INTERNATIONAL

Two Asian groups lose court cases in U.K.

LONDON, OCT, 10. Two separate groups of Asians, who had been engaged in a long court battle with the British Government over compensation claims for alleged ill-treatment and discrimination, have lost their cases. But both said they would not give up.

The more controversial of the two cases involves thousands of islanders who were evicted by the British Government from the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to make way for an American military base in the neighbouring Diego Garcia in the sixties and the seventies. They were forced to leave their homes and sent to Mauritius and the Seychelles in what they termed as "unlawful exile''.

In a ruling three years ago, two British judges had held that there was "no source of lawful authority'' to justify the way the islanders were treated. But the High Court on Thursday rejected their claim for compensation while acknowledging that some of them had been "treated shamefully''. The judge ruled that their claims had no legal basis, though he noted their "poverty, sadness and sense of loss and displacement''.

"The Chagossians alone were made to pay a personal price for the defence establishment on Diego Garcia, Justice Duncan Ouseley said. He also noted that the previous compensation paid to them was "not evidently generous''.

While the Foreign Office welcomed the ruling, the solicitor for the islanders said they were devastated. He said, "it appears to have held that the Government of the day did nothing wrong, that they did not know what they were doing was unlawful''. "They will certainly continue their struggle. They are now in a state of shock that there has been no adjudication in their favour,'' Richard Gifford, acting for the islanders, said. He said the islanders had been living in "poverty and squalor for a generation'' and had been "kicked around for 30 years''.

The case was brought by 5,000 Chagossians, many of whom are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Chagos Islands. They were bitter that the British Government had not acted on a previous judgment, which recognised their right to return to their homes.

In another case, an appeal by seven former Gurkhas of the British Army, who sought compensation for being discriminated against in pay and pensions vis-�-vis their British colleagues, was rejected. The court of appeal held that the Gurkhas were not in the same position as other British soldiers, and it was, therefore, not discriminatory to pay them less on retirement. It noted that although a retired Gurkha's pension was smaller than a British soldier's it was still higher than a Nepalese bank clerk's salary.