Double Standards ?

23 Jul

In a desperate attempt to gain some moral ground in its fight to colonise the Falkland Islands, the official organ of the Government in Buenos Aires, Télam, has published an article denouncing Britain’s “double standards” on the issue of self-determination.

Referring to the supposed eviction of the people who had lived on the Chagos archipelago up until the main island was rented to the USA for an air base; the article claims; “The British Government expelled the Chagossians to Mauritius and the Seychelles islands, which at that time were under its sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman mentioned this case recently, remarking that; ‘.. the United Kingdom is trying to use the self-determination principle as an excuse for not negotiating the dispute on the Falkland Islands,’ while in the case of the Chargossians, “.. the United Kingdom did not pay attention to the self-determination principle, which now it invokes so strongly for another of its colonial territories”.

Télam goes on to decry this ‘offence’ against the peoples of the Chagos Islands while; at the same time, the Government of Cristina Fernandez hopes that the British Government does exactly the same thing to the people of the Falkland Islands.

Argentina accusing the British of ‘double standards.’


11 Responses to “Double Standards ?”

  1. Don Alberto July 23, 2012 at 3:25 am #

    The Argentines are right to some extent. It is a bloody shameful chapter in Britain’s colonial history.

    The Chagos atolls did not have an indigenous population, they were uninhabited until the very late 18th century, when a few French settlers were living in a few huts on Diego Garcia, but the colony failed. Shortly after this, the French opened a colony for leprosy cases on the island.

    Diego Garcia and the other atolls then became a British colony after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. Later they became part of the self-governing colony of Mauritius, and later yet they were boght by Britain, and the “British Indian Ocean Territory” was established. Even later Britain bought the entire “Chagos Agalega Company”, which owned all land on the atolls.

    The people who were expulsed were mainly descendents of Madagascan and Malay slaves, while a minority came from the Seychelles and Mauritius, and a smaller minority were Chinese and Somalis. They were plantation workers, called the ‘Ilois’, who did not own the land they inhabited, and most of whom were relocated in 1968 to 1973 to the plantations on either nearby atolls or to the Seychelles and Mauritius. The government of Mauritius received a substantial sum to resettle these people. The FCO, however, never checked whether the money was used for its intended purpose as a compensation to Mauritius and the Ilois. The Mauritian government used the money for other purposes, and only after hard pressure the compensation was distributed as late as 1977.

    In 2000 the British High Court granted the islanders the right to return, following which, in 2004, the British government made two Orders-in-Council under the ‘Royal Prerogative’ banning the islanders from returning home, following which the British High Court in 2006 ruled that the Orders-in-Council were unlawful, and that the ‘Ilois’ were entitled to return to the archipelago. in 2008 the House of Lords overturned the High Court ruling.

    As stated, it is a bloody shameful chapter in Britain’s colonial history – but does two wrongs make a right?

    • Philip Foster July 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      Yes it is a shameful chapter but I maintain that Malvinista arguments are 75% fiction and 25% irrelevant. The Chagosian issue is irrelevant to the Falkland Islanders. Somebody should tell Timerman to stay ‘on topic’ at least.

      • Don Alberto July 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

        The Chagos problem pops up in every debate of the sovereignity over the Falkland Islands, whenever it is documented that Argentina dropped their claim to the Falklands in 1850, as later confirmed by two presidents (Mitre and Sarmiento) and vice president Paz.

        And yes, the Chagosian issue has no bearing whatever on Falkland Island sovereignity.

    • Bob Ashton July 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Indeed it was, and still is a shameful chapter in our history, no doubt there are many others.

      And of course we almost topped that, by handing a group of Islands and their inhabitants over to a Military Dictatorship in the early 1980s.

      but two wrongs certainly do not make a right.

  2. Celia Whittaker July 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    The Chagossian issue may not be relevant to the Falklands but the Falklands are certainly relevant to the Chagossian issue. Why does the Prime Minister of the UK insist on self-determination for the Falkland Islands whilst denying it to the Chagossians? The United Kingdom went to war to keep the Falklanders ON their islands whilst using every method possible to keep the Chagossians OFF their homeland. Double standards? I should say so!

    • Don Alberto July 29, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      In 1965 the Chagos Archipelago was split off from the colony and became the ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’. The territory’s new constitution was set out in a statutory instrument imposed unilaterally without any referendum or consultation with the Chagossians and it envisaged no democratic institutions.

      Between 1967 and 1973, the app. 2,000 Ilois were expelled by the British government, which paid the government of Mauritius £650,000 to resettle them – an then considerable amount, corresponding to 361 average annual wages in British car industry 1970 [1] or more than 3,000 annual wages in Mauritius in 1972 (at the time of independence in 1968, Mauritius had a low-income, agriculture-based economy).

      The FCO obviously assigned a Bertie Wooster type of civil servant, whose three brain cells couldn’t cope with the assignment, thus the Mauritian government spent the money without the slightest oversight.

