On the 30th anniversary of the Governor’s return to the Falkland Islands following the war in 1982, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, spoke of the Islands in the House of Commons; ”The islanders have had to put up with endless attempts at endless summits to put a question mark over their future. They want to determine that future themselves.”
Speaking on his return from the G20 summit in Mexico, where he’d put Britain’s position across very clearly to Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez, Cameron added; “No one should be in any doubt that as far as the British Government is concerned, it is Falkland Islanders who will determine the sovereignty of the islands. I believe their view will be respected by this House, this country and by the world.”
Although criticised by the Chairman of the UN’s Decolonization Committee (C24) as a “political ploy”, there are some precedents for the use of referendums to determine a peoples’ wishes with regard to decolonisation and independence. For example, the C24 has supervised two referendums in Tokelau. The first, held in February 2006, proposed a change in status from being an unincorporated territory of New Zealand, to being a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. This would have met one of the options via which the United Nations would recognise that the island had been ‘decolonized’. The Islanders rejected this proposal, albeit by a small margin.
A second referendum was therefore held in October, 2007 and again self-governance was rejected by an even smaller majority. The C24 has not attempted another referendum in Tokelau, but it remains to be seen whether they will assist with the Falkland Islanders’ referendum in 2013.