A delegation, led by the Permanent Representative of Mauritius to the United Nations, Ambassador Jagdish Dharamchand Koonjul, and comprising legal advisers and representatives namely Professor Philippe Joseph Sands, QC, as well as local and foreign technicians, the Chairperson of the Chagossian Welfare Fund, Mr Olivier Bancoult, and other representatives of the Chagossian community, and international journalists, would undertake a scientific survey at Blenheim Reef, a partly submerged atoll in the north eastern part of the Chagos Archipelago.
The Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, made this announcement in a press statement at the New Treasury Building, in Port Louis, this afternoon. “It will be the first time that post-independent Mauritius, as a sovereign Republic, would undertake such a survey in the waters of the Chagos Archipelago,” stated Mr Jugnauth. He added that it was a concrete step, made by the Republic, in exercising its sovereignty and sovereign rights in relation to the Chagos Archipelago.
Recalling the Advisory Opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 25 February 2019, the Prime Minister reiterated that the Chagos Archipelago formed an integral part of the territory of Mauritius and that the ICJ affirmed that the continued administration of the Chagos Archipelago by the United Kingdom constituted a wrongful act. He also talked of the Judgment of the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on 28 January 2021 in the case brought by Mauritius against Maldives under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which overruled all the preliminary objections raised by Maldives and confirmed Mauritius’s undisputed sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.
Moreover, Mr Jugnauth explained that the findings of the scientific survey would be part of the country’s reply to the Counter-Memorial of the Maldives in the Dispute at the ITLOS concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives. The Reply should be submitted to the Tribunal by latest on 14 April 2022, whereupon the Maldives would provide its Rejoinder.
The heartfelt gratitude of the Government of Mauritius to the President of the Republic of Seychelles, Mr Wavel Ramkalawan, and the authorities of his country was also expressed by Mr Jugnauth. He underlined that whereas Maldives imposed unacceptable conditions to allow the Mauritian delegation access to its ports to travel to the Blenheim Reef, which would have made a shorter journey, the Seychelles President readily agreed for the delegation to board the vessel for Blenhiem Reef in its waters.
The Prime Minister informed therefore that the Mauritian delegation would be leaving for the Seychelles tomorrow, whence they would embark on Bleu de Nîmes, a vessel chartered by the Mauritian government and equipped with required amenities to complete the survey tasks. The returned date is scheduled for 22 February 2022. Mr Jugnauth wished the delegation success and good work on the 15-day journey. In addition, Mr Jugnauth said that due to its limited seat, the vessel could not accommodate more passengers. However, insisted the Prime Minister, another voyage, to the Chagos Archipelago would be organized, in which he, too, would visit the atolls.
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