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Montevideo, March 22nd 2019 - 14:38 UTC

Falklands startled at Westminster paper proposing UK citizens right to vote in Overseas Territories

Friday, February 22nd 2019 - 09:05 UTC
Full article 11 comments
MLA Barkman said “there is a clear pathway to becoming a status holder if you were not born in the Falklands, which is enshrined in the Falklands' constitution” MLA Barkman said “there is a clear pathway to becoming a status holder if you were not born in the Falklands, which is enshrined in the Falklands' constitution”
FIG Chair MLA Mark Pollard said the Falklands Government is in the process of studying the contents, and will provide a response in due course FIG Chair MLA Mark Pollard said the Falklands Government is in the process of studying the contents, and will provide a response in due course
 The Minister of State for the Commonwealth the UN and FCO Tariq Ahmad also stood up for the Territories’ right to rule on the matter of belongership The Minister of State for the Commonwealth the UN and FCO Tariq Ahmad also stood up for the Territories’ right to rule on the matter of belongership
Belongers are citizens are rooted by generations of family, or others of recent free-will choice, and members in the societal fabric of the Falklands, said Lewis Clifton Belongers are citizens are rooted by generations of family, or others of recent free-will choice, and members in the societal fabric of the Falklands, said Lewis Clifton
Janet Robertson said it leaves OTs vulnerable to having its political environment determined by voters who do not have knowledge or understanding of Falklands
Janet Robertson said it leaves OTs vulnerable to having its political environment determined by voters who do not have knowledge or understanding of Falklands
Ex MLA Mike Summers said: “My answer is a very firm no”. For example MoD  personnel who are here for short periods, not subject to FI taxation or immigration Ex MLA Mike Summers said: “My answer is a very firm no”. For example MoD personnel who are here for short periods, not subject to FI taxation or immigration
Dr Andrea Clausen was emphatically not happy with the news “we are 3,000 they are 60 plus million, this would have a significant impact...” Dr Andrea Clausen was emphatically not happy with the news “we are 3,000 they are 60 plus million, this would have a significant impact...”

“Belongership” and its equivalents are wrong,” it is emphatically stated in a startling paper from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. The paper says the belongership status (known as Falklands Status in the Falklands) as enshrined in the constitutions of a number of British Overseas Territories, including the Falklands, denies legally-resident British Overseas Territory and UK citizens the right to vote and to hold elected office.

The authors of the paper say this situation “elevates one group of British people over another and risks undermining the ties that bind the UK and the OTs together in one global British family.”

MLA Teslyn Barkman attended the meetings that led to the paper, however it appears they dismissed statements that she and other BOT representatives made against the idea. MLA Barkman is reported as having said: ‘There is a certain importance in enshrining what it is to be a Falkland Islander, so we have to put these gates up somewhere in terms of voting or being able to buy land or sell it on.”
Asked to comment on Thursday she said: “I don’t agree it [belongership] is a point of friction between us and the UK as they have described.
“There is a clear pathway to becoming a status holder if you were not born in the Falklands, which is enshrined in the Falkland Islands constitution. “Submitted in the evidence was a strong case for why this is not a simple policy decision.
“This included making reference to our needs to identify as a people, particularly relevant when faced with threats to our right of self determination; and recognizing that priorities to keep small communities like ours prosperous and secure are specific and distinct.
“We must be firm in relaying that we have a clear pathway for voting eligibility, and that governance in domestic affairs like immigration, remain our own Governments’ concern.”

Asked for an official response as FIG Chair MLA Mark Pollard said: “The Falkland Islands Government note the publication of the report and is now in the process of studying the contents. We will provide our response in due course, once we have been able to scrutinize it in detail.”

Minister defends BOT’s right to decide

The Minister of State for the Commonwealth the UN and FCO Tariq Ahmad also stood up for the Territories’ right to rule on the matter of belongership. The paper quoted him as saying the OTs “feel very strongly about the issue” and that it is “an issue that they should be ruling on”. He added that he did not intend to intervene.

In December 2018 the Minister also said members of BOTS should not lose their right to vote in Britain and when Foreign Affairs (FA) Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat challenged that, saying “...it just seems what is sauce for the goose,” the Minister commented: “Just because there is a wrong on one side, you don’t create a wrong on the other side to try and correct it.”

