By John Fowler - This is the sixth of a series of extended political articles written exclusively for the Penguin News web site by Deputy Editor John Fowler. John is a former Superintendent of Education and a former Manager of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board.
It is an observable fact that certain years remain in the popular consciousness, while others, perhaps equally important, seem less memorable. Nationality comes into this of course; for example I can never remember the year of the French Revolution which is a key historical date and probably well-known by every French school boy. On the other hand, though I am not quite that old, I shall never forget 1066, the year of the Norman invasion of England, nor 1492, when, according to the rhyme, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
The varying memorability of certain years was evident to those of us who got up early on Saturday to watch Sky News. After watching Legislative Assembly Member Sharon Halford give a very clear and cohesive account of how we regard the current state of play in the South Atlantic and the antics of the current Argentine government, we then had the pleasure of watching 1982 veteran Simon Weston, supported by ex-minister John Knott, give a Thatcher-style verbal hand-bagging to someone called Professor Guillermo Makin, who was introduced as an Argentine academic and seemed keen to forget the year 1982.
In 1982, a peaceful population of around 2,000 people, defended by a mere handful of Royal Marines, was invaded by an armed force of several thousand heavily-armed troops. With the thirtieth anniversary of this invasion coming up this year, it seems odd that while all of us here and veterans on both sides of the consequent conflict can remember this year quite clearly, Professor Makin and the government of the country from which the invasion came seems to have the same difficulty in recalling it as certain Nazis later did in recalling the holocaust for which they were responsible between 1939 and 1945.
According to the professor it seems, the invasion of the Falklands happened in the remote past and was ordered by a military dictatorship, now deposed, so his country clearly has no need now to feel culpable for the nearly 1,000 deaths of military and civilians which then ensued, nor to apologise for the trauma to which the population was submitted.
The year which is much more important to Professor Makin and to the Argentine government, it seems, is the year 1833, when, according to the official Argentine history another legitimate population on the Islands was invaded and expelled, this time by the British. Well, I am sorry Professor, it is now well documented that the USS Lexington had already removed the majority of the population of Port Louis the year before and only four of the twenty five or so civilians still present chose to leave voluntarily after the arrival of HMS Clio. They were a Brazilian gaucho called Joaquin Acuña and his woman Juana and a Uruguayan gaucho Mateo Gonzalez and his woman Marica.
Even if this were not the case and the official Argentine version of events were correct, what happened so long ago in Port Louis would still pale into insignificance compared with the atrocity of the invasion 149 years later. If the Argentine government and supporters of its sovereignty claim feel no qualms about 1982, then I don't see why the baby recently born as a ninth generation Falkland Islander, or anyone else for that matter, should give much of a damn about what happened in 1833. The current Argentine Foreign Minister often gives the impression that he was actually there, but, I am sorry, we weren't.