THE Falkland Islands Government is to hold a referendum on the Islanders wishes for their political future next year, "with the full support of the British Government," to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes," Member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Gavin Short announced today.
Left: FCO Minister Jeremy Browne and MLA Gavin Short in Stanley today
MLA Short said, "I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the Islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. We certainly have no desire to be ruled by the government of Buenos Aires; a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who has visited the Islands and heard our views. But we are aware that not everyone is able to come to these beautiful Islands and see the reality for themselves."
He said the Argentine Government deployed misleading rhetoric that wrongly implied Islanders had no strong view or even that that they were being held hostage by the UK military. He said: "This is simply absurd. We have thought carefully about how to convey a strong message to the outside world that expresses the views of the Falklands people in a clear democratic and incontestable way. So we have decided with the full support of the British government to hold a referendum on the Falkland Islands to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes. This referendum will be organised by the Falkland Islands Government and will take place in the first half of 2013. We will invite independent international observers to observe the process and verify its outcome. Exact timings, the specific wording of the question and other details will be announced in the coming weeks. We are holding this referendum not because we have any doubts of who we are and what future we want but to show the world just how very certain we are about that."
FCO Minister Jeremy Browne, who is in the Falkland Islands to join in with the Falklands 30th anniversary war commemorations and celebrations was present at the press conference which was also attended by Falklands and international press.
He said: "It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here with the Falkland Islands people as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their liberation. The sacrifices made by the British armed forces in the 1982 conflict were significant. We will never forget them. But the British Government believed then, as we do today, that the protection of the Falkland Islanders' political liberty – of their right to determine their own future – is a principle worth defending.
"Only the Falkland Islands people can determine how they wish to be governed. So I very much support this initiative by the Falkland Islands Government. Indeed, I believe this referendum is a truly significant moment. It will give the Falkland Islands people the opportunity to send a clear message – not just to Argentina, but to the whole of the international community – that the Islanders, and they alone are masters of their fate.
"In the next few months the Falklands will give their definitive verdict on their political status. The British Government will respect their decision, in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter. And I call on all governments who prize democracy and human rights to do likewise.
"Whilst it is for the Islanders to choose, let me be clear: the British Government greatly values the links between the UK and the Falkland Islands. We believe these should continue and deepen, long into the future. And if this proves to be the will of the Falkland Islands people, then we in the UK will not just respect it, but will continue actively to defend this act of self-determination from those who seek to challenge it."
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