Thursday, 03 May 2012 15:56
By Sharon Halford
The Falkland islanders want to be left in peace to choose their own future. Falkland Islanders have recently found themselves being used for propaganda purposes by the Argentine government.
As usual, it has involved historical inaccuracies and has rejected our fundamental right to self-determination. On these pages last week, Alicia Castro, the new Argentine ambassador to the United Kingdom, provided examples of such spin.
She said that Great Britain took the islands “by force” in the early 19th century, before asking: “Who is interested in prolonging this conflict today?” I’d like to respond to Mrs Castro, because 30 years on from the Falklands War, it is time for the views of the islanders to be heard.
The distorting of the early history of the islands by Argentina is nothing new for us. One of the most frequently used untruths refers to the supposed expulsion of an Argentine civilian population by Britain in 1833. According to Mrs Castro, “Britain expelled the Argentine authorities and population from the islands.” This is incorrect.
The people expelled were in fact an illegal Argentine military garrison, who had arrived three months earlier, ignoring the fact that Britain had claimed the islands in 1765 – long before Argentina even existed as a country.
The civilian population in the islands, who had sought permission from Britain to live there, were invited to stay. All but two of them, with spouses, did so.
It is important to remember that neither the Falkland Islands government, nor the British government, has ever actively pursued a policy of hostility towards Argentina.
For more than a decade, the Argentine government has been adopting a raft of economic sanctions designed to stifle the economy of our islands and intimidate the 3,000 residents. It is Argentina that clearly disregards the principle of settling peaceful disputes, as demonstrated by these aggressive tactics.
The Falkland Islands government seeks, as it always has, to develop nothing but neighbourly relations with Argentina in areas of mutual interest.
In fact, in the 1990s we entered into joint agreements with Buenos Aires, which covered a range of areas, including hydrocarbon exploration, sustainable management of fish stocks and transportation links.
But co-operation has proved impossible in recent years. In 2007, despite the Falkland Islands upholding its side, Argentina tore up the agreements and unilaterally withdrew from them, arguing for full Argentine sovereignty to be brought to the table.
As far as we are concerned, sovereignty is not up for discussion. We have been living, cultivating and developing these islands for nine generations, so why should it be?
The rights and wishes of the islanders are paramount. The principle of self-determination is sacrosanct, and is enshrined by the UN, an institution that Argentina herself often uses to provoke debate about the future of our islands.
UN Resolution 2065 clearly states: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” In October 2008, a UN committee rejected the claim that a dispute over sovereignty affected self-determination, confirming that self-determination is “a fundamental human right”.
Our community has been formed through voluntary immigration and settlement over the course of nearly 200 years. We are a global community, and people from around the world have made the islands their home.
At our last census, more than 60 nations were represented here. Falkland Islanders are a peaceful, hard-working and resilient people. Our society is thriving and forward-looking.
We are financially self-sufficient, self-governing in all areas except for defence, and very much masters of our own future. All we ask is to be left in peace to choose our own future, and to responsibly develop our home for our children and generations to come.
Sharon Halford is a member of the Falklands’ Legislative Assembly