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Montevideo, August 8th 2022 - 18:40 UTC



Falklands' people have rights, but Argentina's 'cruel' attitude creates the feeling “war has not gone”

Monday, April 4th 2022 - 09:55 UTC
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“We know what is to wake up and be invaded, what it means to have your home shelled and being forced to abandon your home,” Barkman said (Pic H. Alconada/LN) “We know what is to wake up and be invaded, what it means to have your home shelled and being forced to abandon your home,” Barkman said (Pic H. Alconada/LN)
“For many people in the Falklands, what is happening in Ukraine brings really traumatic memories, and that is why we raised the Ukrainian flag”. “For many people in the Falklands, what is happening in Ukraine brings really traumatic memories, and that is why we raised the Ukrainian flag”.

Hugo Alconada Mon is a prestigious Argentine journalist, and lawyer, who has written several books, besides belonging to the international consortium of investigative journalists which among other things was involved in exposing the Panama Papers.

He is a visiting professor in several US universities, and as Deputy Editor in Chief of the Buenos Aires daily, La Nacion, was sent to the Falkland Islands to write about the reactions in the Falklands and its people, regarding events linked to the Argentine military invasion on 2nd April 1982, the war, the forty years since and the future of the Islands.

One of the Islanders interviewed is lawmaker MLA Teslyn Barkman, who at 34 is the youngest member of the Legislative Assembly, was born after the war and can be described as a representative of a new generation of Islanders, better educated, more travelled, open to the world and belonging to a community with a clear sense of nation, proud of its origins, democracy and achievements, with an economy that provides a formidable average income per capita.

However according to MLA Barkman's own words, shared by a majority of Falkland Islanders, there is a feeling that the “war has not gone”, since Argentina's attitude towards the Islands and Islanders is “cruel”, and the problem Argentina has “is not with London”, but with the Falkland Islanders, “we are people and have rights”. Follows the interview,

A few weeks ago your raised the Ukrainian flag in the Islands. Why did you do it? Do you compare the situation in the Islands to that in Ukraine?

-I think that at first we did not think about that, but rather what the whole world was seeing what was happening in Ukraine, which is absolutely horrible. But at the same time I believe that part of the reason why our community was so surprised is because here we know what is to wake up and be invaded, they know what it means to have your home shelled and being forced to abandon your home. I believe that for many people in the Falklands, what is happening in Ukraine brings really traumatic memories. And in fact while we raised the flag people applauded and liked to take pictures. Yes there is much empathy with the people of Ukraine, partly because of the trauma this community has gone through. It resonates very much with these feelings.

You were born after 1982. Do you believe that this feeling is widely spread among the younger generations?

It is a delicate issue. Let's go back to the Russia example. One aspect is the invasion; another is how Russia is trying to defend its actions before the world. It tells people lies about the Ukrainian people and about its history. That is how I grew up with the Argentine government, telling lies about my history and about my people, and trying to undermine our human rights. Then, since very young I had to find hundreds of answers to questions people should not have to make. Even as a child I had to think about what I was to say to defend my existence before the world. That is not normal. I grew up learning for example, how a land mine looks to recognize it in case accidently I came across one. And that is with all. War has not gone.

In the last forty years, was there a period in which the situation was different?

What never disappeared was the lack of confidence. The confidence that we should have had with a neighboring country never existed. There were moments when yes, in which we saw pragmatic decisions taken by a more reasonable government in Argentina. And there was an opportunity to talk over issues good for everybody, such as fisheries science or how to exploit resources in the high seas, which is completely deregulated and is terrible. Of course we want the governments of our neighbors to be reasonable, pragmatic, and for them to think a little more about humanity. But there will never be any confidence in this, particularly while the Argentine Constitution remains written the way it is. And the political agendas of Argentina, domestic and foreign are designed to eliminate us as human beings. That is something you feel very personally.

Do you see any way of advancing?

