UK Government will not allow Falkland Islanders’ human rights to be ignored
British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers his Christmas message to the people of the Falkland Islands: 2012 has been a memorable year for all of us. It’s been a year of happy celebrations but a year of more sober commemorations too. In London and Stanley, we celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, marking the 60th year of Her Majesty the Queen’s reign. The genuine and deep affection for Her Majesty both here and in the Falklands reminded us of the ties that bind us together.
It was an extraordinary summer in another respect too. The 2012 Olympics exceeded all our expectations. This was without doubt the greatest show on earth.
The world saw what the best of British talent, guts and ingenuity could produce. I was truly, truly proud of our country and I hope it looked as impressive 8,000 miles away as it did from here.
But June was also a time for some sombre reflection. It was a time to remember the conflict 30 years ago when your home was invaded by the Argentinean Junta and for remembering the 255 British servicemen and three Islanders who lost their lives. I know you, like me, will never forget the sacrifices they made. It would be appropriate too to remember those Argentines, mostly young men, pressed into service by their government, who also lost their lives.
Last month we sadly lost Sir Rex Hunt who played such a pivotal role during the invasion and following the Island’s liberation.
Sir Rex was the very best of British: a brave man and a dedicated public servant. He was also a close friend and passionate advocate of the Falkland Islands people. I know he will be much missed by all who knew him.
In June I had the privilege of speaking at the Falkland Islands Government’s Liberation Day reception. I was able to hear firsthand the stories of those directly involved in the conflict and to understand more about its lasting legacy. But, we didn’t just look back, we looked forward too and it’s testament to your efforts that the Falklands have prospered so well since those dark days of April 1982.
The progress you’ve made in shaping a positive future for the next generation of Falkland Islanders has been truly remarkable.
Now this year the Government officially renewed its partnership with the Overseas Territories, restating our commitment to help promote the territories social and economic development at a time of dramatic global challenges.
We want all the peoples of the Overseas Territories to be able to determine their own destiny and realise their aspirations.
But, I’m always conscious that you, the people of the Falkland Islands, continue to face a particular and direct challenge both to your economy and to your identity as Falkland Islanders.
President Kirchner’s Government appears determined to argue that you should have no say in how you are governed. They continue to misrepresent the history of your Islands and the current realities of life there. I’m pleased to see the Falkland Islanders working hard to correct these misrepresentations.
Indeed, it was particularly good to see a delegation of young Islanders travel to the United Nations in June to challenge President Kirchner directly. They were a great credit to you all.
It is a pity that Argentina persists in behaving this way. The UK would like to have a more positive relationship with the Government of Argentina. We are stepping up our engagement with Latin America more generally, and there are so many global issues we could work on together.
But, the British Government will not stand by and allow your human rights to be ignored. There is no justification for any country to try and deny you the right to democracy and self-determination. Nor to make attempts to isolate you, block your trade and undermine your legitimate fisheries, hydrocarbons and tourism industries.
Next year the Falkland Islands Government will hold a referendum on the political status of the Islands. I value deeply the UK’s relationship with the Falklands and hope it will long continue.
But it is not my decision, nor is it Argentina’s, it is yours and yours alone.
This referendum is true democracy in action, an opportunity to show the international community what you want for your future and to show it definitively. I hope all of you seize it.
In the meantime, Samantha and I would like to wish everyone on the Islands a very, very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. (PN)