. "Oh, everything!" she replied. "The sense of wellbeing is my fondest souvenir. My family could eat and drink what they liked; we never lacked for anything; we never bought anything, except clothes. Can you imagine that?"
"Why did you leave?" **
John Pilger in The Guardian