”We have a right to live in peace, in freedom and to determine our own future”. “We have a right to live in peace, we have a right to our freedom and above all we have a right to determine our own future”, Falkland Islands elected lawmaker, MLA Ian Hansen told the United Nations decolonization committee or C24 on Wednesday, in New York.
In his petition MLA Hansen offered the C24 a summary of the Falklands inclusive and multicultural society and its flourishing economy, underlining that his family has been living in the Falklands for 175 years.
Based on this report and the wishes of the Falklands' people, MLA Hansen extended the C24 a formal invitation to visit the Islands and witness in situ the political, social and economic developments described, so that you can properly understand the subject matter before you.
Follows the full address of MLA Ian Hansen to the UN Special Committee on the situation with regard to the implementation of the declaration of the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples.
Mr Chairman, Honorable delegates, C24 members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor for me to stand here to address this committee as a sixth generation Falkland Islander, and to speak on behalf of my fellow Islanders who wish to remain a free, confident and successful community. My colleague and I would like to give you a true description of our country, and to re-confirm that we are not a colony of the United Kingdom, but an internal self-governing Overseas Territory.
More than 3.500 people from more than 60 countries live and work in the Falkland Islands, which proves beyond doubt that we have an inclusive and multicultural society. People have come to the Falklands over many, many years and made the Falklands their home. My own ancestors arrived over 175 years ago to settle. The name Hansen is of Scandinavian origin and there are many other families still in the Falklands today who can trace their ancestors back to many different countries of origin.
Our culture is based upon the diverse, shared heritages of the different nationalities who have settled in the Falkland Islands. We continue to grow and to welcome new people who share our values and democratic ideals.
Therefore, I find it impossible to comprehend how anyone could refer to us as an implanted population sent from the UK, as we are often described by the Government of Argentina. The Argentine claim to our Islands is unfounded and unwelcome.
We are a peaceful people who only wish to be left to our own devices to continue to develop our country. Indeed, our desire to do just that was highlighted in March 2013, when a referendum was held (under international scrutiny) asking the people of the Falklands if they wished to remain as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. An overwhelming 99.8% of a 92% turnout voted to retain that status. Our relationship with the United Kingdom is modern one, based upon partnership, shared values and upholding our right to self-determination.
Our right to the principle of self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 1 of the Charter clearly draws the link between respect for the principle of self-determination and the strengthening of universal peace. The right to self-determination is entrenched in article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. In its practice the 4th Committee of the UN General Assembly has upheld the applicability of the principle of self-determination. The United Nations has never explicitly stated that this fundamental right does not apply to Falkland Islanders.
It is difficult to even begin to understand why any country would wish to remove that fundamental right of self-determination from another territory. No people should be subjugated against their will, or have their people, their governance or their natural resources under the control of another country against their wishes. This is a fundamental human right.
The Falkland Islands Constitution Chapter 1 Section 1 contains the following:
a) all peoples have the right to self-determination, and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources—
b) the realization of the right to self-determination must be promoted and respected in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
Fundamental rights such as these are what you would expect to see in any well-developed democracy, under the rule of law.
Although relations between the United Kingdom and the Government of Argentina are arguably better than they have been for many years, our situation regarding Argentina’s sovereignty claim over our country remains the same.
Mr Chairman, Honorable delegates, why would we wish to change our way of life? We make our own laws and directly regulate all industry activities within our territory.
For example, we have an Exclusive Economic Zone around our Islands to regulate and manage our offshore fisheries to the highest international standards. Our fisheries industry now contributes around 44% of GDP and over £18 million annually to our Government revenues. This year saw the highest Loligo squid catch in the first part of the fishing season since 1995.
Income from wool and meat sales from the Agricultural sector continues to increase; we have just experienced the best summer for pasture growth in years and wool prices are at record levels. Tourism also continues to flourish with more cruise ships and passengers arriving to our shores annually. In the past season alone we saw an increase in leisure tourism of 14.9%, welcoming over 70,000 people to our shores.
Sensible and responsible legislation for hydrocarbons are in place to ensure that our environment is protected while any offshore exploration activities take place and we work closely with our scientific and conservation partners to help to preserve our natural resources for future generations.
Our population continues to increase and our expenditure this year on capital projects to benefit our community is of the highest level ever. We are investing £46.7 million in developing our infrastructure and essential services, so that we continue to prosper far into the future.
The term ‘colony’ may have applied in the 1950’s and 1960’s but that is certainly not the case today. We receive no direct financial aid from the UK apart from defense. We would not require that if Argentina were to withdraw their unfounded claim over our country.
You will undoubtedly hear assertions later today that we, Falkland Islanders, are not a people and therefore not entitled to self- determination. This not only comes from Argentine politicians, but from speakers here today who have no real idea of what the Falklands Islands have achieved as a small country and will continue to achieve in the future. This contrived position is designed only to deny this most fundamental of human rights to Falkland Islanders.
