A major change in the leadership of the Falkland Islands Association has brought renewed pledges of support for Falkland Islands' self-determination and determined resistance to Argentina's persistent sovereignty claim.
Sir Rex Hunt,CMG, famous as the Governor of the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Argentine invasion and subsequent liberation, has been succeeded as Chairman of the Association by another former Governor, Mr David Tatham,CMG. Leading the tributes to Sir Rex Hunt's leadership during the 1982 war and ever since, Mr Tatham declared: "Rex is not just a hard act but an impossible act to follow. I will do my best".
In a key passage, re-affirming rejection of the Argentine threat, Mr Tatham declared: "I am committed as we all are to the future of the Falkland Islands, to the right of the people to determine that future and to the need to fend off pressures from outside and to make sure that Government and public opinion of this country are fully behind the Islands and the Islanders".
His election was unanimously endorsed at the Association's annual general meeting in London (on Saturday 11 December) following the annual ceremony of tribute to British servicemen who died in battles linked to the Falkland Islands in two World Wars and the 1982 Conflict.
In his final report as chairman, Sir Rex Hunt echoed the strong stance by the British Government in resisting Argentina's sovereignty claim. Sir Rex, who is 78, will continue to have a significant role in the Association. He was unanimously elected a Vice-President, amid eloquent tributes to him by the Vice-Chairman, Mr Saul Pitaluga, Falklands-born British businessmen, and the Reverend Peter Millam, former Rector of Stanley's Christ Church Cathedral.
Sir Rex Hunt plans to move home with Lady Hunt from Southern England to his roots in the North, to be near his daughter and grandchildren in Yorkshire.
Distinguished Diplomat Takes Over David Tatham has had a distinguished Foreign Office career as a much travelled diplomat. Though his time as Falklands Governor was a more peaceful if still uneasy period than that of Sir Rex Hunt, he has witnessed turmoil and conflict in other parts of the world as a Middle East expert and Arabist and in his final diplomatic post as High Commissioner to Sri Lanka during the Tamil Tiger insurrection.
He has several close links with the Falkland Islands. He was a popular Governor between 1992 and 1995 and a former head of the Foreign Office Falkland Islands Department in London. He continues his contacts as a trustee and Executive Committee member of the Falkland Islands Trust, Chairman of the Shackleton Scholarship Fund, a founder member of the South Georgia Association, and compiler of a future Dictionary of Falklands Biography from 1592 to 1981 which will include many prominent Falklands personalities.
He told the meeting he was very conscious he was joining an Association that is working well. He paid tribute for support and guidance from Mr Ted Clapp, who, as Treasurer, is running the administration virtually single-handedly. He is a former head of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Stanley and is married to a Falkland Islander.
Mr Clapp was re-elected Honorary Treasurer, and Mr Pitaluga Vice-Chairman. The Executive Committee was also re-elected ? Mr David Ainslie, Air Commodore Peter Johnson, OBE, Mr Maurice Jones, Mr Peter Lapsley, (Membership Secretary), Mr Geoff Moir DFC, Mr Ron Lewis-Smith (formerly BAS scientist), and the Honourable Alexandra Shackleton, daughter of the late Lord Shackleton.
Sir Rex Hunt announced the resignation of the Newsletter Editors, Peter Pepper and Harold Briley, and praised them for producing a magazine of "such high standard" for the past twelve years. The Association has appealed for volunteers to take over as editors. It is also seeking a replacement as Executive Secretary for Mr Andrew Knapp, who has also resigned, and was thanked for his work.
Sir Rex appealed for more people to join the Association whose membership has increased to 1,057 during a year of intensified harassment of Islanders by President Kirschner's Government in Buenos Aires, to which, Sir Rex Hunt said, "The British Government has reacted strongly?.. Meetings between Councillors and your Committee members have indicated that Islanders are pleased with the strong line on sovereignty taken by the FCO. Councillors say that Minister Bill Rammell keeps them well informed. They are also pleased with the blunt warning given to Argentina by the Governor and the outgoing British Ambassador to Argentina. The Ambassador Designate, Dr John Hughes, spent a week in the Falkland Islands before taking up his post in November".
Sir Rex Hunt Pledges Continuing Support Sir Rex pledged that the Association will continue to work closely with the Falkland Islands Government Office in London and Councillors in the Islands in upholding the Falkland Islanders' right to self-determination. He quoted from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons after the 1982 invasion: " They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance".
Baroness Thatcher, who is Patron of the Association, was recently visited by Sir Rex Hunt, Falklands Councillor Norma Edwards, and the Falklands Government London Representative, Miss Sukey Cameron. Baroness Thatcher sent her warm regards to all Falkland Islanders and their supporters.
Other points in the annual report included the drop in fishing revenue from depleted squid stocks; a flourishing Falklands tourist industry despite Argentina's ban on charter flights, with between 30,000 and 40,000 tourists visiting each year, mainly from cruise ships, and a new Tourism Director, Mrs Connie Stevens. He congratulated Governor Howard Pearce on his marriage to Miss Carolina Thomee in Stanley Cathedral, wishing them a long and happy future. He also congratulated Falklands Conservation on its successful 25th anniversary year and paid tribute to its retiring Stanley Director, Becky Ingham.
He commended the Falkland Islands Defence Force on its 150 years of voluntary service since its foundation in 1854 during the Crimean War. There was praise for honorary Member Annabelle Spencer who continues to hold the annual Falkland Islands Exhibition in Croydon, now in its 16th year; and for Executive Committee member, Geoff Moir, a much decorated wartime bomber command member and former Falklands teacher, who gave 45 illustrated talks on the Falkland Islands during the year, at the age of 84.
Sir Rex expressed regret at the deaths of three of "the best known and most formidable Falklands characters", Association Vice Presidents Adrian Monk and Velma Malcolm, and former Falklands Treasurer Harold Rowlands; and veteran supporters, Gordon Pickering and Quentin Keynes, whose deaths resulted in donations to the Association totalling totalling £2,675.
His report thanked Sukey Cameron for her support and for arranging meetings with Falklands Councillors.
Harold Briley - London