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New Governor “Privileged and excited”

Wednesday, November 27th 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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A few days before flying to the Falkland Islands as the new Governor, Mr Howard Pearce says he feels it a great privilege. He is returning to an area he knew well during military rule in the 1970s in Argentina, where he was desk officer for Falklands Affairs in the British Embassy in Buenos Aires. That experience gives him better direct insight than possibly any previous Governor into how Argentines think and into their obsession with their claim to the “Malvinas”.

He visited the Falklands three times, in 1975, 1976 and 1978, and went for a familiarisation visit in advance of taking up his post at the beginning of December, replacing Mr Donald Lamont.

Mr Pearce has been favourably impressed with the great changes since his 1970s visits. In an interview in London, Mr Pearce said: "Many things have not changed ? the remote location and stark beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the people, enormously kind and hospitable.

"But there are great changes and improvements, with new roads, a new hospital and more up- to-date air service .The most significant change is in the outlook of the community. The Falkland Islanders now have tremendous self-confidence, dynamism, and an entrepreneurial outlook. There are good grounds for their optimism.

They have embraced the good aspects of change with enthusiasm and many very impressive young people are returning from their education abroad to work there, which is tremendously encouraging".

Islanders' wishes "paramount" on sovereignty

On sovereignty, he applauds the British Government's tough policy. "It is absolutely clear sovereignty is not on the agenda. The wishes of the Islanders are paramount and will determine their future The British Government is absolutely consistent in its commitment to respect the Islanders' wishes. I am entirely confident that during my time as Governor that position will be absolutely rock-solid and clear".

Recalling his experience of Argentina 25 years ago, he says it was a professionally fascinating but difficult time to be there but a sad and tragic time for Argentina.

The death throes and anarchy of the Peronist government were replaced by the military government that not only launched the 1982 invasion but was responsible for massive human rights violations. He believes that Argentina's present economic difficulties are in no one's interests and hopes it can get back on a more positive course.

Devolving responsibility to Councillors

Mr Pearce speaks as a very experienced diplomat. He has just completed three years as High Commissioner in Malta and has previously served as Head of Central European Department in the FCO in London, deputy head of personnel, and various posts abroad including Hungary and Kenya. He also spent a sabbatical year in the United States at Harvard University. He was awarded the CVO for his work on the Queen's visit to Hungary.

As Governor, he is excited to be tackling new challenges. "The British Government" he says, "is keen to devolve more and more responsibility to the elected representatives of overseas territories. Falklands Councillors take decisions, which is right and proper, and I look forward to a very close and co-operative and consultative relationship with the Councillors.

"It is not for the Governor to intervene in every detail of life or every decision. Ultimately the Governor is responsible to the British Government for good governance in the Islands. But there are more sophisticated ways of delivering that rather than getting involved in every decision?The trick lies in maintaining everyone's confidence in the Governor, which is not always easy ? I am the representative of the Queen, and the Government, and it is my job to articulate the views of the British Government but also I am the spokesman for the Falkland Islanders to the British Government.

Hooked on new hobby

Mr Pearce is 53 and single and was born in Twickenham. He is affable and pleasant but speaks with the precision of a man who has degrees in law and international law from Cambridge University. Standing over six feet tall and well-built, he was a skilful enough fencer to represent Cambridge University.

His hobbies are reading and music, and he is very interested in wildlife from his time in Kenya. He also plans to take up a new Falklands hobby -- fly-fishing, encouraged by Admiral Kit Layman, commander of the frigate HMS Argonaut in 1982 and later Commander British Forces in the Falklands, who is a regular visitor and fly-fisher. "I hope he'll pass on some tips", says Mr Pearce.

Mr. Pearce will also be Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Harold Briley, (MP) London

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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