June 14th 2017 marks the 35th anniversary of the surrender of Argentinean forces and the Liberation of the Falkland Islands. The date marks the end of the short but brutal conflict that lasted 74 days, following the Argentine invasion of April 2nd 1982.
The Conflict cost the lives of 255 British service personnel, three Falkland Islanders and 649 Argentine military personnel. Falkland Islanders did not seek, nor provoke, the occupation and the resultant tragic loss of life.
The 35th anniversary provides an opportunity to not only reflect upon the sacrifices made to recover the Islands, but also to celebrate the good that has come from that sacrifice - the 35 years of progress seen since 1982. The Falkland Islands are a leader amongst UK Overseas Territories in self-governance, democracy, accountability and social development.
The Islands have experienced a renaissance in the economy, with annual GDP rising from £3 million in 1982 to £150 million today; through the development of a sustainable fisheries, tourism, reform of agriculture and the initial steps towards the development of hydrocarbons. This has included adoption of strict legislation to maintain the Island’s almost pristine natural environment; a land where nature is in charge. The Islands are home to a multitude of unique wildlife, including five species of penguins, sea lions, whales and rare albatrosses.
Tourists are increasingly attracted to see this unique environment, with the Falklands winning many international awards in recent years including best cruise ship destination. This equates annually to more than 55,000 cruise ship passenger visits and increases in land based tourists, utilising the weekly direct air links with the UK and Chile.
The most tangible progress in the Falkland Islands is the growth in population to 3,200 residents in 2016, from 1,800 in 1982. There has been a 16% increase since 2012, and reflects an increasingly multi-cultural population, with just a 1% nominal unemployment rate. The Falkland Islands offer great career and emigration opportunities for skilled workers seeking a great quality of life.
Falkland Islanders are a distinct and unique community, relishing their British roots and greatly valuing their constitutional links with the UK. This was clearly demonstrated in 2013 when 99.8% of its population voted to retain such links.
Hon. Ian Hansen, Chair of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly says “Falkland Islanders are a peaceful, hard-working and resilient people. Our society is thriving and forward-looking. Self-governing, financially self-sufficient and with our own identity, we are a small place with a big future. All we ask is that our rights be respected, that we be left in peace to determine our own path and to develop our home for our children and future generations.
This positive story should make all of the UK family proud. The UK Government’s support for the right to self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands is admirable. Islanders have a deep depth of gratitude to the UK military personnel who liberated them in 1982 and, with the on-going UK military presence in the Islands, a safe and secure home and the freedom to determine our own future”.
Liberation Day on June 14th is marked in the Islands with an official parade and a ceremony at the Liberation Monument as well as being a public holiday. There are a number of services across the UK around the Anniversary, held by organisations and veterans associated with the Conflict.
Veterans are always very welcome to visit the Islands and can be assured a warm and grateful reception from our local residents, who often offer up their time to take veterans to visit the various battlefield sites of relevance to them.
Hon. Ian Hansen concludes, “It is hopefully some reassurance that what they did will never be forgotten in the Islands and has resulted in 35 years of progress, an outcome all too rare in the history of modern warfare. We remember and give thanks to those that lost their lives or were impacted by the Falklands war, in order to ensure our future and our freedom”.