The Falklands newly appointed Governor, Howard Pearce CVO, has no plans to visit Argentina during his 3 years term in office. Mr. Pearce, who spent several years working in the British Embassy in Buenos Aires during the 1970's, said, ?I would want to be sensitive to local concerns and I sense that people here would not be particularly enthusiastic about the Governor visiting Argentina'.
Speaking exclusively to MercoPress Mr. Pearce explained, "I did visit Argentina briefly for 24 hours after my visit here (Falklands) in September. The point of that was to talk to my colleagues in the British Embassy, because it is important that I know them because we do talk to each other fairly regularly, and that I be briefed on the situation at their end'
Mr. Pearce who, prior to arriving in the Islands, held the post of British High Commissioner in Malta, is the Falklands 32nd Governor since Lieutenant Moody was first appointed in 1842. The only interruption to the sequence of British Governors came in 1982, when an Argentine Military General, Mario Benjamin Menendez, was installed by the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, after Argentine troops invaded the Islands on the 2nd April. His reign lasted just 10 weeks!
Mr. Pearce who is unmarried, will continue to preside over the policy producing Executive Council of the Islands, but not over the Legislative Council, which in line with other Overseas Territories of Britain, now has its own appointed Leader. ?The Governor still has an important constitutional role - however its not my business to get engaged in taking detailed decisions about the way domestic issues are run in the Falkland Islands, that is the responsibility of elected Councillors, but I do preside over Executive Council, and I do have responsibility to the British Government to ensure good governance in the Islands. I also have direct responsibility for internal security and for foreign policy in close consultation with locally elected members. I am of course the representative of the Queen and the British Government, but equally importantly I am the representative and spokesman for the Falkland Islands to the British Government', said Mr. Pearce, who speaks fluent Spanish.
The Falklands remain as one of just nine British Overseas Territories, which has a full-time Governor appointed by Queen Elizabeth, from what was once Britain's vast Empire. St. Helena, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Caymans, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, Montseratt and the British Virgin Islands are the other eight territories. ?I have not arrived with specific instructions other than to carry out the policy of the British Government. On the political future of the Falkland Islands, the British Government's position is very well known; that is that the Government is committed to the self-determination of the Falkland Islands, and respects the wishes of the Islanders about their future, and that basically means that sovereignty is not on the agenda'.
The new Governor was asked to clarify comments, made in his inaugural address, in which he referred to, ?not ruling out further steps in the Islands dealing with Argentina'. His words were picked up and amplified by some Argentine newspapers.
He said that it was unfortunate that his comment had been ?distorted' and that his following words were not published ? "but only where they meet two tests; that they are in the interests of the Falkland Islands and their inhabitants, and are in accord with the wishes of the Falkland Islanders and their elected representatives".
Mr. Pearce amplified this point saying, ?There is nothing specific which lies behind that comment, but there are clearly certain areas where the Falkland Islands and Argentina have interests in common - the management of the fisheries which move between Falkland Islands and Argentine waters, and into the high seas. We have the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission which is a forum in which Argentina and the United Kingdom address these issues together. There has been a degree of cooperation in that forum but we would like to see an improvement in the quality of that cooperation and in particular an increased focus on cooperation in the practical management of those stocks - it is in the Falkland Islanders interests and we hope that Argentina also sees that their interests are protected in sensible practical management of the fish stocks'.
He further clarified the ?cooperation issue'. "If oil is discovered around the Falklands then there may be certain circumstances in which a degree of cooperation with Argentina would be in the interests of the Islands. There is agreement, going back many years, in which an area of joint cooperation was identified for oil exploration ? but nothing has happened in practical terms".
In summarizing his views, Governor Pearce explained; "Further cooperation (with Argentina) is not something which should be ruled out, and there may be circumstances in which it is in the interests of the Falkland Islands to pursue it, but it should only be pursued where it is in the interest of the Falkland Islands and in accord with the Islanders wishes ? I have no specific proposals to pursue".
Any future cultural links between the Falklands and Argentina ?would be in the hands of the Falkland Islands Government - the elected Councillors', maintained Mr. Pearce.
He said he wanted to spend his first few weeks and months in the Islands, ?getting to know the Islands and the Islanders and their issues'.
Patrick Watts (MP) Stanley