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FIBS New Review 2002

Saturday, December 28th 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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Corina Goss from FIBS reviews the highlights of the twelve months of 2002 which had a special significance for the Falklands: the twentieth anniversary of the conflict that put the Islands once again in the world media during several months. The commemorations centred in June, --Liberation Day--, but extended to November with the visit of HRH Prince Andrew and the SAMA pilgrimage. In December a new Governor with a long experience in Argentine and South Atlantic affairs, Mr. Howard Pearce took office.

However, it was also the year of the controversial abattoir and when the Islands were declared free of foot and mouth; when squid decided to move into the high seas forcing the Islands government to tighten the budget; when the first oil exploration licences since 1996, were awarded; when mounting deaths of penguins in the archipelago beaches remain as an unsolved mystery; plus the long usual list of distinguished visitors, official and non official, as the interest in these remote but unique Islands keeps growing.

1: January began with the New Years Honours list.

Only one Islander was given an honour this year. That was Terry Spruce, who was awarded an MBE for service to the community.

2: And of course there was news from the Raft Race, which as usual took place on the first.

Turnout was disappointing with only five entries, which has lead to the Sea Cadets not running it this time round. The winner was the hospital teams raft Killer, skippered by Doctor Davies. Second was K2 captained by David Fyfe, and third was an FIDF team on the Kiel Canal Cruiser.

3: A few days of heavy rain last Christmas had made a big difference to the state of the campfires that had been raging through December.

The fire service had been carrying out work on the blazes at the Murrell and Fitzroy Ridge throughout the festive period and New Years Eve. Chief Fire Officer at the time, Mike Ansell said that both fires seemed to be contained.

4: And the UK Chairman of Falklands Conservation, Robin Woods was back in the Islands.

He'd just finished a survey looking for the elusive Feltons Flower. It hasn't been found growing in the wild since the early nineteen hundreds. But why? It was thought to grow on sunny, North facing slopes at the base of Stone Runs. It could have disappeared because it is fairly palatable to grazing animals I think. I know from ones that I've grown in my garden in England that field mice will eat the seeds. I know that small birds will eat the seeds. It seems quite likely the same thing would happen here, especially with house mice being quite widespread in the camp. So it could have been overgrazed, and just can't survive. When you have a very dry season the seeds just don't bother to germinate. They're really tough little things, about two millimetres across, flat, shiny, hard and can survive for years as shown by the ones from West Point. Robin Woods talking about the Felton's Flower.

5: Argentina's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Carlos Ruckauf, reiterated the country's claim to the Falklands.

Councillor Norma Edwards said it wasn't unusual. Well I think it's a par for the course. In the past when there's been internal trouble in Argentina they've always waved the nationalistic flag. And it's what you would expect really. I would have expected them to do it before now so they've been quite constrained. But they've devalued their peso by forty percent today so they'll be looking for anything to take the peoples minds off the state of the country and the state of the economy at the moment. The Falklands is always used to take the heat out of internal situations in Argentina And on the subject of Ruckauf's call for negotiations with Britain? I don't think it'll make any difference at all asking for negotiations. I don't think it'll alter their internal position at all. It's been said since 1982 that our sovereignty is non-negotiable, and I know that is still the case.

6: By mid January it seemed that the camp fire at the Murrell seemed to be out.

There was no smoke or hot spots showing. But the fire in the Fitzroy area was still smouldering although it remained contained by the trenches.

7: Max Hastings had appeared on UK TV with his programme about 1982.

He said some partnership with Argentina was inevitable. Called reluctant heroes, member of the Falkland Association, Peter Pepper told how it was predictably anti-Falklands. Hastings began by describing the islands as bleak and barren and one of the most unlovable places on earth. Despite many local interviews while he was here filming, no Falkland Islanders were used in the final programme. One ex Para veteran, Spud Ely said the future of the Falklands was up to the people who live here. But Max Hastings was more hostile, asking, how long the wishes for two thousand eight hundred people are to decide the Islands fate.

8: MP Michael Mates was in the Islands.

