Despite a resounding ‘no’ nine years ago, from the Falklands’ Camp (rural) community, to the idea of a single voting constituency, the Islands government has agreed that the question will be asked again.
Member of Legislative Council, and a Camp representative, Sharon Halford, who at the recent meeting of the Legislative Assembly introduced the motion that a referendum on the subject be held prior to the next General Election, asked the question that in the light of continued population decline in Camp, was it a sustainable option for the future to continue with the split constituency system?
MLA Halford claimed the division was unnecessary bearing in mind that once elected, Members worked for the betterment of the Falklands as a whole.
She suggested that a number of her constituents would have preferred to be able to vote for the entire Assembly and not just three of the eight.
While the Assembly agreed to hold a referendum all Members do not support Halford’s views.
MLA Luxton, also a Camp representative, felt an eventual ‘yes’ vote might lead to the rural community being “unrepresented” saying he would campaign vigorously for a ‘no’ vote. He said he did not think it was, “…an artificial division, there is a very clear division between the way people live and think.”
MLA Luxton believes that individuals living in the Falklands capital Stanley “lose the awareness of what is going on out there.”
East Falklands’ farmer Ben Berntsen agreed saying, “We will always need an experienced Samp person to represent our views and see things in a realistic way.”
From West Falklands, Nigel Knight commented, “I think the Single constituency is a bad idea. I realize that some Stanley MLA's do work on behalf of Camp residents but I do not think there is any substitute or other way of appreciating the problems of living and working in Camp (especially West Falklands and the outer islands) than residing there.”
Stanley man Tim Miller feels such fears are unfounded saying, “We think it is an excellent idea and overdue. The current three for Camp five for Stanley is distorted in favour of Camp and if anything leads to allegations of excess membership power.
“The place is too small and no longer is the population evenly spread as in the past. You often get ex campers representing Stanley anyway.
“All members vote on all issues and those who stand are not idiots - they know the Falklands is a ‘whole’ and we need to look after and keep the ‘whole’ Islands going.
“With a single constituency you could easily end up with four or five elected and living in Camp - so what - as long as we all had a say in voting for them. We have often wanted to vote for one or two campers in preference to all of the five Stanley candidates on offer”.
Another observer commented, “It seems a strange idea to have single constituency because the amended Islands Plan singles out Camp, and devotes an entire policy to its preservation and development, so it seems reasonable to presume that it would also apply to the matter of constituencies.
“Also the Economic Development Strategy is going to be developed separately from the Rural Development Strategy because in fact there are issues that are very particular to the Camp in terms of how they effect decisions about investment and suchlike.
“When you look at government’s most important strategies- the Islands plan and the EDS its clear that Elected Members have already recognized that the social and economic development of Camp should be managed separately from Stanley to reflect Camp’s specific circumstances - why shouldn’t the political development of Camp not also be representative?
The single constituency will only go ahead if the referendum results in two thirds of the Stanley electorate and two thirds of the Camp electorate vote in favour.
Nine years ago 49% of the Stanley electorate voted ‘no’ as did a massive 78% of the Camp electorate.
The last referendum on the subject was considered ‘advisory’ and not a final decision, (however, representatives followed the wishes of the majority of the electorate.) In this case MLA Halford made it clear in her speech relating to the Motion that it was very much, “up to the people.”
According to the 2006 census, the Falklands population was 2.478 (Stanley 2.155 and the Camp 363). The 2001 census number is 2.379 (1.989 and 390).
By Lisa Watson – SeAledPR – Stanley