It’s C24 time again

June 14th 2012.

The 30th anniversary of the end of the Falklands war in 1982. Also the first time that the Head of State of any country in the world demeaned herself to go and try, in desperation, to convince the sub-sub-Committee of the United Nations, known as the C24, that she had a claim to another territory.

And the basis for this claim? Another defeat at the hands of British forces, 150 years before the Falklands War. President Cristina Kirchner alleges that in 1833 the British ‘usurped’ her country and threw off the legal authorities that were representing Buenos Aires. She even took along to the C24 a long-lost son of the family that Argentina claims established their right of sovereignty. A Vernet!

That poor scion was dragged up to say that his family had had a house on the Falklands since 1823 and that they became, in 1829, the representatives of the Buenos Aires Government. ” .. great-great-grandmother Maria had been the wife of the first political and military commander of the Malvinas Islands and those adjacent to Cape Horn.  Since 1823, her house had been part of Malvinas.  At that time, ranches had been set up for livestock.  Her brother and brother-in-law settled in Puerto de la Soledad in 1824.  In 1828, a decree had given her family land as a way to encourage the development of new areas for national prosperity.  In 1829, Maria was 29 with three children, the youngest of whom had taken her first steps in Malvinas.”

Now this is one of Argentina’s lies. They’ve been doing it to the C24 ever since Ruda’s speech in the 1960’s. What Marcello Luis Vernet did not mention, is that his family’s expedition to East Falkland in 1824 (not 1823) failed. The truth of that, the Vernet family’s initial attempt to establish a business on the islands under one Pablo Arequati, goes rather more like this: 

February 2nd, Pablo Areguati, with 25 gauchos, arrives on East Falkland. February 12th, Areguati writes, “We are without meat, without ship’s biscuits, and without gunpowder for hunting. We support ourselves by chance captures of rabbits, since there is no fat meat since we cannot go out to slaughter as there are no horses. I have resolved to tell you that we are perishing.” April 8th, the Captain of the British ship Adeona, threatens to denounce Areguati’s party as ‘pirates.June 7th, Areguati abandons the settlement and returns to Buenos Aires in the Fenwick. He leaves 8 gauchos behind, including the foreman Aniceto Oviedo. July 24th, the remaining gauchos are taken off East Falkland by the British sealer, Susannah Anne.

So – no house established in 1823.

In 1825, Britain and Buenos Aires signed a commercial Treaty which, while not recognising any right of Buenos Aires to any territory still claimed by Spain, at least set up the mechanism for trade. In Article 3, Britain gave permission for settlers from the mainland to try to forge business interests on the Falklands. So now the Vernet family had British permission.

And yet Marcello Vernet accused Britain of making the “gross historical error” !

Vernet then quoted from his ancestor’s Diary that at the time of Maria Vernet’s arrival in 1829 (not 1823), there were some 20 other settler families.  Her diary described daily life in a small community composed of Germans, people from Patagonia, Scots, Frenchmen, Genoese, English, Irish, and Africans.

He did not explain how these representatives from so many countries quite provides Argentina with the right to claim the Falklands.

Vernet also talked about the ‘Malvinas Command’, being founded on August 30th 1829. He did not mention the British protest of that same year which clearly told Buenos Aires that the Falklands were British and that they should stay away.

In many ways, the most surprising thing about Argentina’s claims over 1833 is that they were actually surprised that the British turned out to be as good as their word. They still do not think the British can be as good as their word.

In 1832 Argentina did not believe that the British would throw them off. They were wrong.

In 1982 Argentina did not believe that the British would throw them off. They were wrong.

And yet here they are still, in 2012, screeching at a discredited and biased sub-sub-Committee of the United Nations that Britain should let them onto a set of islands that they never owned, nor ever established any claim to.

Is Argentina hard of hearing ?


