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Happy Anniversary

3 Jan

Today is the 3rd January 2014 – 181 years since a small, outnumbered, British force in HMS Clio ejected a trespassing garrison and its accompanying ship-of-war from the British Falkland Islands.

For a relatively minor event the circumstances are well-known. Buenos Aires had revealed its pretensions to the Falkland Islands in its gazetted Decree of 1829 which promptly set off an exchange of letters between Britain’s representative, Woodbine Parish, and the Foreign Office in London. As a result, Parish presented a diplomatic protest to the Government in Buenos Aires pointing out that the archipelago was claimed by Britain and that Buenos Aires would not be permitted to act upon their pretension.

Buenos Aires did not listen however and, in late 1832, sent an armed garrison to Port Louis in an attempt to impose their control over the Falklands. Before that garrison had sailed however, Britain lodged a further protest reminding the Buenos Airean Government of the warning from 1829 but Buenos Aires remained deaf.

Once on the Falklands the garrison raised the Argentine flag and its officer asserted his authority before being promptly murdered by his own troops. Order was restored just in time for the arrival of HMS Clio on January 2nd, 1833. Commander Onslow politely requested that the garrison remove both its flag and itself, but seeing some reluctance to obey the instruction, Onslow ordered that the Argentine flag be lowered, folded with due ceremony and returned to the commander of Argentina’s ship-of-war. With the flag went a polite message to say that it had been “.. found in the territory of His Majesty.”

Argentina’s forces left without further protest and no fight. Nothing more than small police action to remove a group of trespassers from the Falkland Islands. Certainly not the last time that such action would be necessary.

Surprising then that every year Argentina writes to the United Nations and issues a press release complaining of another; “.. anniversary of the illegal occupation of the Malvinas Islands by the United Kingdom.” Surprising that they place such emphasis on such a minor event. No mention of 1829 however, and no mention of the British claim which can be traced back to 1593 – a mere 223 years before what is now Argentina declared itself independent of Spain – and fully 270 years before Argentina became fully recognised as a country in its own right. Yet the anniversary is now marked every year without fail.

Perhaps they are right, perhaps we too should place more emphasis on the action of Commander Onslow in ejecting a superior force from the Falklands without even a single shot being fired. Perhaps we should mark, clearly, the first time that Argentina attempted to take by force something that it had never owned.

So, with that in mind, Happy Anniversary.


Happy New Year

2 Jan

I would like to wish all the readers of Falklands News a very Happy New Year and hope that 2014 brings them all they hope for.

News here has been a little slow following my decision not to report on minor items of news that are of little real relevance to the political progress of the Falkland Islanders and to concentrate instead on the news that really matters – particularly that coming out of the United Nations.

Looking back over 2013, there is little doubt that the March Referendum was a resounding success. Not only for those who promoted the desire to remain linked with the United Kingdom, but also as a political/diplomatic strategy. While dismissed by Argentina as being either irrelevant, or indeed illegal, there has been a notable dropping off of rhetoric coming out of Buenos Aires since the plebiscite.

Even better, there has also been some low-level diplomatic interest emanating from Panama and Brazil which suggests that the Falkland Islands Government’s policy of sending ambassadors to other nations to explain the referendum has been met with some success.

Yet again, Argentina failed to get a United Nations Resolution on the issue of the Falklands and their support within the UN seems to be waning. One exception to this is the Decolonization Committee which continues to be dominated by Argentina’s neighbours and defiant in the face of general UN disdain.

Perhaps in recognition of this Argentina has now formed a special Secretariat within its Foreign Ministry to oversee its pursuit of this ancient, and spurious, claim. Daniel Filmus, who had recently lost his senator’s seat, became the head of the new Department in December. Some may say that it was compensation for failing to get elected – jobs for the boys ?

