“For Argentina, the only acceptable result of any ‘negotiation’ is to take control of the Falklands”, MLA Roberts to the UN
The Deputy Speaker of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, MP Leona Roberts, is part of the committee that met before the members of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24) and delivered a speech who spoke about their personal history as well as the future of the Falkland Islands as a whole.
Together with MPP Mark Pollard, the two representatives of the Legislative Assembly called on members of the C-24 to examine the committee’s true and undeniable purpose of defending the rights of nations under the threat of external control in all its shapes. MP Roberts delivered the following speech today in New York:
“Madam Chair, members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to speak to you today, not only as an elected member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, but also as the 6th generation of the Islands Falkland.
“Since the 1940s the Argentine government has presented shifting narratives, history has been twisted to meet its goal of taking control of my country. They created a mythology around the Falkland Islands, and this dangerous practice continues today.
“To take just one example: Argentine propaganda claims that a sedentary population was driven out in 1833; history shows that this is simply not true. When Britain reasserted control of the Falklands, a small illegal garrison, in the islands for less than three months, was asked to leave. It was after a mutiny and murder. All but two of the civilian couples (who came from various nations) stayed, welcoming their new security.
“However, given the time available, I will not dwell on historical arguments. In other words, we are confident in our British sovereignty. Instead, I would tell you about colonialist aspirations and the awkward truth that the Argentine government seeks to avoid – namely, the people of the Falkland Islands.
“Madam President, my maternal ancestors arrived in the Falklands 179 years ago. This was an ordinary family – with no wealth or status and at the time with 4 young children – they were just looking for a better life in a new country.
“This family lived in makeshift shelters, under canvases and behind peat walls, struggling against many hardships in what was far from soft land. They survived and are now recognized as one of the most established families in the Falklands, with nine generations of Kelpers descended from Margaret and James Biggs.
“Throughout these nine generations, the Biggs family has contributed to all aspects of Falklands society and helped create a country where there was none. We are an ordinary family, Madam President, and our roots are strong, deep and true, just like those of many other families in Falkland.
“Our first settlers came from all over the world – many of British ancestry, but also from other nations. This diversity has continued to grow and today – although we remain a small country, with a population of less than 3,500 – we are proud that our community is made up of over 60 nationalities. Alongside our oldest families live not temporary communities, but sedentary communities of families from Saint Helena, Chile, Philippines and Zimbabwe, who have also chosen to become the Falkland Islands.
“My own father came to the Falklands looking for opportunities with a group of Chilean workers, many of whom started families, and their children and grandchildren are proud Kelpers today. This story repeats itself over and over again, for nearly 200 years. It’s a story of natural migration and organic growth – there is no settled population here like Argentina would have you believe.
“Without indigenous peoples, we are a young country. Our cultural identity is British in many ways, but draws on a range of influences and is quite distinct. We are our own people – the Falkland Islanders – Kelpers – and deeply proud of it.
“Argentina’s refusal to recognize two centuries of natural settlement is odious, especially coming from a nation that is itself built on European migration and, tragically, the largely successful decimation of its indigenous people.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to talk about the Falklands without referring to the 1982 war. There is so much I would say about what the islanders endured during this dark time – our helplessness in the face of the growing threat from our neighbor. much bigger; the horror of the invasion, an act of violence that leaves an indelible scar in the soul of a nation; the fear and despair experienced during the occupation and violation of our home; hope when the rescue came; and of course, the deep sorrow at the shortened lives and wounds – physical and emotional – suffered even today by those who freed us and, indeed, by many Islanders themselves.
“Madam President, I was 10 years old in 1982. I vividly remember the terror of the night of invasion – huddled under overturned furniture and a kitchen table, as shells and bullets flew around us. House. The days that followed were dark, for our country was filled with war machines and thousands of armed invaders; as our houses were occupied and machine gun posts were built in our gardens – and much more … All this led by a country which, already at the time, spoke of the “interests” of the Malouins .
“But fortunately, we have been released and June 14 will forever be the most important date on the Falklands calendar because it is the day our freedom was restored.
“Yet even today, Madam President, Argentina is trying to restrict our economic, political and social well-being – threatening those who seek to do legitimate business with our islands and even trying to prevent our athletes from participating. at international events.
“And at the height of the pandemic, the Argentine government sought to include the positive numbers for the Falklands Covid in its national statistics, seeking political advantage from a global crisis.
“For our part, the Falklands have actively supported the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, resulting in the DNA identification of Argentine war dead buried on the islands, so that nearly 120 families now know the resting place. of their lost sons. Although the Argentine authorities do not recognize our role in this humanitarian enterprise, we know that it is appreciated by these bereaved families.
“We have sought to share data on fish stocks, to ensure the sustainability of biodiversity in the South Atlantic, but Argentina has now withdrawn from this important work.
“It is undoubtedly the Falklands who behave responsibly and decently, even towards those who would harm us.
“Madam Chair – let’s move on to colonialism. The modern Falklands are not a colonial enclave. We are economically self-sufficient and self-managed internally. Successive UK governments have made it clear that the political future of the Falklands depends on the will of our people – which will be so clearly spelled out in our 2013 referendum.
“Our democratic and mature partnership was also reaffirmed by our 2009 Constitution and continues to evolve, supported by the principle of self-determination.
“Compare that with the position of the Argentine government, which speaks of ‘respecting the interests’ of the people of the Falklands, yet denies our existence; who claims to value democracy, but refuses to recognize our legitimate government.
“Argentina demands that the fundamental right to self-determination not apply to what it calls a settled population and insists that my children – the 7th generation islanders – have no status and be denied fundamental human right with one voice… this is unacceptable.
“Be clear when you hear the Argentine delegation talk about a ‘peaceful and negotiated settlement’, what they are looking for is nothing less than the requisition of my house against the clearly expressed wish of my people. For Argentina, the only acceptable outcome of any “negotiation” is control of the Falklands – a position recently enshrined in their Constitution – solely because it covets our lands and resources. Argentina’s colonial intentions and its refusal to recognize modern realities must be seen for what they are.
“I see from recent articles in Argentinian newspapers that the latest approach might be to judge all the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands as being born in Argentina and to ‘incorporate’ us. The people of the Falkland Islands do not wish to be “incorporated” by Argentina. We don’t want to be a colony of Argentina and, Madam Chair, we won’t be forced to submit.
“All we ask is that this Committee, fully in line with its objectives, recognize the legitimate right of our people to self-determination.
“Madam Chairperson, members of the committee, it is unacceptable to me that Argentina is whitewashing my family from history, denying my children the right to a voice and seeking to absorb my people against their will.
“On behalf of nine generations of Kelpers, on behalf of all the children of the Falklands and generations to come – I ask this committee to recognize that although we are few in number, the islanders of the Falklands must not be denied the right human fundamental to self-determination. .
“I will close by reiterating the invitation of my Honorable colleague: Please send a mission to the Falklands, Madam President. See for yourself the reality.