June 19, 2013
Referendum: Islanders choose to remain UK overseas territory
Residents of the Malvinas Islands voted "yes" in the sovereignty referendum to remain UK overseas territory, by 98.8 percent in favour.
Only three people voted in favour of Argentina, in the referendum that counted with the participation of 92 percent of the islanders.
"Surely this must be the strongest message we can get out to the world," said Roger Edwards, one of the Falklands assembly's eight elected members.
"(The message) that we are content, that we wish to retain the status quo ... with the right to determine our own future and not become a colony of Argentina."
Three decades since Argentina and Britain went to war over the far-flung South Atlantic archipelago, residents have been perturbed by Argentina's increasingly vocal claim over the Malvinas - as the islands are called in Spanish.
Local politicians hope the resounding "yes" vote will help them lobby support abroad, for example in the United States, which has a neutral position on the sovereignty issue.
With patriotic feelings running high, Malvinas-born and long-term residents casted ballots in the two-day referendum in which they were asked whether they wanted to stay a British Overseas Territory.
People queued to vote at the town hall in the quiet island capital of Stanley, where referendum posters bearing the slogan "Our Islands, Our Choice" adorned front windows. The post office produced a line of official stamps to mark the occasion.
In distant islands and far-flung sheep farms, ballot papers were being flown and driven in by mobile polling stations.
"For me, this referendum is extremely important because I have no wish to be part of Argentina," said Rob McGill, 67, who runs a guesthouse in isolated Carcass Island and voted by post.
"I consider myself a Falkland (Malvinas) Islander, but my ancestors came from Britain," he said.
Some islanders are the descendants of British settlers who arrived eight or nine generations ago.
"This (referendum) is a ploy that has no legal value," Alicia Castro, Argentina's ambassador to London, said today.
"Negotiations are in the islanders' best interest. We don't want to deny them their identity. They're British, we respect their identity and their way of life and that they want to continue to be British. But the territory they occupy is not British," she assured during a radio interview.
Argentina has claimed the islands since 1833, saying it inherited them from the Spanish on independence and that Britain expelled an Argentine population.