There was considerable anticipation and speculation in the Falkland Islands on Tuesday as residents and visitors alike waited to hear Argentine president Cristina Kirchner’s much-publicized evening announcement.
Whilst many visitors, including a number of visiting Argentine journalists, were probably wondering if the announcement would herald a cessation of the LAN weekly air service to the Islands leaving them stranded in the Falklands, Islanders expressed little surprise at what they were sure would be the announcement of yet another measure designed to strengthen an economic blockade on the Islands.
In the event people were taken by surprise. Given the build-up throughout the day and news that the content of the speech was a secret even for some of Kirchner’s own ministers, Islanders were anticipating something considerably more substantial.
Whilst no-one in the Islands has heard of the Rattenbach report it was not news to most people that the Argentine invasion of 1982 had been master-minded by the Argentine Junta of the day and not by the Argentine people as a whole - although few would be convinced that the overwhelming enthusiasm in Argentina following the invasion waned over the course of conflict as a result of an abhorrence for their Junta’s militaristic actions and not as a result of the increasing likelihood of defeat.
From an Islander’s perspective, this latest attempt by the Cristina Fernandez administration to prove that Islanders have no reason to fear a repetition of 1982 - thus making British military presence in the South Atlantic “an act of aggression” - holds little water in the face of continuing threats and harassment from Argentina.
There are very few who really fear or expect another invasion, but in Falkland Islander’s eyes Argentina’s increasingly hard-line approach in recent years gives them little reason to believe that they could exist peacefully and freely without a military deterrent in place.
Mike Summers, elected member of Falklands’ Legislative Assembly, commented that the accusation of a military build-up in the South Atlantic “was extraordinary” given that the military foot-print in the Falklands has diminished considerably in recent years: the loss of the Chinook, the reduction of the Resident Infantry Company, the reduction of the frigate from full-time to part-time, he pointed out, could not be substituted by the deployment of one search-and-rescue pilot (Prince William).
Argentina are very welcome, he said, to take the “militarization” issue to the UN Security Council and General Assembly but they should be aware that as guardians of the principle of right to self-determination, this issue would also be raised in the context of any discussion regarding the Falkland Islands.
He commented that if Cristina Fernandez would sincerely like to “give peace a chance”, a phrase she has used recently to urge David Cameron to the negotiation table, she should consider removing the punitive measures she has put in place in an attempt to force Islanders to bend to the will of her government.
MLA Summers commented, however, that he welcomed the news of investment in much over-due mental health facilities for Malvinas war veterans. “It is very important to do it” he said.
By Janet Roberston – SeAledPR - Stanley