The conservative MP for East Hampshire wasn't on an official visit though, as former governor, Donald Lamont explained. He also said that 2002 was going to be a busy year on the visitor front. There are a lot of visits. We have a member of the European Parliament, Sean Stevenson coming and at about the same time a group of British MP's. We have a visit by the Deputy Under-secretary of the Foreign Office, Graham Fry, who is if you like the successor at that level to Peter Westmacott, who many in the Islands know ? who dealt with the Falklands for some time and was then promoted. And there are many others. We're going to have an inspector to look at the abattoir. There'll be senior military visitors, a number of those coming partly because of the anniversary, partly official and partly personal reasons. I'm in touch with the ambassador in Buenos Aires about the possibility of him visiting again. I know that councillors welcomed the fact that he visited before he took up his post and hoped that they might hear from him direct about the evolution of the situation in Argentina. So there's a pretty hefty programme. Former governor, Donald Lamont

9: The planning and building committee said they were appalled with FIDC.

The PBC condemned what it called a lack of concern that FIDC had shown for reports that the temporary landfill site at the abattoir had been neglected. The site used for disposing of animal carcasses, caused a stir in 2001 when the PBC refused planning permission, but were then overturned by ExCo. On a visit the fencing around the landfill site was found not to be dog proof, a stipulation in the planning permission. The area was also said to be attracting Turkey Vultures. Despite this, FIDC had applied for an extension on the planning permission due to fuel tank problems with the incinerator. Councillor Cockwell said he was stunned and shocked that FIDC hadn't approached the Environmental Planning office when the problems were highlighted.

10: And the Falklands was officially announced as being Foot and Mouth free and without needing vaccination.

Senior Vet, Steve Pointing said it was one of the earliest parts of the UK to be declared so, along with Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. The UK mainland was also said to be Foot and Mouth free and Northumbria where the outbreak started was the last place to achieve the status.

11: Camp fires on the East may have been under control but Bill Luxton said that Charters was in a sorry way.

He said it looked like a moonscape and in some places the hot ash was almost a meter deep. The farmer described the fire, which was raging four kilometres North East of the farm as the most destructive he'd ever seen in his life. Saying that everything he feared when it first started had happened.

12: The abattoir continued to stay in the news into late January/early February, when we reported that there may have been some design flaws with it.

According to Councillor Richard Cockwell, these problems had been overcome for the short term. He admitted at a public meeting that the heating and refrigeration systems might be too close together. But he assured FIBS that the problems shouldn't affect the efficient running of the abattoir.

13: In early February we had a visit from the Director of the British Hospital in Montevideo.

Jorge Stanham was accompanied by his wife. And whilst here took a tour of the North Camp and West Falkland. He also had a look around the KEMH and sat in on some clinics there.

14: The first ever Japanese tour group had booked a trip to the Islands.

It was arranged through Stanley services and the small group was coming to see the King Penguins. Japans most famous photographer inspired the tour leader after seeing pictures of Volunteer Point in a book. The company specialises in taking clients to remote places to see wildlife. And also plan cruises to Antarctica.

15: A broken GPS was part of the reason a Korean longliner was poaching in Falklands waters on the first of February.

The Hong Jin 101 was spotted about four nautical miles outside of the FOCS by fisheries patrol vessel Sigma. Longline fishing equipment was inside the zone. After boarding the vessel, Fisheries Protection Officer, Emma Jones noted that the GPS plotter showed the vessel being in a different position to the reading being given by the Sigma. The point was again made when entering Port William. The plotter on the Hong Jin showed them travelling overland on Mengeary Point. The court heard that the captain and company had been fully co-operative throughout the investigation. Senior Magistrate, Nick Sanders accepted that the infringement was relatively slight. But said the fact remained that the ship chose to lay its lines right up against the zone. A risk he called unjustified. The company was fined twenty five thousand pounds. The maximum penalty being twenty times that amount. They were also ordered to pay five hundred pounds towards the prosecution costs. The captain was also fined.

