Thu | Jun 17, 2021

Remembering the Falkland war

Published:Monday | April 2, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Howard Drake, Contributor

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Argentina's illegal invasion of the Falkland Islands. The resulting conflict lasted 74 days until the Argentinian surrender.

Two hundred and fifty-five British military personnel, 649 Argentinian military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders lost their lives.

As commemorative events take place both in the Falklands Islands and in the United Kingdom, it is worth reflecting on the facts, including those enshrined in international law, against a background of misinformation emanating from Argentina.

The most important fact is the principle and right of self-determination enshrined in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations. This is a principle and right which Commonwealth Caribbean countries have long upheld, and a principle and right which is particularly poignant given the basis on which political independence was achieved in this region. Thus, in the case of the Falklands, the issue is not what the United Kingdom wants, or what Argentina wants. It`s about what the people of the Falkland Islands want, in exercising their right of self-determination. They do that in their choice to remain British citizens and under British sovereignty. As such, there can be no negotiation on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such time as the islanders so wish. They have made it absolutely clear that they do not want this.

The United Kingdom has held sovereignty over the Falkland Islands since 1765, which is before the existence of Argentina. In 1832, Argentina sent a military garrison to the Islands, which was subsequently expelled by the British in 1833. But no civilians were asked to leave as it was made clear that they were free to remain. Indeed, historical records show that most did so. That three-month military occupation and the two months after the illegal invasion by Argentina in 1982 are the only times that the Falklands have been under imposed Argentine control.

In 1850, the United Kingdom and Argentina ratified a convention for the settlement of existing differences, thus acknowledging there was no territorial dispute between the two countries.

The Falkland Islands have no indigenous peoples; all civilians have voluntarily migrated or were born on the Islands. The UK has never implanted or expelled any civilian population from the Falklands. Since 1833, civilian migrants voluntarily came from a wide variety of countries, as they did throughout the Americas during the 19th century.

UK disappointed

The Republic of Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands, which it bases on the principle of territorial integrity, is without foundation as the islands have never been legitimately administered by, or formed part of, the sovereign territory of the Argentine Republic. As neighbours in the south Atlantic, the UK wants to have a full and friendly relationship with Argentina. But we will not negotiate away human and political rights of the Falkland Islanders.

The UK remains disappointed that Argentina, 30 years after its unjustified and illegal act of aggression against the Falkland Islands, continues a policy of hostility. We are seeing attempts to strangle the economic livelihood of this self-sufficient and prosperous community, and a refusal to cooperate with Falkland Islanders on a range of issues for the common good of the region.

The Action Plan endorsed by the United Kingdom and its Caribbean friends at the UK-Caribbean Forum in Grenada in January rightly agreed to "support the principle and the right of self-determination for all peoples, including the Falkland Islanders, recognising the historical importance of self-determination in the political development of the Caribbean and its core status as an internationally agreed principle under the United Nations Charter". These principles are crucial, not only to the Falkland Islanders, but to all those who have ratified the UN Charter.

Howard Drake is the British High Commissioner to Jamaica. He was appointed in January 2010.