Malvinas islanders to submit referendum as 'message to Argentina'
The Malvinas Islands Legislative Assembly has announced the islanders are to hold next year a referendum on their "political status", thus hoping to bring an end to the continuing dispute with Argentina over the islands' sovereignty, their government said today.
The announcement comes as islanders prepare to celebrate “liberation day” which marks the 30th anniversary of the unconditional surrender of the Argentine troops.
As Argentina continues to set its sights on claiming the territory, the Islands government said it hopes a referendum will send a firm message to Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner that islanders want to remain British.
Reacting to the announcement, Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne, who’s currently visiting the South Atlantic Archipelago, said this is a “truly significant moment.”
Gavin Short, chairman of the Islands Legislative Assembly, said: “We are holding this referendum not because we have any doubts about who we are and what future we want, but to show the world just how certain we are about it.
“I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands [Malvinas] wish for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
“We certainly have no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires, a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who has visited the islands and heard our views.
“But we are aware that not everybody is able to come to these beautiful islands and to see this reality for themselves. And the Argentine government deploys misleading rhetoric that wrongly implies that we have no strong views or even that we are being held hostage by the UK military. This is simply absurd."
The referendum will be organized by the Islands government and will take place in the first half of next year.
Likewise, Short added: “We have thought carefully about how to convey a strong message to the outside world that expresses the views of the islanders in a clear, democratic and incontestable way. So we have decided, with the full support of the British Government, to hold a referendum to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes.”
Furthermore, the Islands government said it intends to invite international observers to verify the outcome of the referendum. It added that exact timings, the specific wording of the question and other details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Browne, who arrived in the Islands yesterday, welcomed the announcement of a referendum.
“Only the islanders can determine how they wish to be governed, so I very much support this initiative by the Falkland Islands [Malvinas] government. Indeed, I believe this referendum is a truly significant moment.
“It will give the Falkland Islands [Malvinas] people the opportunity to send a clear message - not just to Argentina, but to the whole of the international community - that the islanders and they alone, are masters of their fate.”
Browne added that the British Government would respect whatever the outcome of the referendum might be.
“I call on all governments who prize democracy and human rights to do likewise. Whilst it is for the islanders to choose, let me be clear: the British Government greatly values the links between the UK and the Falkland Islands [Malvinas].”
"We believe these should continue and deepen, long into the future. And if this proves to be the will of the islanders, then we in the UK will not just respect it, but will continue actively to defend this act of self-determination from those who seek to challenge it.”
The Government called for the referendum just two days before Fernández de Kirchner is due to attend a UN committee in New York on de-colonisation.
During the meeting she is expected to put the Argentine position on the Malvinas, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands.
The Head of State will also be addressed by a group of young islanders, most of whom were not born when the Malvinas War took place in 1982.
This will be the first referendum held on the islands, but in a poll in the mid-1980s, 94.5 percent of those who took part supported staying British.