The night of “show-biz” glitz, light-shows, orchestrated crowds and even musical allusions, that surrounded Tuesday night’s announcement on the Falklands by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez from the Casa Rosada has left Falkland Islanders on the streets of Stanley feeling slightly bemused at the scenes, considered by many to be more reminiscent of the half-time entertainment at a Super-Bowl than a political debate.
The political hype and news black-out prior to the announcement had lead many to fear that further sanctions would be added to the Argentine attempts to intimidate and economically isolate the tiny population of the Falklands, who have struggled to build the Falklands from uninhabited islands over the last 180 years. A policy referred to by one Argentine academic as akin to “a juggernaut bearing down on a bicycle”.
The Chilean community resident on the Islands was particularly concerned that the weekly LAN flight to Chile might have been suspended, a threat announced last year at the UN which still hangs over the Islands, which would have separated them from families.
Rather once the rhetoric, aimed at flaming nationalist sentiment, has been stripped aside it seems little new has been said. To continue the musical analogies, it was a composition based on the old tunes, played over and over as the encore, and guaranteed to get the crowds exited and singing along. As such it seems to be targeted at distracting the domestic audience, a ploy that the administration has previously placed at others’ doors.
Indeed many aspects of the speech were welcomed in the Falklands.
There was general consensus amongst those spoken to that the greater provision of health care and recognition of the mental health issues relating to Argentine veterans of the 1982 conflict is only to be encouraged. Even during the Argentine occupation of the Islands in 1982 many Falkland Islanders showed humanitarian compassion, manifest by small acts of kindness, to Argentine conscripts badly clothed, poorly fed and mistreated by superior officers. There was agreement that the problems faced upon their return have been too long ignored, although there was concern that yet again their plight is being used for political gain.
Following Cristina Fernandez’s announcement that Argentina would be filing a formal complaint before the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, Dick Sawle, a member of the legislature of the Falkland Islands, speaking on radio said he welcomed Argentina's plan to protest to the UN.
The reason why I welcome that is that the United Nations ought to look at the decisions it has made in the past which favour self-determination. I think that the British government is absolutely right to back that fundamental right that we have to self-determination, and this is the cornerstone of the UN of course.
He added that Falkland Islanders do not wish to be taken over in any way, shape or form by Argentina. That is absolutely fundamental.
This sentiment was reiterated by UK government sources,
The people of the Falkland islands are British out of choice. They are free to determine their own future and there will be no negotiations with Argentina on sovereignty unless the islanders wish it. Their right to self-determination is a principle that is enshrined in the UN charter.
By Grant Munro – SeAledPR - Stanley