So what can we look forward to in 2014? Without doubt Argentina will issue its standard form letters to the UN on January 3rd and May 10th. They will also object to further oil exploration around the archipelago and continue to maintain that the UK is ‘militarizing’ the South Atlantic. Buenos Aires will also ship in at least 2 petitioners to the Decolonization Committee hearings, one with the surname of Vernet (there are 2 0r 3 to choose from) and one Betts. These will reassert the twisted view of history that Argentina has a real claim – despite all the evidence to the contrary. Argentina will speak to both the Decolonization Committee and the Fourth Committee at the UN demanding that the UK be brought to account and forced to sit at a negotiating table. What else? Oh yes, the Fourth Committee will ignore both Argentina and its own Decolonization Committee and do nothing.

So, the big question – Will Argentina achieve anything in 2014?             No.

Happy New Year

UN’s Fourth Committee Consider the Falklands – no action pending

18 Oct

The United Nation’s Fourth Committee opened its annual consideration on the issue of decolonization on October 7th and concluded on the 14th.

As with previous years the Committee had before it the Reports of its sub-Committee, the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – known informally as the Special Committee or the C24.

Again, in a repetition of the course of business that takes place every year, Argentina and its allies were heard to repeat the mantra that the Falkland Islands were in some way a special case despite the UN’s General Assembly never having said any such thing. Those representatives were also at some pains to include along with the Falklands – South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, together with the more recently added “surrounding maritime areas.” In fact so much effort was spent in the attempt to include these locations, none of which fall onto any UN list for decolonization, that the official Press Release from the Committee for the first day had to be withdrawn and re-done to Argentina’s specifications.

In particular, the input from Chile had to be largely re-written as, according to the first press report, her representative had failed to mention the Falklands Islands, etc, etc, at all.

The most important statement to come out of the Fourth Committee’s deliberations over the week was the affirmation that the process of decolonization was both “irresistible and irreversible,” although typically Argentina attempted to distance the Falkland Islands, etc., etc., from the decolonization process even though the Fourth Committee, and indeed the UN, has no remit to resolve any sovereignty dispute. Argentina appears to like the decolonization forum while trying to convince the world that the Falklands should not actually be considered a case for decolonization.

It seems that yet again they failed. At the conclusion on Monday the Fourth Committee reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination before forwarding 11 draft- Resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption, none of which directly concerned the Falkland Islands, although some of the more general expressions may be applied.

Having voted in favour, Argentina, as every year, then attempted to say that its vote did not recognise the Falkland Islanders as having any right to self-determination despite the fact that this is now recognised as a fundamental Human Right. They even referred to the long-dead Resolution 2065 which had been killed off in 1982 – by Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc., etc., etc.

Another year gone.

Princess Anne Threatened over the Falklands

6 Sep

Princess Anne is due to visit Argentina as part of her role as a member of the the International Olympic Committee. A visit that has already drawn the attention of the nationalist socialist protest group Quebracho.

Quebracho, which has a history of violent demonstration in support of Argentina’s claim to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, has stated to the local press  “Come pirate princess Anne of England, daughter of Elizabeth II, the Queen, who ordered the attack on Falklands in 1982. Come if you believe you can walk through Argentina as usual. If you come you will have to go into hiding. Because you know that you are hated.”

The Falkland Islands were first claimed by England in 1594 when they were visited by Capt. Richard Hawkins. The archipelago was first occupied in 1766 and England and Spain came close to war over their ownership in 1770. Argentina, a colony of Spain which only declared its independence in 1816, has attempted to take the archipelago by force on two occasions – 1832 and 1982. On each occasion, the invading force was expelled by British troops.

Falkland Islanders recently decided in a referendum to remain linked to the United Kingdom, a referendum that argentina refuses to recognise if spite of the fact that the islanders have the right to decide their own future under the United Nations Charter.

US will recognise Falkland Islanders referendum

26 Feb

Will they or won’t they? John Kerry, the USA’s recently appointed Secretary of State is visiting Britain, his first stop on a tour of other nations to discuss a wide range of foreign affairs, including Syria.JK

Questioned on his country’s position over the Falkland Islands and its forthcoming referendum, John Kerry said; “First of all, I’m not going to comment, nor is the President, on a referendum that has yet to take place, hasn’t taken place.”

So – no comment on the referendum, at least not till its all done and dusted.

The Secretary then went on to say; “Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties’ sovereignty claims thereto.”

So – no change in America’s desire to stay out of the discussion; but then no indication that some future change is ruled out either.

