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Montevideo, June 21st 2024 - 11:32 UTC

 

 

A forum on decolonization calling on two other countries to decide the future of the Falklands people?

Thursday, May 16th 2024 - 21:58 UTC
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MLA Teslyn Barkman: “Our people and our home are not commodities to be traded” MLA Teslyn Barkman: “Our people and our home are not commodities to be traded”

The speech was delivered in Venezuela by Teslyn Barkman Falkland Islands MLA at the Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, (14/16 May), ahead of the Special Committee on Decolonization later this year.

MLA Barkman highlighted the journey of the Falkland Islands, emphasizing the importance of self-determination, achievements and the resilience of its people.

Thank you, Madam Chair,

Excellencies, distinguished participants. My name is Teslyn Barkman, I am a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands; more importantly I am one of the people of the Falkland Islands. My great, great, great, great grandfather moved across the world to the Falkland Islands and was one of the earliest families of the Islands' people. That's my mum's, mother's, mother and her father's, father's father. And I have a son so he is the eighth generation in my particular part of Falklands family history.

We have the right to self-determination and I thank the solidarity expressed from all committee members to support the UN's list of non-self-governing territories.

Like a lot of South America, we were colonized. We, the people of the Falkland Islands, arrived from around the world Scotland, Uruguay, England, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, St Helena and Australia, to name but a few. It wasn't the transient officers and Governors appointed by the UK Government, who came in to administer the place on short contracts, it was people like my family and other Falklands families, farmers, teachers, shepherds and laborers, who were the ones who made it their home. They built homes in a land with no natural trees, navigated a harsh landscape on horseback and farmed an inhospitable area larger than Jamaica to create a future for our children, our culture developed naturally and it is so very distinct (I know isn't captured in my rather British accent this a product of my education) but please ask me about it later. We love to talk about it. Maybe, because it was nearly taken from us. And we are so glad that our population is growing and families from around the world-Zimbabwe, the Philippines and South Africa are choosing to join us and take up Falkland Islands citizenship after the 7 years required to do so.

We are Falkland Islanders who are British but the distinction is important.

We all know we are British, but we are Falkland Islanders who are British and this distinction is important. We are a people who choose our association with the United Kingdom. The UK is a structure containing many countries, many people Scottish, Welsh, crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories all have distinct nationalities and cultures within this. Falklands identity is further protected by our laws and Constitution. And we choose our relationship with full knowledge of a less than perfect past with the UK.

Colonialism kept Falkland Islanders behind the rest of the world and eventually brought war to our home. The Falklands people and our home were relatively forgotten about until conversations to trade us to Argentina started happening in the 1960s. My people protested and appealed to UK Ministers, pleading they respect our choice to stay British. In 1982, the military government of Argentina invaded my people.

A War that imprisoned my mother as a 16 year old girl, locked in Goose Green hall with her family and over hundred others, with bombs and body parts and bullets falling outside. I grew up playing with spent bullet shells and avoiding minefields. As a child I felt the trauma that the invasion caused -The scars on our beautiful landscape and our people with memories of guns in their backs. I realized how our society was torn apart by foreign interests. And, I'm shaking, with anger realizing aggression is still happening, because other countries are holding space for it. They don't want my people to qualify for self-determination.

We were saved by the UK who recognized our voice was paramount and freedom of peoples means self-determination. From then on, our democratic choice was respected and remains a core value of the UK Government. Our status changed away from a colony, to a democracy that chooses a relationship as a UK Overseas Territory, and we blossomed.

So, I ask this committee why would we stop that journey?

Argentina are here not help the economic or social progress of Falklands people.

We all know why Argentina are here today and it isn't to help the economic or social progress of the Falkland Islands people.

As a child I would think, Could I say anything to help them understand? - we do not want to be a colony of Argentina. And being on the same continental shelf, and deciding you want to repeal a historic treaty that settled the matter, is a pretty pathetic reason to think we should be.

It is as heart-breaking as it is non-sensical that this is the forum used to call for two other countries to decide our future. A forum of decolonization.

In reaction to the 'working paper dated 26th February 2024, I stress that there is no question on the Falkland Islands, we are not the problem. The only opportunity for solution in the matter is when Argentina drops its ambition to colonize the Falkland Islands.

