Being human and thus fallible we all have our ‘blind spots’ – especially politicians; Denis Healey was no exception.
In the year England won the World Cup – 1966 – Denis Healey was UK Defence Minister. He signed a 50-year lease (expiring next year in 2016) for the US to use Diego Garcia – the largest island in the Chagos archipelago – as one of its nuclear military bases in the Indian Ocean.
The Chagossians were evicted from their land while their dogs were poisoned and beaten to death; then the islanders were ‘dumped’ in neighbouring Mauritius and Seychelles – there to suffer gross injustice and discrimination.
Some islanders were given British passports and flew into Gatwick claiming British citizenship.
Nearly 3,000 are now living in Crawley.
Denis Healey failed to mention this episode in his two autobiographies.
In 2004, investigative journalist John Pilger asked him about this glaring omission:
Replied Healey: “I fear I have no memories of the Chagos archipelago. Sorry”.
The Chagossians – now exiled and dispersed in Mauritius, Seychelles and Britain – continue to fight for their right to return to their own land.
Richard W. Symonds
Lychgate Cottage, Ifield