Falkland Islanders preparing to exercise their right to self-determination in a landmark democratic vote next March were pledged overwhelming support by the Falkland Islands Association at its annual general meeting in London on Saturday presided over by its chairman, Mr Alan Huckle, a former Governor of the Islands.
Main topics of the meeting were condemnation of Argentina’s aggressive economic actions against the Islands, measures to counter its misleading version of the history of the dispute, the developing Falklands economy with the prospect of its first oil flowing ashore in 2017, and tributes to Sir Rex Hunt, Governor during the 1982 invasion and chairman of the Association for many years, who died in November.
The meeting opened with these tributes. Mr Huckle quoted the Falkland Islands Government’s (FIG) sadness and tributes praising Sir Rex as a champion of the Islanders. In his report on the Association’s year, Mr Huckle condemned what the British Government officially regards as Argentina’s illegal economic blockade of the Islands. He recalled the attendance of the first British Prime Minister at the annual FIG reception in June commemorating the Islands’ liberation from Argentine occupation in 1982 and Mr David Cameron’s forceful reiteration of the United Kingdom’s absolute commitment to defence of the Islands and support for self-determination.
This theme was vigorously reinforced by the Chairman of the All-Party Falkland Islands Group in Parliament, Mr Andrew Rosindell, MP, who said the Islands had the support not only of the British Government and Parliament but also the British people. “The Islanders”, he declared, “have nothing to fear…I have no doubt the Falkland Islands will remain British forever”. He is conducting a campaign distributing leaflets to educate schoolchildren and their teachers about the Falkland Islands and the other British overseas territories. He presented the Association with a portrait of the Queen, pointing out that she is the Queen of no fewer than 48 realms around the world.
Mr Rosindell said he and other MPs recently met the Argentine Ambassador to Britain, Alicia Castro, whom he described as “a feisty lady…blind to reality” over self-determination. “She just does not get it”, he observed.
A Member of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, Mrs Jan Cheek, reporting on the busy 30th anniversary year, condemned Argentina’s increasingly aggressive economic and transport restrictions and the cancellation of some cruise ship visits under pressure from Argentina. She said the Islanders were making progress in South America and elsewhere in countering Argentina’s misleading version of the history of the sovereignty dispute. She said there was cautious optimism over the prospects for oil production with the first oil expected to come ashore in 2017. Already oil development activities are making a substantial contribution to the Islands finances. She emphasised the Falkland Islands would do all they could to protect the pristine environment and wildlife from any harm.
Mr Huckle remarked that there was great faith in the youth of the Islands when he announced the winner of the annual Bill Hunter-Christie prize in memory of a founder member and long-time chairman of the Association. The winner is Sonia Arkhipkin studying medicine at Leeds University, who was presented with a collection of medical books by his widow, Merle Christie. Russian-born Sonia was four-years old when her parents emigrated to work in the Islands as marine biologists.
The audience of politicians, veterans of 1982, and supporters included a group of young Islanders who are taking an increasingly high profile and articulate role in presenting the Falklands case for self-determination internationally at the United Nations and elsewhere, backed by a new booklet entitled “Our Islands, Our Home” outlining their views.
Association Secretary Colin Wright reported its healthy membership and finances. An appeal has launched for support for Stanley Museum and the Jane Cameron Archives.
The meeting was preceded by the annual Battle Day ceremony and wreath-laying at London’s historic Cenotaph, commemorating the First World War 1914 Battle of the Falklands against the German Navy and subsequent conflicts.
Wreaths remembering the dead were laid on behalf of the Association and other organisations. Wreath layers included Rear Admiral Nick Lambert, former Captain of the South Atlantic patrol ship HMS Endurance, for the Armed Forces; Legislative Assembly members Jan Cheek and Sharon Halford for the Falkland Islands Government; Mrs Sara Jones, widow of Colonel H. Jones, VC, killed in the battle for Goose Green, for the Falklands Families Association; Colonel Mike Bowles for the South Atlantic Medal Association; for the Young People of the Falklands by Krysteen Ormond, Stacy Bragger and Zoran Zuvic Bulic, resplendent in the uniform of the Falkland Islands Defence Force; and Mr. Andrew Rosindell MP on behalf of the UK Falkland Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group.
The service was conducted by Canon Stephen Palmer, former rector of Stanley Christ Church Cathedral; also taking part were a Royal Marine Bugler and a navy cadet colour party from Pangbourne College where the 1982 Memorial Chapel is located.
Harold Briley, London