Colonialism is inherent in the idea that two 'bigger' governments should be asked to debate our future and play with us like toy. Our democratic Government, the voice of the Falkland Islands people is foremost in any debate concerning our home.

I suggest the reason our voice is resisted so strongly by the government of Argentina is because they know how horrible it would be if the world realized what it is, they are asking them to support. We are not to be the next step in their colonial ambitions in South America. Our people and our home are not commodities to be traded. Dehumanizing us makes this more palatable. I ask committee members support that our voice must be included in any conversation to do with the Falkland Islands? This reflects a modern position and all it asks is that human rights are upheld.

And if you can't do that, remember you can stay neutral.

We survived a war to protect our self-determination

We survived a war to protect our self-determination, and we are here now because of it. And we do exist, so much so that previous Argentine Governments have blocked our children from playing in sports events, and have developed illegal economic sanctions against Falkland Islanders specifically.

Showing they have no interest in us or our home other than political ownership, and showing disrespect to the sustainable development goals of the UN by creating barriers to them. We stand ready to have normal neighborly relations. As their punishments towards us hurt their people and the oceans more than us.

As the Secretary General himself outlined colonialist attitudes only prevent progress.

I remind that the process of decolonization is not about eradicating a people to recolonize it. So, please, don't give your support to dehumanize us. We have already heard powerful testimony on the damage this causes. We should be reminded of atrocities around the world where this is happening, and be humbled, and maybe be thankful if you were not born under this threat.

The Secretary-General opened the 2024 session with a plea to redouble efforts to assist decolonization and a journey for us to achieve sustainable development goals. We whole-heartedly agree that colonialism limits sustainable development. It is working together in respect, and learning that we can progress.

Since our self-determination was respected by the United Kingdom we have taken on the duties and democracy that has elevated our country and the opportunities of our children.

To make our voice very clear to understand we also held an internationally observed referendum in 2013, to ask Falkland Islanders whether they as a people wish to remain with British Overseas Territory status, and they came back with an overwhelming 99.8% in favour. Expressing their self- determination to associate with the UK.

As mentioned, we are subjected to illegal economic sanctions that are against the principles of SDGs and stand in the way of the progress of this committee.

We are resilient and have a GDP the envy of the world

Because we are resilient, we have used our maritime zones to create world-leading fisheries that champion sustainability, lowering impact on habitats, and ensuring that benefit to the Falklands people, our oceans, and our scientific study is tied to access rights. We want to share this approach with the world- so let me know if you want to discuss. We are working through difficult issues with climate change and adaptation for our rural agricultural economy. We are small but proven to be capable of positive influence on oceans and fisheries.

We now have a GDP the envy of the world and a Standard and Poor's credit rating of A+. reflecting our good self-governance and growing economy and good financial decisions. A democracy built by the people for the people of the Falklands.

Not recognizing our country wastes all of our time, and is a detriment to those that could share in our experience. We have been working to achieve sustainable development, because we wanted to create the best future for our children.

It is heart-breaking because we made an amazing country. It has an environment that is blossoming with the world's first key biodiversity area for Sei Whales declared, significant populations of rare and protected birds and seals, world leading scientific research, and a prospering economy that funds free education, subsidized childcare and free healthcare.

We have strong and inclusive human rights, no homelessness, growing renewable energy use, and over employment, and our government is generating a surplus. We are not perfect but considering the challenges we are under we are doing better than ok and we have a lot to share.

Thank you, Madam Chair, Your excellencies and distinguished guests for your time. I look forward to responding to any questions or points raised from what I have shared today.

Top Comments

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  • FitzRoy

    Eloquent and succinct, I would expect nothing less of her. Apparently, someone tried to explain history to her as well, citing 1833. She relates that she “schooled” the so-called “historian” in the erroneous re-structuring they put forward. Nicely done.

    May 17th, 2024 - 08:16 am +5
  • Veteran

    Well said Teslyn.

    May 17th, 2024 - 09:46 am +4
  • Pugol-H

    ‘We all know why Argentina are here today’

    Yep.

    ‘We are not to be the next step in their colonial ambitions in South America’

    Ambitions that now encompasses the whole of the S. Atlantic/Antarctic.

    ‘you want to repeal a historic treaty that settled the matter’.

    I assume this is a reference to the 1850 Convention of Settlement?

    May 17th, 2024 - 12:50 pm +4
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