My colleague and I stand here today to deliver our addresses to this Committee, supported by our electorate, not as puppets to a country which has aspirations to force another territory to yield to unreasonable demands. We have a right to live in peace, we have a right to our freedom and above all we have a right to determine our own destiny.
Mr Chairman, honorable delegates, I hope this brief address gives you the true picture of the Falkland Islands and the wishes of its people. I extend a formal invitation, to invite this Committee to visit our country and witness for yourselves the political, social and economic developments that I have described to you so that you can properly understand the subject matter before you.
In conclusion I again ask this Committee to ignore the false claims presented by Argentina, and support our wishes to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and not become a colony of the Government of Argentina, as is the correct role of this Committee.
Mr Chairman I thank you for this opportunity to make this address.
Falklands agree colonialism must be eradicated in all its manifestations, no people should be subjugated said MLA Roger Edwards.
The Falkland Islands wholeheartedly agree that colonialism must be eradicated in all its manifestations, that no people should be subjugated against their will, or have their people, their governance or their natural resources under the control of another country, against their wishes, member of the Legislative Assembly, Roger Edwards said before the United Nations C24 decolonization committee on Wednesday.
MLA Edwards added that the Falklands are not a colony of the United Kingdom but an Overseas Territory that has long since progressed beyond colonial status, and through our own, internationally observed, referendum we have expressed our clear wish to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom with Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state.
In a summary of centuries of South Atlantic history, MLA Edwards pointed out that in effect the Falklands have been a British territory for over 250 years and, over the past 185 years of continuous and peaceful settlement, our population has grown into a unique Island people with the right of self-determination as prescribed in the Charter of the United Nations.
MLA Edwards also referred to improved relations, and less rhetoric from Argentina under president Mauricio Macri including fisheries conservation talks, the identification of unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Argentine military cemetery of Darwin and military based in the Islands helped with the unsuccessful search for the, sadly still missing, submarine ARA San Juan.
Follows MLA Roger Edwards address to the United Nations Special Committee on the situation with regard to the implementation of the declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, or UN Committee of 24.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the UN Decolonization Committee, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very happy to be here to address you once again on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government of the Falkland Islands and the people of the Falkland Islands. The reason I stress the fact that we are ‘Her Majesty’s Government of the Falkland Islands’ will become clear later in my intervention.
Mr Chairman, I believe the Falkland Islanders, with their rich heritage and such a diverse ethnic society, meet all the requirements of the Charter of the United Nations to the right of self-determination and have met the terms to be delisted as expressed in 1970 as the fourth option. In 185 years the people have grown politically, economically and culturally to now be accepted as a people in their own right.
When first discovered the Falkland Islands had no indigenous people: it did have a vast array of rich wildlife that was later to be exploited but it had no people. I raise this because, once again, I hope to make the point clear later in this speech.
Mr Chairman, you will hear later from both members of the Committee and member states that the Falkland Islands is populated by an implanted population to further the colonial aspirations of the administering power. This is not correct. You will hear how Argentine settlers were brutally forced out by military intervention of the administering power. They were not. You will no doubt hear that having the Islands populated as they are today is a breach of the Territorial Integrity of Argentina. It is not. Furthermore, claims will be made that there is a growth in military power in the Falkland Islands leading to a militarization of the South West Atlantic. There is not.
These falsehoods and others like them were first offered up to the United Nations by Jose Maria Ruda in his impassioned speech in 1965 during a period of political turmoil back home in Argentina. Indeed, this was the first serious claim by Argentina in almost twenty years. Although Argentina states regularly that its claim to the Falkland Islands runs continuously from the 1820’s it simply does not. Their claim is based on Spanish succession, which was never accepted by the United Kingdom, was effectively ended by treaty in 1850 and, following on from this treaty, several Argentine leaders stated that they had no dispute with Britain thereby nullifying this particular claim.
Later you will be told by the ‘expert’ Luis Vernet that his great great grandfather had been appointed Governor of the Falkland Islands and had been given a land grant in the 1820’s. He had indeed been given a land concession by the Governments of the Province of Buenos Aires but this was later ruled null and void by the Government of Argentina in 1882 and he had been granted the unpaid position of Commandante Politico y Militar, a rank somewhat beneath Governor, by the, very brief, illegitimate Government of Juan Lavelle in 1829. Vernet, in July 1831, seized three United States sealers. The Americans had been sealing in the southern oceans for decades. Vernet left the Islands in one of these sealers, the Harriet, on the 7th November 1831 and never returned. In reprisal the USS Lexington was dispatched to the Islands and broke up Vernet’s settlement over the new year of 1831/32 and took away many of the inhabitants. Following this American intervention, Rosas sent a small garrison to the Islands in November 1832 but, led by the infamous Gaucho Rivero, they mutinied and murdered their Commandant. Hearing of these actions and fearing United States’ aspirations in the South Atlantic, Britain reasserted its sovereignty in January 1833 removing the illegitimate military garrison and the four civilians who wanted to leave, a Brazilian and his wife and a Uruguayan and his wife. All other civilians opted to stay.