16: Following more than a year of secrecy, the plan to surprise Councillor Norma Edwards by transforming the hospital courtyard came to fruition.

The popular UK TV programme, Ground Force with well-known personalities, Alan, Charlie and Tommy worked non-stop from Friday until late afternoon on Sunday.

17: In March there were reports that more Magellanic penguin chicks were dying this year than usual.

This led to Falklands Conservation and the Fisheries Department investigating. From a post mortem of a dead chick, and analysing regurgitated food in their burrows, it seemed that lobster krill shells were making up their diet. Chicks usually feed on fish larvae and squid and can't digest krill shells, so they seemed to be starving to death. Dr Andrea Clausen from Falklands Conservation was looking into the problem: I think there are two possible explanations for why the Magellanic penguins have these large amounts of undigested Krill. They're regurgitating them. One explanation could be that there's a higher than normal amount of Lobster Krill in the water. The other reason could be that the species that they normally consume aren't in as high abundance as they normally are. The main two groups that they take are Loligo and unidentified fish Larvae.

18: There were a few famous visitors during March too.

Secretary of State for defence, Geoff Hoon was here. And so was Ben Fogle who shot to fame in the TV hit series Castaway. He'd been recording material for the Country file programme.

19: And the estimated cost of damage caused by the Fitzroy fire was said to be upwards of five thousand pounds.

Owen Summers told the Landholdings Board that about five miles of fencing was damaged and needed replacing. Bobby Short, the farmer who initially lit the fire that then got out of control was asked to fill in the ditches that were dug to stop the fire spreading.

20: And finally in March we reported that low catches of Illex were causing Jiggers to fish outside of the zone.

Fisheries said the bad season might have been due to a lack of hydrological fronts. Meaning that warm and cold water aren't mixing properly. So the squid spread out and the jiggers' lights can only draw in a small amount.

21: Following the death of the Queen Mother the governor sent a message to the Queen in early April.

He said that residents were deeply saddened to learn of the death. And by her dignity, grit, sense of duty and sense of humour she touched the lives of everyone. A memorial service was held in the Cathedral to commemorate her life.

22: And fire was in the news again.

Steeple Jason, the home to the largest black browed Albatross colony was burning. It was thought that the blaze was started by a lightning strike and came to life after heavy winds. Two fire fighters and a team from Falklands Conservation were fighting the fire.

23: And parents opposing changes to the school year said there were other options.

They were angry that the September start was the only idea being presented to them. Saying that decisions seemed to have already been made. But Director of Education, Sylvia Cole insisted that the proposal to change the school year was just that ? a recommendation.

24: And what was to be the start of a long journey for Dennis Middleton.

The FIDF had been called out to search for him after he hadn't returned home at the planned time. He was found lying on the ground injured and subsequently taken to the UK for treatment. Since then there have been many fundraisers with money going towards alterations to his home as he now has to use a wheelchair.

25: In May we reported on Government tightening the purse strings.

Following the dismal Illex season, contracts and buying equipment worth three million pounds was put on hold. We told you that they were also to delay a hundred thousand pounds worth of capital works, which were in the pipeline. With Ross Road, the MPA road and a slow down at east Stanley. The moves were being called prudent re-phasing and FIG insisted that they were not cutting budgets.

26: The big news in June was the 20th Anniversary Commemorations.

There was a thanksgiving service in the Cathedral. The Governor and Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the Chief of Joint Operations, the CBFFI, Councillors, and Members of the Armed Forces, Merchant Navy and FIDF were all there. The service was broadcast into the Parish Hall and the Royal Marines Band provided the musical accompaniment in the Cathedral. The ceremony at the Liberation monument started and despite the bad weather the parade carried on. After prayers, wreaths were laid by the governor and Minister for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram among many others. Following that the Freedom of the Falklands was presented to the Armed Forces.

27: And two very disappointed women, walking to raise money for SAMA and BLESMA had to give up because of bad weather.

Annie Pitaluga and Trudi Clarke were hoping to walk from Salvador into Stanley arriving on Liberation Day. The two did though; complete the feat at a later date.

