Statement by MLA Gavin Short following the referendum on the Political Status of the Falkland Islands
This morning, my fellow Falkland Islanders and I woke up to a new future. I am proud, both of our people, and of our community for last night our country made its voice heard.
For those who may have missed it, we have sent out a clear message to the world; a resounding ‘yes’ to our desire to remain as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. For the first time in our long history, there can be no misinterpretation as to how we feel about our relationship with Britain. It is a relationship that has evolved over centuries, and one that we are proud to maintain. We have moved far beyond our colonial past. Ours is a modern relationship, based on mutual respect and democratic values.
Last year, as spokesperson for the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, I had the privilege of announcing on the 30th anniversary of our Liberation that we would be holding a referendum on our political status. The referendum would, I said at the time, convey a strong message to the outside world that expressed the views of the Falklands people in a clear, democratic and incontestable way. We have not held this referendum because we had any doubts about who we are, and what future we desire, we held it to show the world just how very certain we are about it.
That is exactly what we have done. With a resounding majority we have announced to the world that we are content with our current status, and that we have no wish to be governed by Argentina. In doing so we have dispelled the myths that Argentina tries to cultivate: we do not exist under the yoke of a colonial power, neither are we held here against our wishes, nor are we an implanted population illegally occupying these Islands.
President Fernandez de Kirchner – we have sent you a message: we have absolutely no desire to be ruled by the Government in Buenos Aires. I hope that now you might respect that. Now is also the time that the rest of the world starts to listen to the voice of the Falkland Islanders, rather than empty lies, endless rhetoric and political posturing.
We are a proud, flourishing community. We are a people, and we have rights. This is our home – some of us have family ties going back nine generations – a far longer history than some of those who try to deny us have in their own country.
We will be forever grateful to the British forces who liberated us from Argentine occupation almost thirty-one years ago, and we will continue to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. However, we have opened a new chapter in our history, one that looks to the future rather than the past, and focuses on building our home for future generations.
It’s an exciting time ahead. We will focus on growing our economy through the sustainable management of fisheries, tourism and agriculture, and we will strive to develop our oil industry in an environmentally responsible manner. We will continue to place the highest value on health and education, and helping our young people to reach their full potential.
In an uncertain world, this is sadly not a future we are currently being allowed to realize freely and without threat. We are forever grateful to the people and Government of the United Kingdom for their support. However, it is time that other nations around the world who respect human rights and democracy, and who are not afraid to stand up for justice and freedom lend us their support too. As a people we have spoken. My heartfelt hope is that you will listen.
Hon. Gavin Short, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands