The construction of a permanent Memorial at the Argentine War Cemetery at Darwin on East Falklands, in memory of Argentines killed in the 1982 conflict, has taken another step forward.
Ken McKenzie, Managing Director of the company AWG Construction Services Falklands Ltd. said in Port Stanley, that a contract worth around $US 160.000 has been signed by his company and Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, the organization which is responsible for designing and producing the Memorial. It's understood that building the Memorial in Buenos Aires cost one million US dollars, and was reported to be mostly funded by an Argentine businessman Mr. Eurnekian.
The size of the Memorial had to agree with dimensions requested by the Falkland Islands Government's Planning & Building Committee on which several elected Councillors sit.
According to Councillor Mike Summers, despite the current Argentine Government's recent 'bullying and threatening' attitude, the Falklands Government have no intention of putting obstacles in the way of the construction of the Memorial at Darwin. "It has been suggested to us by a few people that we should respond to the Argentine Government's interference in our economy by introducing some form of delaying tactics, but we consider that the Memorial is for humanitarian reasons, and also was agreed under the 1999 Joint Statement, so we will not retaliate", insisted Councillor Summers.
The Argentine Government has recently banned charter flights to the Islands from Santiago by the airline Lan Chile, and urged Argentine fishing vessels to operate just outside the Falklands zone, so damaging the migratory squid stocks. A request for a direct air link between Buenos Aires and the Islands has been rejected by the Falklands Government.
It is anticipated that the Memorial will arrive in the Islands around the 20th January but it's likely to be mid-March before the project is completed and the official consecration of the Memorial can take place. An Argentine engineer is expected to represent the client and supervise the work which will take around 8 weeks to complete. The Memorial will contain the names of all 649 Argentines killed during the 10 weeks war.
234 Argentines are buried in the small cemetery at Darwin. Most of these died during the battles for Darwin and the mountains of Longdon, Harriet, Two Sisters and Tumbledown.
The cost of erecting the Memorial at Darwin has decreased considerably from an original estimated cost of $US 500.000, mainly because all the foundations have been pre-cast in Buenos Aires, so reducing the amount of work which AWG will be required to undertake in the Islands "We will be responsible for digging holes and dropping the tubular foundations which have adjustable taps to ensure that they are level", said Ken McKenzie. He added, "The contract allows for 56 days to completion, and I anticipate that we will complete the work by mid-March".
However the lack of a mobile crane to off-load the massive blocks, from a ship, when they arrive in Port Stanley, may yet delay the arrival of the Memorial. Said Mr. McKenize, "It's been made clear through the British Embassy in Buenos Aires that an Argentine registered vessel, carrying the Memorial to the Islands, will not be acceptable, so I understand that officials of Aeropuertos Argentinos 2000 are looking to hire a Panamanian ship with a suitable crane for off-loading purposes".
Councillor Summers confirmed that there has been no dialogue between the Argentine and Falklands Governments, through the British Ambassador Sir Robin Christopher, to approve the attendance of any Argentine officials, at the unveiling of the Memorial at Darwin. "We have made it very clear that anyone from any Country attending the ceremony, will have to have their passport stamped by our Immigration authorities - and that includes all Argentines", said the Stanley Councillor.
Meanwhile Ken McKenzie said that just one person, employed by AWG, had "indicated a preference not to be involved with the construction of the Argentine Memorial at Darwin. We have made it clear that if anyone else does not want to work on the site then their position with the company will not be in jeopardy. We respect the fact that some employees of AWG, Islanders or ex-patriates, might not wish to be associated with the Memorial", said Mr. McKenzie.
It's anticipated that just 6-8 men will be required to work on the site once the Memorial arrives in the Falklands.
Bill Brown - MercoPress - Port Stanley.