The Falkland Islands held a plebescite yesterday to make a statement on self-determination, and a statement they delivered. When asked whether they chose to remain in the United Kingdom as a self-governing territory or opt for any other status, 1,514 people voted to remain British. They barely edged out the alternative, squeaking past by just … 1,511 votes:
Falkland Islands voters decided by an overwhelming 99.8 percent margin Monday to keep their government just the way it is: a British Overseas Territory.
Of the 1,517 valid votes cast in the referendum, only 3 islanders voted “no” to the question: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?” One vote was somehow lost. …
The ballot didn’t consider any alternatives, such as full independence or some sort of political relationship with Argentina. The Falkland Islands Government had said that if a majority said “no,” they could explore alternatives in a second vote later.
It’s not as if the people shrugged off the question, either:
Elections officials reported a 92 percent turnout among the approximately 1,650 Falkland Islands voters eligible to cast ballots in the referendum. International election observer Juan Henao said the process was completely normal.
That result sends a strong message to the UN and other nations attempting to force the UK into bilateral negotiations with Argentina over the fate of the islands, which are almost 300 miles from Argentina’s coast — but which sit near potentially significant oil and gas fields:
British officials have rejected Fernandez’s call for negotiations, saying the people of the Falkland Islands have chosen to be British and “have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the U.N. Charter.”
“There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend. The islanders can’t just be written out of history,” read a statement from the British Foreign Office.
“As such, there can be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands unless and until such time as the islanders so wish.”
And the Islanders most pointedly do not wish:
On its official website, the Falklands government rejects as false the Argentinian government claim that a civilian population was expelled by Britain in 1833 and argues for the inhabitants’ right to choose their path.
“We are not an implanted population,” the government says. “Our community has been formed through voluntary immigration and settlement over the course of nearly 200 years. … We are no more an implanted population than are the various populations of South America whose ancestors arrived as immigrants from Europe — we arrived here as part of the same process and pattern of migration.”
The islands are economically self-sufficient, the government says, except for the cost of defense needed as a result of “the claim made by an aggressive neighbour.”
CNN quotes an Islander as suggesting that Argentina wants to provoke another conflict to distract Argentinians from the disastrous policies of the current government, which is basically what happened in 1982. In any event, the Argentinians have already insisted that the plebescite is invalid and insist that they will ignore it — and that should make for some interesting moments at the UN.