By J. Brock (FINN)
Falkland Islanders took in their stride the Times Online article by Matthew Paris entitled “Think of Hong Kong. Give the Falklands Back.” We have heard from him before – from when he started writing about the Falklands in the late’80s-early ‘90s. Many with shrugged shoulder gave the re-vamped proposal short sharp shrift. FINN simply looked at old cuttings and noticed nothing new from when he proposed this before.
For me the baffling bit was the date of March 1982 that he alluded to – was he talking about the scrap metal incident on South Georgia? Perhaps he forgot that the Argentines invaded on 02 April 1982.
Thirty years ago when Mr Paris was in Parliament with FCO responsibilities there was a series of negations with Argentina over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands where the “lease-back” proposal was discussed along with another proposal called “condominium.” Falkland Islanders rejected both ideas and remember the referendum that overwhelmingly said NO to Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands. Armed with a copy of the voting results Argentine officials rounded up influential islanders during the occupation and exiled them either internally or externally. There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again.
In 1999 an agreement was signed with Argentina that allowed one flight a week to come from the mainland with a stop-over in Rio Gallegos once a month. Included in the agreement was an understanding that Argentina and the Falklands would work together on management of straddling fish stocks and participation in joint scientific cruises. Also on the cards was a joint area of co-operation for hydrocarbons exploration. Though the fisheries and hydrocarbons interests held several meetings it was the Argentines who pulled out of that area of the Agreement. Falkland Islanders feel that they would pull out of any future agreement that may be struck.
As a British Overseas Territory the Falklands are unlike the Shetland or Orkney Islands off the UK. We have internal self government with defence and Foreign Affairs the only areas administered by HMG. Our Constitution firmly states that we own the resources beneath our waters.
A decision to remunerate the UK for the 1982 Conflict with Argentina and to pay for on-going defence of the Falklands has been taken, should vast commercially viable resources be found. The Falkland Islands Government made this formal offer to UK Government about 14 years ago. Perhaps they will take us up on the offer should those reserves be discovered. The proposal is worth vast amounts of money – a sacrificial gift to the UK for the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.
Islanders feel that to share with Argentina – a country with phenomenal oil reserves of its own – would be like throwing salt in wounds still festering since 1982. After all, deaths on both sides of the conflict would have been avoided if Argentina hadn’t invaded the Falkland Islands.