Sovereignty is for the Falklanders – nobody else

8 Mar

Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to the United States; published in Politico today.

Where in the world can you celebrate Margaret Thatcher Day with five kinds of wild penguins? Nowhere but the Falkland Islands, a windswept archipelago in the South Atlantic that’s about the same area as Connecticut but has a population of only 3,100. This weekend, these small islands with a big personality face a momentous choice: a referendum to decide their political future.
The question will be whether the Islanders wish their home to remain, as it has been for decades, a self-governing British overseas territory. Having that status means that the United Kingdom guarantees the Falklands’ security, helps conduct their external relations and upholds their locally elected government.

Economically, the islands are in enviable shape, with a GDP per head greater than that of Norway, practically no unemployment and a budget in surplus. Tourism accounts for much of this prosperity: Some 11,000 Americans — more than three times the islands’ own permanent population — visit each year, mostly by cruise ship.
Having visited three times myself, I can attest to the islands’ appeal for travelers. Their rugged shores are home to over 200 bird species, large communities of seals and sea lions and a quirky, distinctively British culture that incorporates the annual commemoration of the Iron Lady’s visit on Jan. 10, 1983.
The Argentine government claims sovereignty over the islands based on events that took place more than 180 years ago when the archipelago was little more than an isolated outpost with almost no permanent population. But according to the most fundamental principles of international law, accepted by all nations for the past 60 years, it is for the inhabitants of a territory alone to determine how they are governed — the fundamental principle of self-determination, which received its most eloquent expression in Philadelphia in 1776.
Regrettably, however, the Argentine government systematically ignores the islanders’ wishes. Last June, members of the Falkland Islands Legislature attempted to invite the Argentine government to exchange views with a group of islanders. President Cristina Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, refused even to read the invitation. Last month, Timerman refused to accept a further invitation to meet the islanders along with the British foreign secretary — on the grounds that meeting the islanders would contravene U.N. resolutions!
Kirchner and her government seek to portray the Falklands’ status as an example of British colonialism. But what could be more colonialist than seeking control of a territory — over which you have never exercised sovereignty and which your country accepted was British more than 160 years ago — against the wishes of the people who lived there?
Britain bears no hostility toward Argentina. Quite the reverse: We want full and productive relations with our fellow member of the G-20 and U.N. Security Council, as we have with South American neighbors. Indeed, we enjoyed such a relationship with Argentina in the 1990s, when I had a hand in negotiating a series of economic accords that Argentina has, unfortunately, since repudiated.
But sovereignty over the Falkland Islands is not up for discussion because it is not Britain’s to negotiate away. It is a decision for the Islanders and nobody else. That is why the referendum on Sunday and Monday is so fundamental: It is a chance for the islanders to put their wishes beyond all doubt. We hope that the entire international community, including our friends in the U.S., will join Britain in affirming the democratic rights of a small and peaceful island community.


9 Responses to “Sovereignty is for the Falklanders – nobody else”

  1. John Newcomb March 9, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Excellent points and I have sent the link to our Radio Canada Internacional – which is run by those who want to destroy the Falkland Islands community and hand it over to Argentina. Whatever this Sr Esquival may know about peace, he knows nothing about the history of the Falkland Islands.

    I would invite others who read Falkland News blog to also leave a comment on the RCI website.

    “El Nobel de la Paz Pérez Esquivel juzga ilegítimo el referéndum de las Malvinas”:

  2. Fernando March 9, 2013 at 3:52 am #

    Lo que no puedo entender es… si Nosotros somos una Nacion Belicosa, Invasora, por que inmediatamente Inglaterra inicio relaciones diplomaticas con nuestro pais???, sino mal no recuerdo en 1989, piensen indefectiblemente que los malos no somos nosotros, desde 1983 hasta el presente, la Republica Argentina tiene un sistema Democratico que se va robusteciendo a medida que pasan los años, entiendo la posicion de los isleños de seguir siendo Britanicos, pero el territorio donde estan, es Argentino. Esto es simple, si una nacion es aberrante, hay que aislarla sistematicamente y condenarla internacionalmente, Inglaterra reanudo relaciones con la Argentina. No es justo para el continente Sudamericano que haya una base militar de esa envergadura en las islas, amen, de que Dios no permita que tengan Armas de destruccion Masiva!!. Mi pais esta a la altura de las potencias en materia Nuclear, sin embargo, todos los gobiernos firmaron tratados de no proliferacion nuclear. Francamente no entiendo. La Argentina ha dicho que respetaria las costumbres de los isleños, su modo y estilo de vida, imaginense la posibilidad economica que seria para la isla, turismo, etc. Creo que seria la forma de terminar de cerrar las heridas que trajo la guerra. Muchos isleños antes de 1982 se atendian en nuestro pais, esta bien, no era Inglaterra, pero aca no abandonamos a nadie. Mi pais es confiable, yo soy confiable. Un parrafo aparte, son las Naciones Anglosajonas (USA, CANADA, ETC), todas apoyan a Inglaterra por el tema Malvinas, pero a la hora de pronunciarse por la soberania de las islas se mantienen neutrales, USA tranquilamente podria decir que la soberania es Inglesa!!!, es la Madre de las superpotencias!!!, sin embargo no lo hacen. Aca no somos los malos y tengo que decir que es unanime el Rechazo a ese referendum en el cual lo hacen Ciudadados Britanicos.