A special privilege

Penguin News canvassed some local opinions. Business owner Lewis Clifton felt the right to vote in a Falkland Islands general election, “should not be undermined by fanciful whims of transient or pass-through flippant commentary. Citizenship, as in any democracy, is earned. The qualification to vote is earned by a combination of several attributes, not least proven time-served status, coupled with a strong, determined and profound commitment to reach out and earn the title of ‘belonger’.”

He felt that title was a, “special, once in a life, privilege. Belongers are citizens who are rooted, by generations of family, or others of recent free-will choice, who are welcomed permanently into the societal fabric of the Falkland Islands. The entitlement to vote should not, and must not be belittled, by qualification reduction, merely to satisfy cloudy and ill thought through future population demographics with un-assured consequence.”

Leaves OT vulnerable

Fishing Company manager Janet Robertson commented that, “just like any other country in the world, the Falklands grants electoral status to those who qualify as national citizens of the country, obtained either through birth right or through an application process which recognizes that long-term residents have adopted the political and cultural identity of the country in which they live.
Military personnel are not even subject to tax status in the Islands and therefore should not qualify as being ordinarily resident in the Islands - this applies to short-term contractors too.”
She added that by the very nature of being an overseas territory, “British and OT citizenship rules recognize that OT citizens share the political and cultural identity of the United Kingdom, whereas the reverse is not true and granting electoral status to any British citizen who happens to be residing temporarily in an OT leaves that territory vulnerable to having its political environment determined by voters who do not have knowledge and understanding of the specific issues of the day, nor long-term investment in the future of the territory.”

A firm no

Former Member of Legislative Assembly Mike Summers said: “My answer is a very firm no. The right to vote should remain available only to those who have chosen to join the community on a permanent basis by seeking status. It most certainly cannot include MoD personnel who are here for only short periods of time, are not subject to taxation or FI immigration control and in most cases would not understand the issues.”
He said: “The other part of the recommendations which appear to propose unlimited and unrestricted access to the Islands for all British citizens would cause huge problems here in a number of areas including housing, education, health and social services.”

Lose Falkland identity

Business owner Dr Andrea Clausen was emphatically not happy with the news. She said: “I’m not sure about land purchase but pretty sure on voting you can’t turn up in UK and just start voting, you have to have been resident for x amount of time.”
She added: “Regardless of this fact we are 3,000 they are 60 plus million, the impact of allowing the above here would have a significant impact to such a degree that the people who have properly made their home here are outvoted by a minority of people who many have no long-term interest in the future of the Falklands. I do think we need to be more welcoming and allow immigrants the opportunity to fast track to land ownership and PRP but to just take all controls away - the Falklands could lose its identity very quickly.”
She added: “There have to be some controls but pragmatically and welcoming - it’s a fine line.” (Penguin News).-

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • Islander1

    Think, we can assure you we will not change the way we do things just because a group of folks 8000 mile suggest , but who have have little idea of reality. We are no longer a “Colony” - have not been for a couple of decades or so.

    Feb 22nd, 2019 - 10:55 am +3
  • Roger Lorton

    You will have noted that the Falklanders are not alone in their fears with regard to changes. All the BoTs have similar fears, particularly where they are small populations. The Falklanders have the added issue of a belligerent neighbour that would attempt to use any changes to its advantage.

    The people of the BoTs will be the ones to decide on any changes and that is in accordance with the UN resolutions that protect their rights. Any change to the demographics would also appear to breach at least one UN resolution (although that's hardly unusual).

    And British money has been spent on British territory Think. No squatting. Argentina's spurious and unfounded claims to the contrary.

    I doubt that the Government is interested in changing the situation and clearly the FCO is not. The FAC do not have the power to make it so, and this particular oversight committee will be gone within 18 months.

    I think leaving devolved issues to the people that the issues have been devolved too is very democratic.

    Feb 23rd, 2019 - 10:27 pm +3
  • Roger Lorton

    Storm in a teacup. The FCO has already stated that it will not take up the Committee's advice with regard to belongers as that matter is clearly devolved. To do otherwise may even breach a UN Resolution, and the FCO wouldn't want to see the FIG complaining to the C24. Not that that wouldn't be fun to see.

    I understand that Falkland Radio has asked some members of said Committee to explain themselves in interviews, but so far the silence has been deafening.

    FA Committee's come and go. They achieve little and this one will disappear when the next election looms. Which seems likely to be sooner than later.

    Feb 22nd, 2019 - 10:49 pm +2
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