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In June this year the Falkland Islands Government announced their intention to hold a referendum on their sovereignty in 2013.
The islanders want to tell the world what their views are in a clear, democratic and incontestable way. Their government has decided a referendum is the best way to achieve this. They will be looking to the international community to support them in doing this and to accept that they have the right to determine the future that they want for themselves and future generations.
The right to self-determination is sacrosanct. Around the world people instinctively understand and support the principle that the status of your home should be determined by no one other than you. It is a principle that was admired and desired by José de San Martín, Símon Bolívar and other liberators of South America.
It is a principle that is today admired and desired by freedom loving people everywhere.
In the course of his visit to Buenos Aires last week President Humala spoke about the Falkland Islands and about Argentina’s campaign to get hold of them. He explained that he supports Argentina’s position “because we cannot accept colonialism well into the 21st century”. The word “colonialism” caught my eye. Here in Peru it makes us think of galleons loaded with plundered gold and the struggle against unwanted royalist forces.
The situation of the people of the Falkland Islands today could hardly be further removed. They are proud of their traditions and of how they govern themselves; they control their own resources. The fact is that the people of the Islands want to be British. And they want the islands that are their home and where many of their families have lived for generations to carry on being British.
The President also commented that Peru supports Argentina in “the struggle of the Argentinian people for the recovery (of the Falkland Islands)”.
“Recovery” implies that the Islands were once part of Argentina. But this isn’t the case.
British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands pre-dates the existence of Argentina. The Islands have never formed part of the territory of Argentina, nor has any native population ever been expelled from them. It often appears that the government of President Fernandez would have us all think that history began in 1833 with British forces expelling an Argentine military garrison.
What they deliberately omit to mention is that the garrison had been in place for only three months in an attempt to impose Argentine sovereignty over British sovereign territory. In 1982, after 150 years of peaceful British rule, the then Argentine government invaded the Falklands unprovoked.
That this militarisation of the South Atlantic took place against the clear wishes of the islanders has never been in dispute.
Sadly these days the policies of President Fernandez and her government are much more about political and economic confrontation rather than peaceful co-existence. The United Kingdom, with the Falkland Islands Government, would be happy to talk with the Argentine government about a range of South Atlantic and regional issues, as we were doing in the 1990s.
But we will not negotiate away the fundamental human and political rights of the people of the Falkland Islands to remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and to have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.
Like the people of the Falkland Islands we hope that the referendum they will hold in March 2013 will not only enable them to make their feelings clear, but also pave the way for a return to the better relations they have enjoyed with Argentina in the past.