And yet, the Buenos Aires Herald’s headline is – “US won’t recognise Falkland Islanders referendum,” a headline repeated in many other Spanish language newspapers. Accurate? Hardly.

The USA has maintained its neutral position since the 1840’s. Even during the short war that followed Argentina’s invasion in 1982, the USA maintained its neutral position on the issue of sovereignty. To claim that the USA does not support Britain is merely as valid as saying that the USA does not support Argentina. In fact, the Americans quite clearly do not wish to give an opinion either way.

Will the USA recognise the result of the referendum? Have they much choice?

The referendum itself will be held according to the principles laid down in the United Nations Charter. It will provide a clear statement of the wishes of the Falklanders and such a clear statement cannot be ignored by the UN or any of its members even if many of them would prefer to do so. Why not? Because every time Argentina raises the issue, the referendum result will be thrown in its face. A clear expression of self-determination. An undeniable human right recognised by ALL members of the UN.

Unthinking Alicia Castro

13 Feb

Alicia Castro, Argentina’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is quoted yesterday as saying that tri-lateral talks over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is “unthinkable,” and that next month’s referendum on the Islands, “.. has the spirit of a publicity campaign, with no legal effect on the sovereignty dispute”. Alicia Castro

“In 1985 the UN told the UK that a referendum of that kind would not be recognized by that body…  Trying to incorporate  into the dialogue a government from the Islands which is not recognized is unthinkable: dialogue is bilateral, UK and Argentina”.

Speaking in London the Ambassador went on to accuse the British Government of, “militarizing” the South Atlantic which presented a “risk.”

The reference to 1985 is rather new in Argentina’s often narrow interpretations of historical events. Following the Falklands War in 1982, the United Nations were concerned that the two combatants, Britain and Argentina, were not prepared to renew diplomatic relations. As a result of this concern, and recognising that the South Atlantic archipelago was the object of Argentina’s invasion in April 1982, the General Assembly issued a Resolution every year until 1988 calling for negotiations. Diplomatic relations were re-established in 1989 – although Falklands sovereignty was not discussed.

During the course of the debate preceding the 1985 Resolution, Britain suggested amendments to reinforce the Islanders’ right to self-determination. Argentina, which laid greater emphasis on territorial integrity, argued that a reference to the Charter’s enshrined right of peoples to self-determination, would bias any negotiations against their claim. There was no mention of a referendum.

The amendments were not accepted although subsequent statements from the UN’s General Assembly continue to assert the right to self-determination of all peoples which, following the ICJ’s Kosovo decision, is now recognised as superior to “territorial integrity.” Argentina refuses to recognise the Kosovo decision.

Last year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations confirmed that the UK was not in breach of any UN Resolutions and since that time, the Argentine Government has concentrated on the 1985 Resolution; ignoring the others. Britain first claimed the Falklands in 1765 whereas Argentina claims that the British kicked them off the islands in 1833.

Argentina’s claim to the Falklands a “fantasy” says Hague

10 Feb

In an interview with the Sun newspaper, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has dismissed Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands as “fantasy.” William-Hague-1

Commenting on the recent visit by his Argentine counterpart, Hector Timerman, who held meetings in London, the Foreign Secretary added; “Britain is a country which supports the right of people to determine their own future. There should never be reward for bullying or threatening behaviour in international affairs – just as there never should be in our personal lives. To compare the islands to settlers in the West Bank, which is an occupied land, is absolutely ridiculous. I absolutely reject that comparison. There are families in the Falklands who are in their ninth generation. The Falklands have been there longer than Argentina has had its current boundaries or existed in its current form.”

Britain first claimed the South Atlantic archipelago in 1765 and the south seas whaling industry grew up around the Islands in the 1780’s. Spain maintained a small penal colony on East Falkland until 1811 but recognised British sovereignty in 1863. Argentina believes it inherited any Spanish rights when it broke free of the Spanish Crown in 1816. Britain has never given up its claim to sovereignty since 1765 and has ejected Argentine forces on two occasions – 1833 and 1982.

The Falkland Islanders are due to vote on their status in a referendum next month.