Marking another successful year, the Annual Falkland Islands Government Reception took place on Tuesday 5th June at Middle Temple, London. Islanders in Britain, their friends and supporters, politicians, and veterans of the 1982 war of liberation met in high spirits.
Falkland Islands Government Representative Sukey Cameron welcomed many guests. These included: Foreign Office Minister for the Americas and Europe the Rt. Hon Sir Alan Duncan, MP, KCMG; Minister for the Armed Forces the Rt. Hon. Mark Lancaster MP, and from the All-Party Falkland Islands Parliamentary Group, Secretary Mr. Andrew Rosindell MP and Co-Chair Baroness Gloria Hooper.
A special guest was Commodore Sameer Saxena of the Indian Navy and his wife. He is the Naval Advisor at the Indian High Commission and they visited the Falklands for several weeks in February, for the stopover of the Indian Navy Yacht ‘Tarini’. That yacht is crewed by six women officers of the Indian Navy; and their unique round-the-world voyage has received much well-deserved publicity and praise.
FIG Representative Sukey Cameron delivered her address on another successful year in the Falklands, plans for the future, and remembering those whose sacrifices in 1982 secured the freedom of the Falklands from Argentine occupation. Her speech is reproduced in its entirety below.
Mr. Alan Huckle, a former Governor of the Falklands and Chairman of the Falkland Islands Association (FIA), proposed the loyal toast and read the Queen’s reply.
The Band of the Parachute Regiment then beat retreat in the courtyard outside Middle Temple and their salute was taken by the Rt. Hon. Mark Lancaster MP, Minister for the Armed Forces.
By Peter Pepper - London
Address by the Representative, Sukey Cameron MBE,
Ministers, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is, once again, a pleasure to welcome you all to our Annual Reception. It is good to see so many friends.
As we near the 36th anniversary of our liberation, we commemorate those who fought to uphold our right to self-determination in 1982. As we continue to do our utmost to ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice did not do so in vain, we will also reflect on our successes and our ambitious plans for the future.
In November we held our General Election for the Legislative Assembly. The turnout was higher than in 2013, with 80% of the electorate voting in Stanley and 86% in the Camp. We have five new MLAs, who together with their colleagues, have embarked on a busy work schedule, including development of the new Islands Plan, taking the Islands up to 2022, building upon our Economic, Tourism and Rural Development Strategies.
The Economic Development Strategy seeks to strengthen and deepen activities in our core industries of fisheries, tourism and agriculture and to nurture new industries in pursuit of a broader, more stable, economic base. These strategies, and the considerable level of capital expenditure included in the 2018/19 government budget, set out our ambitions for improving the prosperity, health and wealth of people across the Falklands, whilst protecting the environment.
The past year has seen many successes in all areas of our economy; the Falkland Islands Meat Company has achieved record levels of exports, and revenue generated bodes well for the future of this industry – and Falklands’ lamb is now available in the UK – bringing a ‘taste of the Falklands’ to a wider audience!
Our wool incomes have also been boosted by a combination of favourable market conditions and the improved quality of our product – excellent news for our farmers.
The number of visitors from cruise ships increased for the 2017-2018 tourist season, with some 57,496 arrivals. The increase is largely down to additional expedition ships visiting and fewer cancellations, due to the wonderful summer we had this year. A third of visitors are from the USA, followed by the UK and Canada, and they all leave the Islands as Ambassadors for us.
The Illex fishery has had the highest level of interest for a number of years, with 105 vessels taking licenses. The Loligo squid season was very successful with the highest first season catch since 1995 of 43,000 tonnes. We continue to monitor the fishery closely in order to ensure that the stock is renewable; conservation and care for our natural environment – in all areas – is of prime importance to us. We were also delighted to welcome two new Falkland flagged vessels to the fishery this year.
Whilst such developments are welcomed, the real concern is about the potential implications of Brexit on our exports to the EU; primarily Spain. The fishing industry is the mainstay of our economy, averaging at 41% of our GDP, with 94% of exports passing through the EU. A tariff scenario could result in a decline in Falkland Islands fishing industry revenues. Because of the serious nature of this impact, and other possible implications of Brexit, we continue to highlight our concerns in both Westminster and Brussels.
Falkland Islanders are pragmatic people; we know that it would be premature to factor potential revenue from hydrocarbons production into our economic forecasts. Nevertheless, we welcome the increased activity arising from global oil price rises and associated hydrocarbon development. In preparation for the potential of oil developments we are ensuring our infrastructure, regulatory and environmental safeguards are in place.
While economic growth is required for its own sake, it has wider-reaching benefits; with economic strength, we will be less vulnerable to external political pressure and free to determine our future.
The September 2016 Joint Communique, between the governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina, highlighted the need for improved cooperation and positive engagement on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest. A number of actions agreed have begun to filter through this year, such as discussions on sharing of fisheries information, the humanitarian DNA testing of unknown Argentine soldiers and a second weekly commercial flight from South America.
A positive initial meeting took place in May to look at resuming the exchange of scientific fisheries data, with a follow up meeting planned later in the year.
Relatives of ninety newly identified soldiers visited the Argentine cemetery at Darwin in March. This successful visit, together with the help provided by Island organisations and UK Ministry of Defence assets based in the Islands, shows what can be achieved with goodwill on both sides.
Airline operators across Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay have expressed interest in providing a new weekly scheduled air service to and from the Islands. The companies have been invited to take part in a formal procurement process and the new commercial air link is due to become operational before the end of the year. It is hoped that it will support connectivity to the Islands and the further development of our tourism market. Welcoming more people to our country is also vital as we seek to share our key messages more effectively and promote the Islands’ success.
Whilst these developments are welcomed, and a more pragmatic approach to neighbourly relations exist with the Macri government, several of the more extreme Kirchner polices, such as economic obstacles and sanctions to oil and shipping, are still to be lifted.
We continue to work closely with our fellow UK Overseas Territories and donated funds for infrastructure rebuilding to those Caribbean Territories affected by the horrendous hurricane damage. Our Assembly Members have attended Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences and a number of events associated with the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. Our public diplomacy programme continues, with visits to South America, the Caribbean and the United States, promoting the Islands and gaining support for our right to self determination.
We have welcomed a large number of notable visitors in the past year, including eight MPs as part of the All Party Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme; the tall ship Tenacious, with a mixed ability crew; and the Indian Navy yacht ‘Tarini’ with an all-female crew, which was circumnavigating the globe – a fantastic achievement for them and a ‘first’ in their sailing history.
We are always pleased to see the many veterans who visit the Islands each year. They consistently remark upon the warm welcome they receive and the progress they see in the Islands. Progress in infrastructure; progress in self-government; and confidence of Falkland Islanders; a tribute to their efforts and the sacrifices made in 1982. We remain grateful to the servicemen and women who continue to provide the defence of the Islands, and it is particularly fitting that we will have the Band of the Parachute Regiment Beat Retreat for us shortly, when soldiers from 2 Para are currently providing the Resident Infantry Company in the Islands.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an exciting time as we take some bold steps to shape and secure the Islands’ future - thank you once again for your continued interest and support.