The scheduled Saturday LAN flight, LA992 departing from Mount Pleasant Airport in the Falkland Islands to Chile with a call in Argentina, was delayed for an hour and a half after a total of fourteen live rounds and 95 empty casings were found in the hold and hand luggage of several passengers.
Falklands' lawmaker MLA Mike Summers told Penguin News on Wednesday that taking firearms, component parts, live ammunition or spent cartridges on to an aircraft without appropriate permission was prohibited.
“You can’t do it, it is against the law. Against Air Navigation Order provisions and against Falklands Law,” he said.
Chief of Police Len McGill, confirmed that it was also an offence to be in possession of ammunition without a valid firearms licence.
Then why were those passengers found to be in possession of illegal items not detained rather than let board the flight?
“Because those involved were not sufficiently clear on what they should have done in the circumstances. They will be entirely clear from here on in” said MLA Summers.
He said that attempting to take any of the items mentioned on to an aircraft without appropriate certification was a criminal offence. “In future the Collector of Customs if he thinks that the threshold has been reached, will call the police who will remove any such individual and their luggage from the flight and conduct their enquiries.”
The maximum penalty for committing such an offence is an unlimited fine and imprisonment for up to two years.
MLA Summers said that there were gaps in people’s understanding of what they could and should have done in the circumstances.
“To be fair, it was brought to light by an earlier incident. We were working through the process to see what was the best way to fix it when last week’s incident occurred.”
No new law is required to enforce the new protocol which is currently with the relevant departments and there is also a better understanding of how some laws apply, he said.
“The Attorney General has briefed police only in the last couple of days on the application of that particular piece of law, which makes a significant difference,” said MLA Summers.
He explained that the first passenger to pass through personal security on Saturday was found to have a significant number of items that couldn’t be taken onto the aircraft.
This caused a delay right at the beginning, so security officers decided to take all the passengers destined for Rio Gallegos out of the queue and process everyone else first. It was their perception that this was where the principal problem was, said MLA Summers.
The scheduled Saturday LAN flight links MPA with Punta Arenas in extreme south of Chile, but once a month calls in Rio Gallegos, Argentina as a result of the UK/Argentina/Falklands agreement of 1999.
Attempting to take prohibited items on board aircraft did not only affect the LAN flights, but had also been an issue on the Falklands/Brize Norton Royal Air Force air bridge recently.
In terms of policing Argentine veterans and others while in the Falklands which has been a cause for concern among some residents recently, “there is a lot more goes on than many people realize,” said MLA Summers.
“Just because somebody phones the police, but does not immediately see someone face down in the street with an arm up his back, does not mean nothing is happening,” said MLA Summers adding that he thought this was important for people to understand.
“Occasionally amongst the visitors there are I think some fantasists, Walter Mitty types, who think they are coming to reclaim their land, but they are just dreamers, and they provide no threat to the Falkland Islands or the people here” he concluded.