A message from the Honourable Dick Sawle, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands.
Reported in the Telegraph
“It is disappointing that today the Government of Argentina is once again ignoring the rights and wishes of the Falkland Islands people. The open letter sent by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to David Cameron is not only historically inaccurate, but fails to mention the most significant aspect of our recent history – the attempt by the Argentine Government to take away our home by military force when they invaded thirty years ago. The people of the Falkland Islands, who for nine generations have lived and worked these lands, would like to take the opportunity to clarify some points raised by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The Falkland Islands had no indigenous population prior to their settlement by our ancestors – the Islands were unoccupied. Argentina claims the Falkland Islands form part of the province of Tierra del Fuego – an area that was not claimed as a part of the Republic of Argentina until after two generations of Falkland Islanders had been born and raised in our Islands.
There is no truth to Argentine claims that a civilian population was expelled by Britain in 1833. The people who were returned to Argentina were an illegal Argentine military garrison, who had arrived three months earlier. 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 their partners, did so.
We are not an implanted population. Our community has been formed through voluntary immigration and settlement over the course of nearly two hundred years. We are a diverse society, with people from around the world having made the Islands their home.
The UN Charter enshrines the right of all people to determine their own future, a principle known as self-determination. It is in exercising this right that we have chosen to retain our links with the UK. It is this fundamental right that is being ignored by the Argentine Government, who are denying our right to exist as a people, and denying our right to live in our home.
As a modern, self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, we enjoy a relationship based on the shared ideals of democracy, freedom and self-reliance. We are not a colony of the United Kingdom; we are a British Overseas Territory by choice, which is something entirely different. We are not governed by Britain: we are entirely self-governing, except for defence and foreign affairs. We democratically elect our Legislative Assembly Members; they are chosen by the people of the Falkland Islands to represent them and to determine and administer our own policies and legislation. In March we will be holding a referendum on our political status, so that as a people we can make our views heard in a clear, democratic and incontestable way.”