28: In July we reported that the first oil exploration licences had been awarded by the government since 1996.

It was awarded to the Falklands Hydrocarbon Consortium and was for ten offshore licences in the southern area of the Falklands, covering a total of fifty seven thousand seven hundred square kilometres. The consortium comprises three companies, Global Petroleum with a fifty- percent share, Hardman Resources with thirty percent and Falkland Islands Holdings with the rest. David Hudd, Falkland Islands Holdings Chairman said that it was the largest ever award of oil exploration licences by the government in a previously unexplored province, with proven hydrocarbon potential.

29: In August the KEMH said it was to increase the number of people being sent to Chile for diagnosis.

Director of Health and Social Services explained that it's a more efficient process than sending everyone to the UK. In Chile people will be seen sooner and it also costs the government significantly less than the alternative. He said everyone would continue to go to the UK for treatment, but that some cases would be sent to the German hospital in Punta Arenas or the Clinica Magellanes in Santiago for initial diagnosis. On average the hospital sends between seventy and a hundred people overseas for treatment every year, under the reciprocal agreement with the UK. And costs Government around a hundred and fifty thousand pounds annually.

30: In September there was another agricultural issue in the news.

The ban on importing eggs from the Magallanes region in Chile was lifted ? but didn't include other poultry products. The DOA said they were satisfied that eggs may be imported from that region without undue risk to health. The prohibition followed the outbreak of chicken flu in July.

31: And FIDC had upset the Planning and Building Committee again.

Members were unhappy that work was started on the Philomel Store without them giving permission. In light of which, the Environmental Planning Officer, Tony Lancaster wrote to them. They'd applied to change the use of the upper floor to offices, which would have new windows put in. The committee agreed that new doors and windows had to be okayed by the EPO as they said some of the work carried out didn't match the style of the building.

32: And more farming controversy in September when Goose Green was the scene of what was alleged to be carnage by some farmers.

Twenty-seven cattle out of a hundred and seventy five that were moved from Fitzroy to Goose Green were shot. It was thought they were in very poor condition, which was why the decision was made. In a response from Falkland Landholdings Greg Bradfield said that the cattle were old and in poor condition due to the dry season and cold winter. He admitted that three of the cows had been in the AI programme, but didn't appear ready to calve on the due date in October. On reflection he said it would have been better to have carried out the task at Fitzroy but wouldn't have been practical as the cattle were mainly in the MPA area. Brian Aldridge, said Mr Bradfield, had over twenty years experience in farming in the Falklands and hew was concerned that if they weren't humanely destroyed it would have become a serious animal welfare issue.

33: Camp fires were back in the news yet again in October.

With the summers season just around the corner a working group was set up to implement some precautionary measures. With the aim of looking at changes to the legislation the group was trying to figure out the best ways to cope with the problem. One of these was to apply for a written permit. But why? Philip Miller:It's basically needed because legislation can't actually be enforced orally, over the telephone. It has to be written and signed by the director of Agriculture. Lee Hazell: So can people ring you up and then will you send a form? Peter Johnston:The exact workings of it haven't been determined yet. That's with the Attorney Generals Department now. It's something that will be pretty simple and practical but it has to be more formal than a verbal response over the phone and that's for legal purposes basically. Lee Hazell:What'll happen if people do start a fire on their land and it burns out of control? Peter Johnston:The existing ordinance does provide for fires that are deliberately lit without following procedures. I imagine that those sorts of parts will be looked at as well and may be refined and penalties put in place. I know that the fine at the moment is fifty pounds, which is a little bit out of date. Lee Hazell:If a fire goes onto someone else's land could a claim be put in for compensation? Phillip Miller:That is the biggest worry. Of course we had one last year. The classic one was the one that burnt out from Wineglass Station and burnt Fitzroy ground and some fencing. And that's what we'd like to try and get some cover on. Peter Johnston:Legislation is one means of doing this, it's the least palatable. What we're trying to achieve is people becoming more informed about fires that others are planning to light, and secondly to ensure that common sense prevails when fires are lit. Director of Agriculture Peter Johnston and Councillor Phillip Miller:

34: And the Queen received her Jubilee Table.

