Mauritius formally challenged Britain’s ownership of the Chagos archipelago on Monday, with Jagdish Koonjul, the Mauritian ambassador to the UN, raising his nation’s flag over a northern atoll.
At 10:30am, officials sang their national anthem and raised the flag during a ceremony on the tiny atoll of Peros Banhos, the Guardian reported.
“We are performing the symbolic act of raising the flag as the British have done so many times to establish colonies. We, however, are reclaiming what has always been our own,” Koonjul said.
Officials and gathered media then proceeded to listen to a pre-recorded message by Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.
“This is the first time Mauritius has led an expedition to this part of its territory,” Jugnauth said in a message played out on a speaker. “I feel sad that I have not been able to be part of this historic visit.” He added that he was happy that “our Chagossian brothers and sisters” could travel to their birthplace without a British escort.
“The message I wish to give out to the world, as the state with sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago, is that we will ensure a wise stewardship of its territory – over its maritime security, conservation of the marine environment and human rights, notably the return of those of Chagossian origin,” Jugnauth said.
A metal plaque positioned under the flagpole read: “Visit of the Mauritius delegation to Peros Banhos archipelago, Republic of Mauritius, in the context of the scientific survey of Blenheim Reef.”
The Chagos Islands were separated from Mauritius in 1965, three years before the latter gained independence from the UK. Britain loaned the territory to the US and proceeded to deport the 2,000 people who lived on the tiny islands and atolls. Most ended up in Mauritius or the Seychelles, while some went to Britain.
In 2019, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled unanimously that Britain should hand the territory to Mauritius. The UK has not done so.
In response to the international rulings in 2019, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that the UK “has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814,” adding that “Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the BIOT and the UK does not recognize its claim.”
The Chagos Islands sit a whopping 2,200 kilometers (1367 miles) from Mauritius, further complicating its claim.
Source: RT News