A Lesser Dependancy by Peter Benson
In 1971 the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a place too small to find on a map and one of the last paradisical outposts of the Empire, were suddenly evicted from their homes to make way for a US military base.
I read this book shortly after it was first published in 1989. It won a well deserved Encore award in 1990. It has now been re-published and I decided I wanted a copy on my kindle and also decided to also write a review. This is the terrifying story of how the residents of a smallIslandofDiego Garciawere forcibly removed from their homeland so that the island could be used as a military base. The British Government did not protect these people in any way and lied about theIsland, saying it was uninhabited. The disgrace is that this happened in my lifetime, in the nineteen seventies, not in the dark ages.
Diego Garcia is in theIndian Ocean, a coral atoll of the chagos archipelago.
The residents of Diego Garcia were simple living people, who farmed their land, fished in the sea, and cared for their children and animals. The British Government sold theIslandto The United States for fourteen million pounds discount on some ballistic missiles then covered up this deed, killed all the animals and then moved the people to another island. The working dogs and pets on the island were taken into a barn by American soldiers and shot while the children screamed outside. Some of the men who sailed to a larger island to buy supplies not available on their own island were prohibited from returning home, and no explanation was given to their families who waited in vain for their return.
The writing in this book is simple and the story is told in a straightforward way, but it is heartbreaking. Peter Benson has captured the atmosphere of the island before the troubles and the agony of the people after this. I can not emphasise enough that this should be compulsory reading, especially for young people, as it hopefully would make them question more of what our politicians tell us.
After reading this book in 1989 I spoke to numerous people and tried to make the story better known, but most had never heard of Diego Garcia, and were not aware what our Government had done. This is a beautiful book about a beautiful people whose few survivors still have not been compensated for what happened to them all those years ago.