Our leaders recently denied a request for Greenpeace’s vessel – the Rainbow Warrior – to access Port Louis harbour during its tour of the Indian Ocean. Are they justified? Let us examine the objections reported to have come from Government House to find out.
1. Greenpeace has given unconditional support to the UK’s proposed marine reserve around the Chagos Islands thereby condoning the illegal excision of the islands from Mauritius during decolonisation.
In its submission to the consultation process, Greenpeace stated the following: “The establishment of the full no-take marine reserve should be without prejudice to the rights of the Chagossians or the sovereignty claim of Mauritius”.
2. Greenpeace has been silent about the US base on Diego Garcia – the greatest environmental threat to the Chagos Islands – which is excluded from the marine reserve.
This is also at odds with the submission which reads: “Greenpeace is of the view that the Diego Garcia nuclear capacity military base represents a threat to the global and local environment, as well as world peace, and should be abolished.”
3. Greenpeace is complicit in using the marine reserve as a subterfuge to block the return of the Chagossians to their islands.
While Wikileaks has revealed that the UK’s intent in proposing the marine reserve was indeed nefarious, Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global network of marine reserves for many years. The UK may have committed the greatest treason by doing the right thing for the wrong reason, but how can Greenpeace renege on its mission as a result? Another quote from their submission: “The Chagossians have experienced an egregious and historic wrong for which the UK government should make full amends…Upon the return of the Chagossian people, Greenpeace would be happy to engage with them on how they can best develop small-scale, low-impact sustainable fishing practices, whilst continuing to ensure the effective protection of this globally important ecosystem.”
4. Greenpeace is campaigning to end fishing by purse-seiners, which would have a detrimental impact on Mauritius’ seafood hub.
Not long ago, purse-seiners killed countless schools of dolphins in the process of catching the most valuable tuna which like to swim beneath them. Greenpeace successfully fought against this practice and consumers were educated to buy only dolphin safe tuna. Now it is campaigning against the use of fish aggregation devices (FADS) which massively increase the by-catch of endangered species like sharks, rays and turtles. It targeted one of the worst offenders, Mauritius-based, but Japanese owned, Princes. As a result Princes issued a sustainability statement declaring that it is “aiming to purchase tuna from pole and line and FAD-free sources by the end of 2014”. Intriguingly it adds that Princes will give “financial support of a feasibility study for the creation of a marine reserve around lagoons off the coast of Mauritius”. Perhaps Greenpeace wants to see how this is progressing?
Greenpeace may be accused of hypocrisy in recent years by emphasising “green” to the detriment of “peace”, campaigning more for environmental protection than against military injustice. However, a little research reveals that our government’s charges against it have no basis in fact. Indeed, one might be justified in accusing our own leaders of hypocrisy. The only reason the Chagos islands were excised from Mauritius was for the US to have a military base there. How often does our government demand that it be closed? When was the last time it denied a US warship, undoubtedly en route to or from Diego Garcia, entry to Port Louis?
When BBC film-makers produced a documentary on Mauritius last year, local oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo had them record the plight of the remaining Chagossian refugees, further raising awareness in the UK. Surely it would make sense for Greenpeace activists to meet them too? Perhaps they might even be aroused to campaign on their behalf. Conversely, the BBC were denied access to the fishing port. If there are no secrets to hide, why the lack of openness and transparency?
We say we wish our youth were more motivated to protect the environment. What better way to inspire them than by encounters with role models who have dedicated their lives to this goal? Greenpeace has a formidable record of campaign victories such as ending nuclear weapons tests, preventing commercial whaling and outlawing the dumping of radioactive waste at sea. Perhaps this spirit might rub off on our younger generation. Or is this what the government is really afraid of?