Will no one listen to us Falkland Islanders?
I would like to take this opportunity to correct some common myths about our history. First, the Falkland Islands had no indigenous population prior to their settlement by our ancestors – the islands were unoccupied. Argentina claims the Falkland Islands form part of the province of Tierra del Fuego – an area that was not claimed as a part of the Republic of Argentina until after two generations of Falkland Islanders had been born and raised.
There is no truth to Argentine claims that a civilian population was expelled by Britain in 1833. The people expelled were an illegal Argentine military garrison, who had arrived three months earlier. The civilian population of the islands, who had sought permission from Britain to live there, were invited to stay. All but two of them, with their partners, did so.
We are not an implanted population. Our community has been formed through voluntary immigration and settlement over the course of nearly 200 years. We are a diverse society, with people from around the world having made the islands their home.
The UN charter enshrines the right of all people to determine their own future, a principal known as self-determination. It is in exercising this right that we have chosen to retain our links with the UK. This fundamental right is being ignored by the Argentinian government, which is denying our right to exist as a people, and denying our right to live in our home.
We are not a colony of the United Kingdom; we are a British overseas territory by choice, which is something entirely different. We are not governed by Britain, but are entirely self-governing, except for defence and foreign affairs. We democratically elect our legislative assembly members – they are chosen by the people of the Falkland Islands to represent them and to determine and administer our own policies and legislation.
We are economically self-sufficient, except for the cost of defence – for which there would be no need were it not for the claim made by an aggressive neighbour. Through our own efforts, our economy allows us to enjoy excellent health services and education provision, with Falkland Islanders studying for their A-levels and degrees overseas, paid for by the Falkland Islands government. It is testament to the strong bond our young people have with their home that nearly all return on completion of their studies.