Statement of Gavin Short, Member of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, as presented to the Guardian newspaper today.
The Argentinian government repeatedly deploys misleading rhetoric that implies either that we have no strong views about our future, or that we are somehow kept here against our will. This is completely absurd. In the next few months the world will see unequivocally the strength of feeling that Falkland Islanders have regarding their political future.
This week, the 30th anniversary of our liberation, is clearly a very significant time for Falkland Islanders. The restoration of our liberty 30 years ago gave us the freedom to determine our own political future. It is therefore especially fitting that we announced this week our intention to hold a referendum on the political status of the Falkland Islands.
For Falkland Islanders, this gives the opportunity for our voice to be heard loud and clear in the face of an Argentinian administration that deliberately ignores our existence and our rights. We are holding this referendum not because we have any doubts about who we are and what future we want, but to show the world just how very certain we are about it.
Our future is neither for Argentina nor the UK to decide. We alone, the people of the Falkland Islands, can make that choice. The principle of self-determination is enshrined in the UN charter and is a human right applicable to all peoples, including us.
We hope that this referendum will send a clear signal – not just to Argentina but to other members of the international community – that the attempts by Argentina’s president, Cristina Kirchner to bully and harangue these islands are unacceptable in a region that values democracy and human rights. Argentina’s efforts to damage our livelihoods through a policy of illegal and counter-productive blockades are unacceptable. Such crass efforts to railroad the Falkland Islanders, and the British government that stands beside us, are doomed to fail. It is time, 30 years after the restoration of our liberty, for Argentina to stop this nonsense and to talk to us directly.
This is the message that our delegation will be presenting at the meeting of the UN decolonisation committee in New York on Thursday. Unusually, the meeting will be attended by President Kirchner herself. We welcome enthusiastically the opportunity this provides to challenge the president directly in front of the international community and global media. For the first time, our delegation will consist of more than just our democratically elected legislative assembly members. Six young Falkland Islanders, who can trace their heritage back seven generations in the islands, will be attending. This is the face of the Falkland Islands that the world needs to see.
The Falkland Islanders are a peaceful, hard-working and resilient people. Our society is thriving and forward-looking. Self-governing, financially self-sufficient and with our own identity, we are a small place with a big future. All we ask of Argentina is that our rights be respected, that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our home for our children and generations to come.