    • timpany March 9, 2013 at 5:34 am #

      Dear Fernando,

      Why do you think the Falklands should belong to Argentina? Can you list the facts that would support the case that the Falklands are Argentinian territory?

      As far as I know the only justifications that I have seen is that:

      (1) The Falklands Islands lie of the cost of Argentina:
      This has only been true since the final campaign of conquest by Julio Argentino Roca 1881 who incorporated the Patagonian territories into the Argentinian state, and in 1881 when Chile gave a large portion of Tierra del Fuego to Argentina as part of a peace treaty. Anyway under international law adjacency is not considered valid criteria for defining territorial claims.

      (2) That Argentina colonised the Islands first and were then evicted and replaced by British Colonists:
      The history books say that the French were the first to colonise the Island followed by the British. After the dispute was settled between the French and Spanish authorities all rights were ceded to the British and the islands fell under British Administration.
      The only people removed from the Falklands in 1833 were military personnel (most of whom were British mercenaries), all the existing colonists were encouraged to stay (the colonists were from at least 6 different nations), only a few colonists left and they were happy to go.

      (3) Argentina inherited the Falklands from the Spanish in 1836:
      The islands were ceded by France to Spain in 1763, they were in turn ceded to Great Britain in 1771 by the Spanish. There was never any transfer of ownership to Argentina.

      Through the whole history of the dispute Argentina has repeatedly, claimed the islands and just as repeatedly said they belong to Britain. It all depends on the economic climate at the time the claims were made, using racism and xenophobia to distract the public from the situation at home is a common tactic.

    • Don Alberto March 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Argentina complaining to the UN over British military on the Falkland Islands:

  3. Don Alberto March 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm #


    what is the size (men, armament) og the military base on the Falkland Islands?

    As for the referendum, what about the referendum in Patagonia in 1902?

    The Valle 16 de Octubre (where today are situated the towns of Esquel and Trevelin) and other cross-fertile valleys of Patagonia, were well within Chilean territory.

    “When the villagers decided to be Argentine”

    “Currently, every April 30, communities of Trevelin and Esquel, along with their respective authorities and those of the province, meet at the old building of the School N° 18 on Corintios River to celebrate another anniversary of the 1902 Referendum called.”

    Was that invalid too?

    Give that part of Patagonia back to Chile?

    • Fernando March 10, 2013 at 12:53 am #

      Hoy dia tenemos toda la situacion de limites con el hermano pais de chile terminados, no entiendo por que pone como comparacion este referendum con el de las Malvinas??, sino mal recuerdo eran ciudadados Galeses (¿?), no aplica su posicion, porque aca el referendum es hecho por ciudadanos britanicos en territorio Argentino. Con todos los paises que tuvimos disputas limitrofes fueron zanjados a traves de la diplomacia y mucha voluntad de ambas partes, aca, solo hay voluntad por parte de mi pais, imaginese, que si los 2500 isleños hubieran cooperado antes de 1982 para encontrar una solucion definitiva, hubieramos evitado esta guerra que se llevo muchos hombres britanicos y argentinos para nada, la herida y el conflicto sigue abierto, si hubiera habido mas voluntad y no tanto “dinamitar puentes”, hubieramos cambiado la historia y no llegar a este punto muerto.

      • Junius March 10, 2013 at 9:26 am #

        British territory Fernando – not Argentina’s. Never has been. Never will be. History supports the British argument.

      • Don Alberto March 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm #


        what is the size (men, armament) og the military base on the Falkland Islands?

        Was the referendum in 1902 invalid too?

  4. Fernando March 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Sr. Junius:
    Si la historia pone a favor los argumentos para los Britanicos, como se explica que el mundo este a favor de una negociacion entre Argentina y Gran Bretaña sobre la soberania de las islas??. Acuerdese que Gran Bretaña es una potencia, supuestamente confiable y un gran pais, y nosotros, segun varios argumentos que he visto en el foro, un pais sin rumbo y con poca credibilidad. La razon es sencilla..el mundo sabe que tenemos derechos sobrados para reclamar la soberania!!. Con respecto al argumento que no habia poblacion Argentina, antes de 1833 hondeaba la Bandera Argentina!!, asi sea por un dia!!, quien invadio antes!!. Luego de nuestra independencia esos territorios fueron anexados a nuestro pais, por legitimo derecho. En esos tiempos nosotros no invadiamos a nadie!!, mi pais tuvo que soportar varias incursiones Britanicas de invasion y de otras potencias, si vamos a poner quienes son los malvados en el mundo…saque sus propias conclusiones. Le repito la mejor opcion es la soberania Argentina, respetando el modo de vida de los isleños, sus costumbres y su economia, agregando mucho mas contacto con el continente, imaginese!!, seria totalmente formidable!!.

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