Cristina Fernandez – Head Down at the UN

A few hours ago we had the usual rant to the United Nations General Assembly, from Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who repeated her annual demand for the UK to sit down and talk about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Once again referring to the distance between Britain and its Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, the President said, ” It is obvious the UK cannot claim sovereignty over a territory that’s 14,000 kilometres away from their land. We are not asking the UK to sit to accept right away sovereignty talks, we are asking the UK to comply with the UN General Assembly resolutions, and not necessarily with the 29 resolutions from the Decolonization Committee, or the so many others statements from the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur, and other Latam-African and Asian forums.”

Nothing new then; although she included a threat to the current regular flight between Chile and Mount Pleasant Airport that uses Argentine airspace, added the old moan about the oil exploration programme and tried to raise the status of the discredited Decolonisation Committee by referring to its annual decision-making as ‘Resolutions’.

Typically she remains unenlightened as to international law, which is hardly a good thing for a country’s chief lawmaker.

Geography is irrelevant. 14,000 or a million, it makes no difference. International law dismissed geography as a reason in sovereignty cases way back in 1928, but apparently Argentina didn’t like that decision so adopts the ostrich position.

A similar ‘head-down’ stance can be seen in her failure to recognise, again, that as a ‘colony’ listed by the UN as a ‘Non-Self Governing Territory’, the Islanders’ have the right, in international law, to determine their own future.

As for the Decolonisation Committee! A biased sub-Committee of the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly. Whatever it produces, it ain’t Resolutions.

So, nothing much different from the previous three speeches to the UN’s General Assembly. Just the threat to the air service agreement. Cristina must have read recently about how important that flight is to breakfast for the Falklanders, most of whom must be egg-bound looking at the figures.

But then Argentina has a reputation for breaking formal agreements; Treaties or otherwise. In July 1832, Francis Baylies, the United States Chargé d’affaires in Buenos Aires wrote to his State Department opposing a Treaty between the two countries, “…  for we would abide by it, and they would consider the violation of a treaty no greater offense than a lie told by a schoolboy …. “

No problem; they’ll blame the British, they always do! And that about sums up Argentina.

Till next year then!

Historical Facts or Historical Fiction ?

Yesterday’s interview of the Argentine Defence Minister, Arturo Puricelli, and his threats towards peaceful co-existence with the Falkland islanders has been adequately dealt with elsewhere (‘Sticks and Stones’ ), but something caught my eye.

” … Puricelli said Argentina has geographical, historical, political and legal arguments placing Malvinas, Georgia and Sandwich Islands and the adjoining waters unquestionably under Argentine sovereignty…”. ( )

‘Unquestionably’ is the sort of word that is supposed to end debate, rather than start one. But, is this a true version of the current situation?

The history of the Falkland islands is long and involved and the argument between Britain and Argentina started with the then Argentine Foreign Minister’s letter to Britain in 1833. This focused on the Falkland Islands and laid out the argument that the islands had been Spanish up until 1811, and then became Argentina’s possession after 1816. The debate, after 178 years of refinement, is long, complicated and probably impossible to resolve.

But what about South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands ?

Part of the Spanish/Argentine argument is that the New World was divided up by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and that this legitimises their ownership of much of the South American continent. This was certainly a part of the Spanish argument for the Falkland Islands. Portugal received, after some negotiatiation, the section of the Americas falling to the east of a line drawn north/south ‘..370 leagues..’ west of the  Cape Verde Islands.

On this reckoning, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands belonged to Portugal.

And then there is the problem of discovery.

South Georgia was first discovered by an English merchant, Anthony de la Roche, who had been blown off course. Captain James Cook made the first recorded landing in 1775 and named the island after George III, in whose name he claimed it. Subsequent arrangements for the government of South Georgia were established by Letters Patent in 1843.

No Spanish discovery, no Spanish claim, no Spanish settlement. Ever!

The South Sandwich Islands were discovered by Captain Cook in the same year that he landed on South Georgia. This group of islands was named after the then 1st Lord of the Admiralty, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The United Kingdom formally annexed these islands and grouped them together with other British held territory in Antarctica by Letters Patent, in 1908.

No Spanish discovery, no Spanish claim, no Spanish settlement. Ever!