At this time in the United Kingdom many reforms were going through Parliament making it difficult for small farmers and crofters to earn a living and many left to seek their fortunes elsewhere in the world. Some went to Canada, Australia and New Zealand and some from the UK’s West Country and Scotland went to the Falkland Islands and established farms, sheep being the stock of choice. Other settlers came from the whaling industry, from passing ships and even included a group of Royal Marine pensioners.
Today we are a diverse cultural mix from, as our latest Census tells us, some 60 nationalities, from literally A to Z, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. No one can say we are an implanted population.
As for being a Colony of the United Kingdom; we certainly used to be many years ago. If a Colony is as described in Wikipedia “a territory under the immediate political control of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign” then the Falkland Islands as first settled was a colony. Even as late as the 1960’s and early 70’s the Governor appointed Members to the Executive Council. We were known as a colony until the 60’s when we were referred to as a British Protectorate. Over the years our political status changed. We are now recognized as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and in a referendum of March 2013 99.8% of those who voted wanted to remain with that status.
The introduction of a completely new constitution that came into being in 2009 and devolved even more powers to the local Government means that we are now totally internally self-governing and economically self-sufficient. We make our own laws, raise our own taxes and license our own natural resources. We pay no dues to our sovereign power nor do we receive any.
There is some confusion over who gives ‘Assent’ to our laws and we have been accused of not being able to pass our own laws. In the United Kingdom when Parliament passes new legislation it is the Sovereign who gives ‘Assent’ to those Bills. Here, when Her Majesty’s Government of the Falkland Islands passes new Legislation, it is the Governor, the Sovereign’s representative on the Islands, who gives ‘Assent’ to those Bills on her behalf.
Since 1982 our constitution has been rewritten, updated, modernized and changed such that we have even more internal self-governance and our Colonial past is a distant memory.
The United Kingdom is responsible for our defense and our Foreign Affairs. Far from having a massive military presence in the Islands the British forces are maintained only at a level that will deter any erstwhile aggressor. Impassioned accusations of militarization are baseless and have no factual evidence but are designed only to deceive the international community into believing there is a military threat to others in the region. Regarding Foreign Affairs our Sovereign power consults the Islands’ Government at every level so there are no surprises to either us or them.
Mr Chairman, for the past decade we have invited Members of this Committee to visit our beautiful Islands in order that they may see and learn for themselves the steps we have taken to both preserve and protect our future but no one has yet been bold enough to come. At our meeting in Grenada only a few short weeks ago the Member for Cuba said there was no point in visiting as it was simply a case of a sovereignty dispute. If that is the case, Mr Chairman, then what are we doing here at this Committee for Decolonization? It has no responsibility for disputes, sovereign or otherwise. Might I take this opportunity to remind this Committee that they have responsibility only to the people of the Non Self-Governing Territory.
Having a British Overseas Territory some 300 plus miles off the coast of Argentina somehow is interpreted as a threat to the Territorial Integrity of Argentina. Mr Chairman, how can this be? We are a peaceful, hardworking Island people wishing for nothing more than to be allowed to develop our Islands in our way whilst protecting our environment and preserving and conserving our unique wildlife for our children and their children. We now have families who have settled these Islands for nine generations and I am sure that if we looked hard enough could find someone who is now a tenth generation.
More recently, Mr Chairman, we have seen and heard less rhetoric from the Presidency of Mauricio Macri, but, underneath this change we must always remember it is built into the Argentine constitution that they wish to take over our homeland. It is they who would, today, like to colonize us.
During this period of less rhetoric we have moved forward on subjects that are common to us both. We have held joint fisheries talks about the conservation of straddling fish stocks and we have seen some of the sanctions imposed on our industries being softened or possibly lifted.
For many years the Falkland Islands Government was proactively leading on the project to identify the unknown soldiers buried in the cemetery at Darwin. Following meetings between Argentine, United Kingdom and Falkland Islands representatives, along with the ICRC, a project was proposed with the result that some 90, of the 122 bodies were identified. This then led to the visit of some 240 family members, who in March of this year, came to pray at the gravesides of the newly identified soldiers.
Furthermore, units of the Military based in our Islands were able to assist with the unsuccessful search for the, sadly still missing, submarine ARA San Juan.
While the community still feels the after effects from 1982 we are not without compassion.
Mr Chairman, to summarize, we are not a colony of the United Kingdom but an Overseas Territory that has long since progressed beyond colonial status. Through our own, internationally observed, referendum we have expressed our clear wish to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom with Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state. We have been a British territory for over 250 years and, over the past 185 years of continuous and peaceful settlement, our population has grown into a unique Island people with the right of self-determination as prescribed in the Charter of the United Nations.
Mr Chairman, we wholeheartedly agree that colonialism must be eradicated in all its manifestations. That no people should be subjugated against their will, or have their people, their governance or their natural resources under the control of another country, against their wishes, is a fundamental human right. It is for that reason that Chapter 1 Section 1 of the Falkland Islands Constitution reflects the first chapter of the Charter of the United Nations in recognizing that all peoples have the right to self-determination and that realization of the right to self-determination must be promoted and respected.