The readers’ forum

Argentina must honor islanders’ wishes

 

Re Andres Oppenheimer’s March 10 article, Argentina shoots self in foot over islands: The Falkland Islands asserts Argentina’s sovereignty claims as legitimate; however, I disagree.

The first-known landing on the Falkland Islands was made in 1690, by John Strong, a naval captain who named the stretch of water between West and East Falkland as ‘Falkland Sound’ after Viscount Falkland. British sovereignty of the islands dates back to 1765 when an expedition landed at Port Egmont on West Falkland and took possession of it and “of all the neighboring Islands for King George III.”

While the issue of Spanish claims has kept lawyers in work for decades, the facts are that the Spanish colony at Port Louis withdrew in 1811, leaving a plaque claiming sovereignty which was not recognized by anyone at the time. This was, of course, decades before the Republic of Argentina came into existence.

On March 10 and 11 the Falkland Islands government held a referendum to determine their future political status. 99.8 percent of the islanders voted to remain a UK overseas territory, with just three No votes. The turnout was extremely high at 92 percent and the referendum was observed by an independent mission comprising monitors from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and several countries in Latin America.

In exercising the principle of self determination, a right enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the people of the Falkland Islands have sent a clear message about their desire to retain their links to the UK.

As my prime minister, David Cameron, said after the referendum, the British government hopes that the Argentine government takes careful note of this result.

We urge it to stop harassing the islanders and ignoring their wishes. As Oppenheimer suggests, such behavior undermines Argentina’s international reputation and is not in the interests of the Argentine people.

Kevin McGurgan, British Consulate-General, Miami

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