Falkland Islands governor Alan Huckle in his Christmas message described the new constitution which becomes effective next January first as a democracy and accountability milestone for the Islands.
But Governor Huckle also warned of hard times ahead, --probably the next two years--, and the need for savings in the coming budget process, which will require "no easy options". The prospects of oil exploration resumption in Falklands waters in the coming two years was also mentioned, as well as the United Kingdom's support for the Falklands' ambition of developing a successful hydrocarbons sector. "And internationally the UK Government remains as firm as ever in protecting British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands", reassured Governor Huckle. Finally he asked for "real appreciation and gratitude" for the work of those who contribute to the public good. This can be seen as an upbeat support for the local law enforcement station which was involved in a serious failing related to a drugs bust. Follows the full text of the message:THE NEW YEAR will mark an important milestone in bringing in the new Constitution on January 1. It is a significant step in local democracy and accountability. The Constitution is perhaps not the most riveting document to read, but it is important since it sets out the system of government that applies here – and is a further move towards full internal self-government in the Territory. We still have work to do in agreeing the procedures for the new Public Accounts Committee and for the job of Complaints Commissioner, as well as drafting the necessary implementing legislation, but these should all be in place well before the Assembly elections on November 5. Christmas is a time for family and friends and for the exchange of gifts and good cheer. I hope that all will be able to celebrate without too much heed of the global economic downturn. But we shall not be wholly immune from the impact of global recession. Even without it, the need to examine ways of dealing with the budgetary pressures on government finances was becoming increasingly clear. Government departments are now being asked to find real savings in their recurrent expenditure for the next budgetary round – and the various Green Papers that have and will be issued by the Government seek views on other ways to ease the financial situation. Over the next two years, some major choices will have to be made about the levels of public services and the levels and sources of government revenues if government is to meet the targets of the medium-term financial plan and not slip into a sustained period of budgetary deficit. There will be no easy options. The situation demands political leadership by elected representatives. But it also requires community acceptance that something will have to be done. We cannot carry on as before, unheeding. The next two years may also see a resumption of oil exploration in our waters, or at least progress to renewed drilling. The government is rightly not counting on any possibility of oil revenues in its budgetary forecasting but we need to prepare, one way or the other. London is in the process of agreeing terms of reference for a study to see what further contingency planning may be necessary– and has given a firm reassurance that the UK Government will continue to support Islander ambitions for the development of a successful hydrocarbons sector in the Falklands. And internationally the UK Government remains as firm as ever in protecting British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. This is the time of year when we should recognise the work being done on our behalf by those who provide public services for the benefit of the community. We take many things for granted from our public servants without really acknowledging their efforts, often in difficult and testing conditions. And where there are failings, as over the safeguarding of the seized drugs, the key is to put in corrective measures to prevent the possibility of the same thing ever happening again. To those who demand instant retribution, I have to say that the Chief Executive will decide in the light of the former Senior Magistrate's report, when received, whether or not to institute further enquiries and/or disciplinary proceedings, either under the Management Code, or the Police Ordinance. Alison Thompson's report may not, therefore, be the only step in the process. So, I hope that you will all join me in expressing real appreciation and gratitude for the work of those who contribute to the public good and particularly those who have to remain on duty whilst the rest of us relax over this holiday period. Let us look forward to a happy and prosperous New Year and work together in making it so. Alan Huckle, Governor Falkland Islands