Last Saturday, April 2nd, marked the 40th anniversary of the Argentine landing in the Falklands / Malvinas Islands, which led to war with the United Kingdom. In this framework, Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin interviewed Roger Spink, one of the eight members of the Legislative Assembly. Born in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino, the capital of the archipelago in 1959, this businessman, an accountant by profession, joined local politics with strong opinions in favor of the Islands and Britain, when it comes to the Argentine sovereignty claim.
2022 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Falkland Islands – we will be observing the occasion with a whole year of activities to commemorate and celebrate this special time. For more information on our plans please visit: https://www.falklands.gov.fk/falklands40th, MLA Spink said.
How are the Islands living this 40th anniversary of the war?
It's a time to remember the sacrifices made by the people who restored our liberties. And obviously forty years ago we were invaded. We are very peaceful, a very peaceful community was invaded. And democracy and self determination were at risk. Great Britain crossed thousands of miles to restore our liberties. And for the people of the Islands it is a very important issue. People are still traumatized by the 1982 invasion when the wish to decide its own future was subjugated by a military operation.
You celebrate June 14th and not April 2nd. What are you planning for this year?
On 14th June we are going to have the usual celebrations and services to remember and honor the fallen in 1982, and express our gratitude to those persons that restored our liberties and also the civilians fallen in the conflict. We will hold a religious service to remember those people and after we are going to consider the steps forward which we have taken in the forty years since 1982, the progress we have achieved in our community and in our economy. Then it is very important to show the people that came and liberated us in 1982, that we have been very careful stewards of the Islands.
The government of the Islands has compared the situation in the Islands with that of Ukraine. Do the Islands consider the (Argentine) invader as violent as is Vladimir Putin?
In 1982 there was a dictator in Argentina that invaded a very peaceful and small neighbor, and tried to impose its will on the people of the Falklands. The question of the similarity is that there was a dictator in 1982 in Argentina that decided to impose his will on the people of the Falklands against their democratic and self determination rights and against the Islands democracy, and invaded the Falklands. I think that all the people in the Falklands, we all empathize with people in Ukraine, which is being invaded by a powerful neighbor, which wishes to impose its will against the democratic wishes of the people from Ukraine.
How do you identify with Ukraine?
We identify with Ukraine because in 1982 we were invaded by a dictator that ruled a neighboring country, who invaded the Falklands to impose his will against the democratic wishes of the people in the Falklands that was living peacefully in the Islands for many, many years, hundreds of years. Then we can identify ourselves with the people of Ukraine that wishes to defend its democratic rights and Russia has invaded them and is imposing its will on the people of Ukraine, or trying to impose its will on the people of Ukraine. So we see many similarities.
So for you, Russia and Argentina are the same?
Argentina unfortunately continues to put pressure and exercise economic pressure on the Falklands. I think Argentina obviously says it's not going to invade, or whatever, but there are still aggressive actions by the Argentine government. So then it is still a situation in which people in the Islands are distrustful of Argentina's motives. And we can see that your government spends much money in promoting and pushing your claim over the Islands, despite extensive poverty amongst your own population. We think it is very sad, we feel it is sad that so much money is spent by argentine politicians in pursuing this claim against the democratic wishes of the people of the Falklands, when those monies could be better spent protecting your own people, who are falling more and more into abject poverty.
But I insist, do you believe Argentina is capable of the same brutalities committed by Vladimir Putin forces against Ukraine?
I don't think there can ever be an excuse to invade a country, but I believe that the Argentine troops had better behavior that maybe the Russian troops, but that is hard to say. But an invasion is an invasion. And the people that were locked in a hall in Goose Green, women and children locked in a hall in Goose Green, it was a traumatic event and those people are still suffering from the trauma they went through in 1982. It is difficult to compare, it was a smaller place and a different issue, but I believe the brutality we are seeing in Ukraine is unacceptable..
Many of your comments in the Islands point to Cristina Kirchner as the main enemy of the Islands today. What is your opinion of the former president?
I believe she distracts attention from the problems of your country by attacking the Falklands. And we have seen this many times along these years. Different politicians in Argentina, not only Cristina Kirchner. I would say it is very sad that your leaders tend to go after the Falklands issue, instead of concentrating on the many issues that you have with your own economy, and own people. What we see is much rhetoric about us to distract attention from the true problems in Argentina, where people are falling more and more into poverty. And instead of addressing those problems, we feel your politicians are distracting attention towards the Falklands, just as Galtieri did the same in 1982. He distracted attention from your domestic problems with an invasion of the Falklands.
Forty years after the war you don't want to yield at all to the historic claim from Argentina, and then, would you like to be independent from the UK, or continue as an Overseas Territory, as currently?
In 2013, 99% of our people voted to retain the status we currently enjoy. In the long run we may become independent, but that is up to the wishes of the people. Their wishes are democratic. The British government has said it will respect the democratic wishes of the Falklands people. We are happy with the current status, so when people decide ...that is the essence of democracy and self determination, then it does not depend on me or anyone else, it depends on all of us, the people of the Falklands.
Defense minister Jorge Taiana and the Argentine armed forces are involved in a policy of greater presence in the Tierra del Fuego zone, in Ushuaia and the South Atlantic. Do you fear an escalation?
We feel very secure. The British government, we depend on them, they take the necessary measures to ensure the defense of the Falkland Islands. We feel sure each time we meet with ministers, with people from the opposition parties in the UK, they address and confirm the ongoing defense commitment of the Falklands. And when we meet with the British forces commander in the Islands, they confirm they have the necessary forces to ensure our peaceful existence in the Falklands. We're no threat to anybody, and have never been. The only ones who have been a threat were the Argentine forces in the Falklands.
Why Latam flights which linked the Islands with South America have not been flying for two years?
Mainly because we have not lifted the restrictions as a consequence of Covid, and it will take us three months to do it and to have Latam resume flights. It's going to happen, the opening of the Islands is going to happen, but obviously because of Covid we have had very restrictive measures, we have not suffered a single Covid death in the Falklands, we have protected our people. We have vaccinated our people. That is why we cut off from the rest of the world. This has meant that those links have been suspended for some time. We expect to recover them, but that is a process and we have been fighting Covid for two years and we feel that now we are in a position in which we have protected our community, through vaccination, and are the conditions are right for reopening, and that process is currently taking place.
When will the flights begin?
We don't have a date yet, but naturally it will be announced when it's time.
The last question, do you really believe you are being bullied currently, as you felt in the past with the governments of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner? Because it seems that president Alberto Fernandez has done nothing worse....since he succeeded Mauricio Macri
Well, I believe it was most regrettable when we tried to establish a Latam charter flight to Chile so that the Chilean population in the Falklands, that had been cut off from their families for two years more or less. It was a compassionate flight so that they could go back to their families and I believe it was most disappointing that the flight was rejected. And yes I believe, that this does not sound very positive among the people of the Islands, and particularly among the Chilean community that has strong links with their families, they have children, and you can imagine the upset if a mother or a grandmother can't see her grandson for two years because of Covid.