      This was a first rate stinker, and as previous stated: a bloody shameful chapter in Britain’s colonial history.

      Some of you definitely won’t like to read the following – have a comforting “sob biscuit” – or skip it.

      – – –

      Why didn’t the British government allow the Ilois self-determination and why does it insist the Falklanders must have it?

      First of all, 1972 is 40 years ago, the late British colonial era, and times and attitudes were very different from today’s.
      To be quite honest about it – the Ilois, who mostly descended from slaves, were then thought of as primitive and backwards people, who would be utterly unable to administer themselves; “White Man’s Burden” and all that.

      Secondly it was and is a question of ‘Realpolitik’.

      Again, to be quite honest, had it been up to the FCO and the British government, in 1976 (and perhaps November 1981 [2] and later), and had the Falklands War not put the final end to it in 1982, Argentina could have had the Falkland Islands handed to her on a silver plate with watercress around it, provided the Argentines had gone through the proper motions, like ostensibly guaranteeing respect for the islander’s lives and interests and having paid some sort of homage to British friendship, plus (probably) some sort of monetary compensation.

      Talks between British and Argentine foreign missions commenced in the 1960s but didn’t reach a conclusion. Sporadic and unofficial talks continued throughout the 1970’s, all the time unable to reach a conclusive result.

      In November 1968 House of Lords politician Lord Chalfont was sweet-talking the Falklanders after it was revelated that British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart once more had commenced negociations of Falklands sovereignty in Buenos Aires. Lord Chalfont was met by the Islanders’s absolute resistence to the idea, unless a possible agreement or treaty had their full support and approval. Those stubborn Falkland islanders absolutely wanted to remain under British sovereignity and caused no end of annoyance to the politicians, mostly because of the costs of maintaining the islands. The islanders, however, were soon backed by House of Commons and NGO supporters to the extent, that the British government was forced to pledge that Islanders’ wishes would have to decide any agreement on a change in sovereignity.

      The Falklands war changed it all, to some extent as when Britain at first accepted the German ‘Anschluss’ of some “bloody foreigners” in Austria and Sudetenland in 1938 and later the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia, but the ‘The Blitz’ woke up the British ‘Bulldog’ to a fierce stubbornness – surrender of position became impossible – the Falkland War had a similar consequence and today it means political suicide to cede the islands to Argentina.

      How to defend this attitude? Read the Charter of the United Nations, which specifically supports the people’s right to self-determination when it comes to decolonisation.
      – – – – – – –
      A somewhat unrelated perspective is, that should the British overseas territory “Falkland Islands” somehow become the Argentine “Malvinas”, the reception by the Argentine government would not be one of unconditional joy, as the sovereignity dispute only surfaces in Argentina in times of a serious natinal crisis when the government needs a “lightning rod” of nationalism to detract attention – re. the serious crises in 1982 spawning repeated extensive demonstrations against general Galtieri.
      – – – – – – –

      [1] In 1970 British car industry the average wage was £1,800 a year.

      [2] As late as February 1981 British government representatives met for discussions with Argentine representatives, and in November 1981 then British Foreign Minister Nicholas Ridley visited the Falkland Islands in an attempt to persuade the islanders to concur to a socalled leaseback agreement, giving Argentina nominal sovereignty while British administration was to be maintained for a certain number of years, until a final handover should take place. (undoubtedly a biased source, but facts are facts).

      • Don Alberto July 29, 2012 at 9:34 am #

        Oops! for “revelated” read “revealed” – mea culpa!

      • Clematys October 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

        Well, well… the explanation is quite simple really. There’s no need for all these argumentative gymnastics. Neither the Chagos nor the Malvinas islanders have a right to self-determination as understood by the UN because neither are considered ‘a people’. However, the UK has its own self-serving notion of self-determination, and applies it differently to its colonies around the World, depending on the ethnicity of their populations.

      • lordton1955 October 14, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

        Says who? The UN has not decided that. There is clear support for the British view of the right to self-determination. The twisted view of a few South American nations has had no effect at the UN.

      • Don Alberto October 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

        The official title of the UN decolonisation committee is:

        “The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial COUNTRIES and PEOPLES.”

        If the Falkland Islands situation belongs under this committee, then the committee acknowledges them as a country, a people, or both.

      • Don Alberto October 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

        LarsenList for Clematys:

        Outstanding questions, which are still waiting for an answer.

        Do ethnic Argentinos exist?

        How many years does it take to become “ethnic”?

        How many years has Argentina existed?

        How many years have the Falkland Islands been inhabited under British sovereignty?

        (By “Argentina” is meant THE COUNTRY, not the colony owned by Spain and not the many separate provinces and petty states fighting each other in a prolonged civil war, lasting until the Battle of Pavón in 1861.)

        Explain the (strongly biased) difference in perception.
        – – – – – – – – – – – –

        What can Argentina offer, which the Falkland Islanders want?

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