At the invitation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt. Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, who visited the Falklands last year, the Falklands Liberation Reception was held this year in the magnificent surroundings of the Speakers House at Westminster.
It was glorious weather outside, and the Falklands flag flew over the main entrance to the House of Commons to mark the liberation of the Falklands forty-one years ago.
Also taking part were the Minister of State for the Overseas Territories the Rt. Hon Lord Zac Goldsmith, David Lammy MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Stephen Doughty MP, Shadow Minister for the Overseas Territories. Ambassadors and foreign consuls were there. The Hon John Birmingham MLA represented the Falklands.
In his speech, Sir Lindsay stated his dedication to the sixteen Overseas Territories and three Crown Dependencies, whose shields he said all now feature in a stained glass window at the entrance to the Speakers House. He stated: “We will not forget the aggression of Argentina, and still the threat that remains, and that is why that base is so important .… the Falklands will always have the right to self-determination”.
This was echoed by Lord Zac Goldsmith. He described the “precious partnership between the UK and the overseas territories”. He stated his admiration for the “robust unique nature of Falklands’ democracy”, and said that the referendum in 2013 showed that 99.8% of the Islanders supported the current status of the Islands, and that the result had been internationally observed and was beyond question. He recalled the 258 lives lost in 1982 liberating the Falklands, and proposed the toast to the people of the Falkland Islands. Next to speak was Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy. He reaffirmed his commitment to the Overseas Territories, and recalled his own connection with Guyana. He confirmed “our long-standing commitment to self-determination for the Falklands”. He said: “As long as the people of the Falklands want to remain part of the British family, we will robustly defend your security, your autonomy, and your rights”.
The Hon John Birmingham MLA spoke last. He stated that self-determination was as important in the Falklands, as it was in the Ukraine, and was not a principle that could just be “switched off”. He recalled that this was a right under Article 1, Para II, of the UN charter. He expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices made in 1982 to liberate the Islands. He said “Everything we enjoy today flows from those sacrifices”. He thanked the Speaker, the Government, the Opposition and the new Monarch for their support, describing them as “champions” of the Falklands. He left the following day to speak at the UN Decolonisation Committee meeting in New York.
A video of the Falklands played in the background showing the diversity of people living in the Islands; not just Britons and Falkland Islanders, but people from 68 different countries altogether, Chile, Saint Helena, Peru, the Philippines and others. From Zimbabwe, there are families of men who first went to the Falklands to remove the landmines laid by Argentina in the 1982 war. Copies of the excellent colour magazine “Multicultural Falklands” illustrating this cultural diversity were available.
Also present were Richard Hyslop, Falklands Government Representative in Britain, and members of the Falklands community in Britain including former Falklands Governors Richard Ralph, David Tatham, Alan Huckle and Howard Pearce.
A meeting of the Falkland Islands Association Executive Committee had preceded the reception, and most them went on to attend the reception too - including Chairman Air Commodore Russell la Forte CBE, a former commander of British Forces Falkland South Atlantic, Hon Sec Tom Swales, Treasurer Keith Angus, Professor Richard Tranter, and Andrew Newman, Acting Chair and Secretary of the FIA Committee in Stanley.
By Peter Pepper, London