May 23, 2013
‘For a referendum that is illegal, Argentina appears to be paying it a lot of attention,’ Malvinas gov’t
By Adrian Bono.-
As the second day of the referendum takes place, Malvinas Legislative Assembly member Dick Sawle has an exclusive conversation with the Buenos Aires Herald.com in which he discusses the 1982 war, the present of the islands and what he hopes today’s plebiscite will accomplish.
The Argentine government has already stated that it considers this referendum to be “illegal”, what happens now?
I would like to know under what legislation the Argentine Government calls it illegal. We approved it under our own laws here at the Falklands (Malvinas) and I was told that there is a meeting in the Argentine Congress on Wednesday to discuss its rejection. For a referendum that is illegal and for voters that don’t exist, they appear to be paying it a lot of attention.
What kind of impact do you think the referendum will have on those countries which have expressly supported Argentina in this matter?
The referendum is an exercise of the fundamental right of self-determination, which at the same time is a fundamental human right endorsed by the United Nations charter. I hope that any country that holds the principles of modern democracy would listen to the result of the referendum and take notes of it. And that those countries that have so far remained neutral will obviously come down in our favour.
I assume the US is one of those countries you're referring to. What are your thoughts on the Obama administration’s decision to remain neutral in this matter?
The White House maintains a neutral position but they haven’t said they will remain neutral. In fact, John Kerry said he wanted to wait and see what the result of the referendum was. I read that as meaning that the US wants to hear what the result of the referendum is and that the United States may - and I certainly hope they will – change their position. I believe that all countries that hold modern democracies at heart should take notion of our wishes here.
You also mentioned the UN. How do you reconcile the right to self-determination with the fact that the international organization has called for both sides to reignite negotiations?
That UN resolution comes from 1965. Back in the 70s the UK and Argentina did in fact talk to each other about the Falklands (Malvinas) and those talks did progress quite a long way down to all sorts of various political schemes which wouldn’t have pleased the islanders. Until Argentina invaded the islands in 1982.
Was the war a game changer?
It was. It’s a shameful event. Many young people lost their lives on both sides. And since that time we have developed as an overseas territory. We’ve had three constitutional developments. Each one of them devolved into more authority to the islands’ government rather than the British government. Now we are completely self-governing except for areas of defence and foreign affairs. The situation now is completely different, so when the UN talks about our interests it is very clear that the only people who can decide on them are the people of the Falklands (Malvinas).
Hypothetically speaking, what do you think the outcome would have been had the war never taken place? Do you think those talks would have come to fruition?
It’s a very interesting point. Back then people felt that the islands were being sold from underneath their feet. There was a big reaction towards Britain and Argentina. The islanders were very crossed that both parties were talking about their future without listening to the Falklanders themselves.
The local media has recently reported some displays of anti-Argentine sentiment on the islands, particularly an episode in which some people mocked an Argentine war veteran present on the islands this weekend. Is this kind of animosity a common practice?
I have never heard of anybody here mocking Argentine war veterans. I’d be very surprised if that was the case. People here have the utmost respect for professional soldiers whichever side they fought on and I think there is plenty of evidence for that. We allow Argentines in, we welcome them to come and visit the Falklands (Malvinas) because we want them to lay to rest their own ghosts in the same way that the British do. Mockery would be condemned. I have seen some comments in cars that you could say were being fairly anti-Argentine. But to be quite honest, feelings will run high. Argentina has threatened us in the last few years. Under the Kirchner government we’ve been subjected to all kinds of economic blockades and I think that it’s no wonder that at times people’s feelings do run high. Some may be anti-Argentine government but I’ve never seen anybody here be at all disrespectful to an Argentine veteran.
Do the islanders feel threatened by Argentina?
We’ve been threatened by Argentina at least for the last 5 years. Argentina refuses to allow charter flights over their airspace, they threatened a fishing company that had interests in both Argentina and the islands, and tried to ban ships with a Falkland (Malvinas) Islands flag from entering any South American port. You know all these actions are not going to make people here very fond of Argentina. If there’s a sentiment of anti-Argentine government – and I stress government and not people – I think I can well understand it. But I really do draw the line at anybody mocking a veteran.