Well, it happens in other parts of the world. Persons look beyond their nose and do good things for their country and for the world. Maybe Argentina can do it, mature, and realize that its attitude towards the Islands not only is wrong, but it is cruel. It is inconsistent with what a democracy should be doing. You shouldn't say that a certain people should not exist, you should not say that our history is not real. That is something a democracy which respects human rights, does not do. They always talk about a posture towards the Malvinas. But the problem you have is with us, not with the UK, nor with pastures or peat. Your problem is that we are people and we live here because if there were no people it would all be so much simpler. I have been to Argentina. It is a beautiful country. But it's not my country at all. Its very different as how life is here in the Falklands. I mean, it is in part similar to the world, but I have seen poverty, graffiti, things we don't have here, besides a community quite disillusioned. I travelled to the north to the most prosperous tourist regions, with beautiful lakes, trees, good wine, delicious beefsteaks, and people overall kind when I didn't tell them where I was from. But what was disturbing was seeing pictures of my country all over the place. It is really odd. Obviously if you come from Argentina it is a normal thing. But, do you imagine being Mexican, travelling in the United States seeing pictures of Mexico all over the place saying they want Mexico and claim it as belonging to them? And if you were Mexican you simply wouldn't like it at all. I mean, I love my country because it is my country which is not a political toy.

You have been a lawmaker since 2017. Have you ever been contacted by the Argentine government in all these years?

Never. No Argentine diplomat ever contacted me. Certainly we had conversations with the Families Commission of the Fallen and we tried to solve humanitarian problems. But there is no direct contact with the government.

Would you like to sit with Argentine officials?

I don't think it will happen. I don't know what we would talk about. I would tell them that our government and Argentina need to talk about fisheries science. That is important for Argentina and for us. But dialogue never worked out. It was never consistent because there were always political back steps. We would gladly talk about the health of the ocean, with the consequent economic benefits, even for those who invaded us and still continue to bully us. Let's look further on so we can have a practical conversation. And not because we are in a position of extreme need. That is what a good responsible government does.

What is your message to the Argentine citizens?

I think Argentines are more reasonable in all this. I would tell them to analyze what the government tells them about the Islands, to look beyond the smoke screen. They don't teach them about history, about our economy o how these Islands really are. They prefer to completely undermine the human rights of the people who live here in the Islands.

Is it possible to promote interaction with the continent?

Yes, in the cruise trade for example, a third of visitors are from Argentina. It is normal to have neighborly relations with the continent. But it's not us who are preventing that. Argentina blocks our air space, (forget that at the moment commercial flights have stopped because of the pandemic). I think if people knew or could empathize at human level with those living here in the Islands, if we could explain our history, they would not be disgusted with us.

How could this be achieved?

I don't know but let's look at Ukraine. Part of the reason people can empathize with the Ukrainians is because they can see them. They can see them on television, TikTok, Twitter. They can see what they are doing, not what soldiers or governments are doing. But if they are only learning fragments of history, never from the perspective of the people... It is much easier to say the Islands are Argentine, but that is not true. You don't have all the facts

You have said that the Argentine government attacks the human rights of Islanders. What do you mean?

You go round the world saying that we are an implanted population, that we do not have the right to self determination, when this is a right enshrined in the UN charter, and demand that the United Kingdom get involved in dialogue over the Islands because you do not recognize us as interlocutors, as people, violating our human rights. What you are really asking the international community is that the people of the Falklands have no voice about their future, nor be seated in the negotiations table unless it accepts the fact that Argentina has already decided what will be the result of that discussion because it is written in your constitution. It is all designed to the fact that we don't exist. You even have an appointed council to present new ideas with the sole purpose of sanctioning our economy! This is ridiculous. It's not how a democracy should behave.

You are referring to history. There are historic facts that reaffirm Argentina's claim...

You believe that? Why should Islanders with ten generations here in the Islands not have the right to chose? It is to ignore the reality of the situation: we have descendents of those who arrived in 1833 who still live here in the Islands. That is the only relevant part. We can counter different versions or different historians as to what happened in 1833. But there was a conciliation agreement between Argentina and the UK that decided on the issue completely. So you can pick the history version you wish, but the argument falls. And at the end of the day we are talking about people. The fact that my child who is six years old, has to grow grappling with all these arguments about why his home should not exist, always bullied by a country with its version of history...This is unacceptable.


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  • Veteran

    Well said Teslyn.

    Apr 04th, 2022 - 11:16 am +2
  • Don Alberto

    Who is the clinical idiot who wrote a lot of boludo beginning with the words “What a dumb stupid ...”

    Apr 04th, 2022 - 08:42 pm +2
  • Jo Bloggs

    Something very cheap and nasty going on with the translation but otherwise very well said, Teslyn.

    Of course Argentina still bullies us. What else can you call it? They block our airspace, pressure their neighbors to do the same, deny our ships free passage. Deny we are a people.

    Apr 04th, 2022 - 09:59 pm +2
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