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Royal Honour for Falklands' Champion

Saturday, June 17th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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One of the Falkland Islands most energetic legislators and champion of Islander resistance to Argentina's territorial claims has received an award in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours.

Former Councillor Norma Edwards who served for almost twenty years on the Falkland Islands' Legislative Council has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) in recognition of her services to the Falklands community.

Norma is a Falkland Islander born and bred whose family epitomises the best qualities of the Islanders ? hardworking, conscientious, and outspoken in defending Falklands values and democratic way of life against Argentine pressure.

She is an adamant critic of Argentine Government policies aimed at securing sovereignty over the Islands. "I do not trust them", she says. "They have no real claim to the Falkland Islands".

Her family is an example of how the Islanders have kept faith with the British Task Force and especially the servicemen who died in the liberation of the Islands from Argentine invasion in 1982.

War hero husband

After education in the Islands, Norma trained and worked as a nurse and hospital sister in England, where she met her husband, then a Royal Navy helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Commander Roger Edwards. He volunteered to join the Task Force, serving with courage and distinction in daring assignments as a liaison officer with the elite SAS in 1982. With previous experience of the region as an officer on the ice patrol vessel, HMS Endurance, he played a key role in the liberation of South Georgia, the Pebble Island raid to destroy Argentine Pucara attack aircraft, and a preliminary diversionary raid on Goose Green.

The family returned to the Falklands in 1983 when Roger Edwards was posted there and Norma became a knowledgeable link helping to build the remarkable rapport which exists between the civilian community and the British garrison.

Norma volunteered to work free at Stanley hospital as part of her campaign to secure equal pay for Islanders doing similar professional work as expatriate contract workers. She also campaigned for help for Falklands families who bought sheep farms only to suffer from steep falls in wool prices.

Campaigning Councillor

She served for nearly 20 years as a councillor both for Stanley and for the rural areas known as the Camp, helping to implement vital economic, fishing, farming and educational reforms.

She was instrumental in gaining valuable revenue from fish catch transhipment in Falklands' waters and was a member of the 1987 council which established a fishing zone leading to an era of unprecedented prosperity.

She and her fellow councillors pursued ambitious education policies which finance pupils in higher education, university and vocational courses in the United Kingdom. Their own two daughters have proved the value of these policies by gaining university degrees, their elder daughter Emma becoming a teacher, and Rebecca, the first ever woman doctor from the Falklands, now both working back in the Islands where Norma and Roger run Lake Sullivan farm and a wood-carving business.

Critic of 1999 Anglo-Argentine accord

As a Councillor, she was the most outspoken critic of the 1999 Anglo-Argentine agreement which she claimed was rushed through without full consideration. Her fears have been borne out by events. The agreement was supposed to enhance co-operation with the Islanders on conservation of vital fish stocks and provide regular flights from Chile. The agreement ended a general ban on Argentine visits to the Islands, permitted erection of a monument to their war dead at Darwin cemetery, and required the Argentines to consider dropping their insistence on using Argentine instead of English place names in the Islands.

While the Islanders have abided by the agreement, the Argentines have breached it over fishing co-operation, banned charter flights over their territory from Chile to damage the tourist industry, and still persist in using Argentine place names.

Norma Edwards resigned from the Legislative Council in advance of last year's general election.

Harold Briley, London.

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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