Last week saw the first face-to-face AGM of the Falkland Islands Association since the pandemic began in 2020. It was held at the Abbey Centre in Westminster. About fifty members were present in person. But another fifty took part - some of them from the Falklands – via Zoom. This was a major improvement on earlier AGMs when decisions could be taken only by those actually present. All future AGMs will be done this way.
Association Chairman, Air Commodore Russell La Forte, CBE, a former commander of British Forces South Atlantic, conducted the meeting together with Hon Sec and Treasurer Lieutenant Colonel Tym Marsh, MA, MBA, CDipAF. He was mentioned in despatches for his service in the Falklands War, and has done so much of the day to day work running the Association over the last seven years.
Chairman La Forte opened proceedings with a summary of the work of the year – the 40th anniversary of the war. He spoke about his three goals for the year, the Association’s “profile”, “readiness” and “awareness” and said much had been achieved in all of these fields, as well as rebutting Argentine rhetoric. He mentioned the success of the Falklands as a modern vibrant community, and paid particular tribute to the contribution of the FIA Stanley Committee.
Major changes in the Executive Committee were dealt with. First came Tym Marsh’s retirement. This was accepted by a grateful Association, and he was presented with a picture of a Falklands as a mark of respect and thanks. Tom Swales, MA, and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, was welcomed as the new Hon Secretary, and voted in unanimously. He has spent much of his life in the Falklands, and only retired as Managing Director of Stanley Services earlier this year. Keith Angus was unanimously voted in as the new Treasurer. He served twenty-two years in the Royal Engineers and did several tours of duty in the Falklands, where he made many friends among the Islanders.
Paul Martinez was also honoured as he retired from the position of Deputy Chairman (and Acting Chairman from 2019 to 2021). He spent his working life as a British diplomat around the World, and was Deputy Governor of the Falklands and Commissioner for South Georgia from 2007 to 2010. He too was presented with a picture of a Falklands scene as a mark of respect and thanks.
The meeting heard from two guest speakers. James Sunderland MP spoke first. He had served in the Falklands as part of his earlier military career in 1996, and is now Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary All-Party Group on the Falklands. He visited the Falklands again in 2007. And together with other politicians, he had just returned from another visit to the Falklands, which coincided with a major visit by veterans of the 1982 war. He described his pleasure at what he saw of the thriving community there and the progress made. He has been a stalwart supporter of the Islanders’ right to decide their own future and a member of the Association for twenty-five years. He stressed the importance of Britain’s presence in the South Atlantic. He mentioned the resonance of the 1982 war throughout the Falklands and its affairs, and that the war then had left the Falklands in a safer relationship with Britain than before - he also mentioned the human cost of this in 1982.
Mark Pollard MLA spoke about the challenge experienced in the islands from Covid, which had severely affected the tourist industry. He mentioned the sacrifices made to secure their freedom, and the many meetings, lectures, commemorations, services and parades around Britain to mark the 40th anniversary of the war. He was proud of the way Islanders had used the freedoms obtained by the war to develop the Falklands. He mentioned that the Falklands community included people of 68 difference nationalities. But he outlined the harassment and bullying the Islanders still receive from Argentina. He spoke of the Islanders’ commitment to care of the environment. He thanked the Association for the support it provides.
The Falkland Islands Association continues to stand for the same objective – the right of Falkland Islanders to choose their own future. Its work now carries on with the help of new faces, while older faces are honoured for their contributions to this.
The AGM ended shortly before the major Falkland Islands Government Reception at the Foreign Office nearby, which many FIA members at the AGM walked over and joined.
By Peter Pepper - London