Councillor Roger Edwards who was accompanied by Sukey Cameron presented it to the Queens Assistant private secretary at Buckingham Palace. Along with the table was a letter giving the story of the making of the tapestry and a copy of the signatures of those who took part in the project.

35: The main news in November was the pilgrimage by two hundred and seventeen members of SAMA.

The 1982 veterans, family of those who were died here, and a press party arrived onboard an Air 2000 chartered aircraft on the seventh. During their time here they attended services at several of the battle sights and the Remembrance Sunday commemorations. Many of them stayed with local people and were taken around the Islands by resident drivers. It was a very poignant visit with noticeable changes in many of the veterans, and has been described as very important too by people who were living here during the war in 1982. Hundreds of people turned up to say goodbye when they left the Islands a week later. On that morning former Chairman of the South Atlantic Medal Association, Dr Rick Jolly made a special presentation to the people of the Falklands. In the confusion after the war, some people were probably not rewarded as they should have been. It's a very unsettling business. Twenty years later some of that still wrangles. We're here to heal. We feel that it would have been an imaginative gesture by Her Majesty's Government to award the Islands with the South Atlantic Medal. It didn't happen, but we now have an opportunity to correct that. So we asked Her Majesty's permission to go to the Royal Mint and strike in pure silver the obverse and reverse of the South Atlantic Medal. And here it is, it's unique. It's hallmarked by the Royal Mint and apart from the one in the archives of the Royal Mint, because they must keep a copy, this is the only one. There is a gold one which some of you may have heard about, which we brought with us and have taken to all the major battlefield sites, and they went for a ride in a Tornado. And they are going to see the Queen and be part of her collection at Windsor Castle at the end of this month. But this is to all the Islanders who were part of that resistance in 1982. Yes we're sorry we were so long in coming. Seventy-four days isn't too bad. But we admire your fortitude and courage. There are very few people in this world who have lost their freedom and then regained it. Back home we know there are people who've never known the restrictions of an invasion. Being spotted on, being mentally raped in that sense. Not free to go where you want under the sovereign who you wish to have as your ruler. There are still people in Holland who can remember that from the Second World War. Your courage, your resistance and our honour and delight to bring the freedom back to you is summarised with this gift for you. And remember too the motto of the South Atlantic Medal Association ? from the sea freedom. We give this to his Excellency the Governor on behalf of all of you in the Islands. And we ask that these be displayed somewhere appropriate so that all Islanders have access to it. Particularly that the children understand what their parents went through and what the veterans, and we only represent a small fraction of those who came to free you, think about you and our love for you. He recently stood down as Chairman of SAMA and has been replaced by Martin Reed who was also here with the November Pilgrimage.

36: There was also a Royal visit in November.

The Duke of York, himself a veteran of 82' arrived in Stanley by helicopter, greeted by a crowd of people at the Football Pitch. He took part in the ceremonies that were held to commemorate the fallen and laid a wreath at the Argentine Cemetery at Darwin. Prince Andrew had a packed schedule whilst here, travelling all around the Islands, and took the opportunity to meet many of the population during a public reception. Governor Donald Lamont said that he'd had good feedback about the Duke's visit.

37: Well we've almost reached the end of our journey back through 2002. There were many, many more stories in the headlines ? but only a small selection can be fitted into half an hour. It was a quiet year on the Argentine front and a busy one with all the visitors. A sign, perhaps of a country that looks forward, with interest to the future. I'd like to finish the programme by welcoming someone who arrived in the Islands in December.

Governor Howard Pearce took over the reins from Donald Lamont at the start of the month. During a welcoming reception at the FIDF Club he told people there how he'd always wanted to work here. And how he was hoping to travel around the Islands during the next three years.

We're now just three days away from the first of January, so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year from the FIBS News Team. May 2003 bring everything you hope for.

I'm Corina Goss, goodbye.

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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