4 February 2013, 15:33

Falklands Islands’ issue heated up by the press

Falklands Islands’ issue heated up by the press
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Argentina's foreign minister has rejected a meeting with members of the Falkland Islands government in London next week. Hector Timmerman said the international community does not recognise a third party in the dispute, saying it is a matter between London and Buenos Aires. John Fowler is the deputy editor of the Falkland Islans newspaper the Penguin News. He gave his reaction.

It comes as no great surprise, honestly. One of the big problems we have is the fact that the Argentine government refuses to accept our legitimacy as a country. Some people talk about us as being part of Britain. And I would quarrel with that. We’re British. We’re British by our history, by culture, by choice, if you like. But we’re a British overseas territorty, not actually a part of Britain. And many of us have ambitions eventually towards the Falklands being independent, but we can’t realize these ambitions while we have a threatening and aggressive neighbor. So this is disappointing, because we do have things to talk about to Argentina, things of mutual benefits, like fisheries protection. Since the Kirschners came into power all those kinds of contacts which were useful to both sides, have ceased.

Is there a feeling that the Falklands Islands are being menaced by Argentina? Is there a definite sense that there’s politicking on behalf of the Argentine President?

There’re two things going on really. There’s a political war of words going on between the two sides. Our position that we want to insist is that there are three sides. We don’t feel threatened militarily. We feel quite happy that the British garrison here provides us an adequate defense against Argentina’s increasing forces. But we do feel threatened economically. There’ve been serious attempts made by the Argentine government to interfere with our fishing industry, to interfere with cruise ships coming here and also to hinder the oil exploration which is now going on.

You mentioned oil there. There’s a sense that this is about potential future resources and it could be a very resource-rich area, couldn’t it?

Oil has come along to sort of heat up the situation. But it was a situation that existed anyway. Suddenly, it keeps being presented, particularly by the Argentines, as an ownership argument – who owns the Falklands Islands? We have a relationship with Britain. But we really like to think of being our own place; our own people.  And that’s the sticking point with Argentina. Mr. Timerman’s letter to William Hague talked about him having to be supervised by Falklands Islands colonials - or settlers I think was the expression. That’s very insulting to members of our government who are democratically elected.

What do you make of the attitude of British press, in particular, where very much do frame this within the language of ownership. You’re saying that Argentina is talking about ownership. You could actually level that accusation at the British press as well.

The comment has made us, not so much annoyed, as upset. Neither of what claim to be the two sides of the argument really understand where we are coming from and what our position is. We have a lot of support from the British press, but some of it has been, from my point of view, rather misleading. But there’re two things to be said. One is that it’d be great if press on both sides would stop trying to hot up the situation with this war of words. The other is that we were a British colony and we're now a British overseas territory. The British government’s position is that it supports our right to self-determination. And that includes really whatever we as a people want to do decide to do. If we wanted to be a colony of China, they’d be committed to support that. We’re having are a referendum in March, we want to maintain our present relationship with Britain, as a British overseas territory, but we’re not a colony! And the British government supports our right to decide to be whatever seems to appropriate.

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