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Maldive Islands (Air Staging Base)

Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Relations – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough 12:00 am, 28th November 1957

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what discussions have taken place with the authorities in the Maldive Islands and the Ceylon Government regarding the establishment of military bases in the island; how many persons resident on the island of Gan will be displaced to provide the projected British air base; what consultation took place with them or their representatives prior to this decision; where they are to be transferred; what arrangements are being made for their livelihood and accommodation; and what compensation is being given to them.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

As the Answer to the hon. Gentleman's six questions is inevitably a long one, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

I readily agree that there is reason for circulation of the Answer, but may I just ask the hon. Gentleman—because it seems to me important—whether it is a fact that 800 natives in Gan will be evicted from their homes and their fields as a result of the air base being established there? What steps are the Government taking to see that they get proper conditions of transference and compensation?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

Perhaps I may read to the House the final paragraph of the Answer. It is as follows: The Government of the Maldives have informed us that the inhabitants"— of the island the hon. Gentleman referred to— have been consulted and have expressed a wish to be resettled on the adjacent Island of Fedu in the same atoll. Detailed arrangements for this are now being made by the Maldives Prime Minister. The United Kingdom Government have agreed in principle to meet the cost of resettlement, the details of which are still being worked out in consultation with the Maldives Government.

Following is the Answer:

There have been no proposals for the establishment of military bases, in the accepted sense, in the Maldives. The R.A.F. airfield being re-established on Gan Island is to be an air staging post which will supplement existing Commonwealth communications on the route to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.

As regards consultation with the Government of the Maldive Islands, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 24th January last to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). The Government of Ceylon (which has no responsibility in relation to the Maldives) and certain other Commonwealth Governments were informed of our intention before the announcement was made.

There are approximately 870 inhabitants of Gan Island. Consultation with the Government of the Maldives covered the question of resettlement elsewhere by that Government of the existing residents not actually needed to operate the airfield.

The Government of the Maldives have informed us that the inhabitants have been consulted and have expressed a wish to be resettled on the adjacent Island of Fedu in the same atoll. Detailed arrangements for this are now being made by the Maldives Prime Minister in person. The United Kingdom Government have agreed in principle to meet the cost of resettlement, the details of which are still being worked out in consultation with the Maldives Government.