By the time that Argentina came into existence as a seperate State in 1816, both sets of islands had been British possessions for 41 years.

Argentina claimed South Georgia in 1927 and the South Sandwich Islands in 1938.

British attempts to deal with these claims at the International Court of Justice in 1947, 1951, 1953 and 1955 were thwarted by Argentina’s refusal to recognise the jurisdiction of the United Nation’s court.

Argentina has never attempted to explain its claims to these islands.

What Argentina does attempt to do is to group South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands together with the Falkland Islands in a desperate attempt to fudge the difference.

This is just an illegal, unjustified land grab and there are no ‘ .. geographical, historical, or legal ..’ arguments.

There is only politics !

Falkland Islands Government message to the Decolonisation Committee

Member of the Legislative Assembly Dick Sawle, on behalf of the Falkland Islands Government, addressed the UN Declonisation Committee on the 21st June 2011.

“Mr Chairman, your Excellencies and Committee Members. I am honoured to be here at the United Nations. I am a democratically elected member of the Falkland Islands Government. We are self governing in all areas except foreign affairs and defence. We make our own laws, we have our own Constitution, we are a permanent population and we live in a defined territory. These are simple facts.

I am not a professional politician – far from it. I am not used to the spin and the political games that the professionals play. With me, what you see is what you get and anything I say or do is said or done because I mean it and believe it.

I have not come here with any entourage of lawyers, advisors and assistants. I don’t need them to strengthen my case. The facts speak for themselves. There are only two of us standing here before you today from the Falkland Islands, but behind both of us there stands a population that is united in its belief that we should be left in peace to determine our own future. This is a principle which this committee above all should support and heartily endorse.

Before I entered politics I had always thought that the United Nations represented the ultimate in democratic principles. The founding purposes of the United Nations are outlined in its charter. Chapter 1 Article 1.2 enshrines the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. This is a high principle indeed that the UN stands for and which it is prepared to fight for throughout the world’s stage, as has been evidenced recently in many countries. I ask you to stand by that same principle today.

However, there seems to be no desire from some of your members to respect this fundamental principle that enshrines above all our fundamental right to self-determination. In 1964, Argentina presented an unexpected and extraordinary speech making claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to this same committee via its representative to the UN at the time – Jose Maria Ruda.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies – you were cleverly misled.

His speech was full of historical inaccuracies which were simply repeated in order to give them credibility – in fact dozens of completely false historical assertions in that single speech. These false assertions – in particular the “Expulsion Myth” which claims that a resident Argentine population was expelled by the British in 1833 – led to the passing in 1965 of Resolution 2065 which calls on the UK and Argentina to negotiate over the future of the Falklands. However, this resolution was passed without seeking full knowledge of the truth. In 1964, Falkland Islanders were not given the opportunity to speak in their own defence and as a consequence, this Committee had no opportunity to hear our own opinions.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies – your predecessors should have heard all of the facts before jumping to that resolution and I call for you now to listen, reflect and do what is right – change your mind. If you believe in and stand by your principles, then this is the only option open to you.

This Committee should allow for our views to be heard – not just in this forum but directly in the Falkland Islands. Whilst the former Chair has visited Argentina, there has been no visit to the Falkland Islands to hear our views directly. The fundamental principle here is that this committee must open up its mind and begin to listen to both sides.

The wishes of those of us who live in the Islands are conveniently ignored by the Decolonisation Committee, and have been ever since we first attended and spoke at this Committee in the mid 80’s, yet self-determination and political and economic freedoms are the cornerstone of the UN charter.

The history of the Falkland Islands is simple – it’s not difficult. The facts are well-known. The Falkland Islands never formed part of Argentina, and no civilian population has ever been expelled from the Islands. There were no pre- 19th century native people on the Islands. The Falkland Islands belong to the current and only settled people of the Falkland Islands. We were not implanted. We have settled and developed these Islands naturally for 178 years, just like most other immigrant peoples in the Americas. I am proud to be one of those people who settled in the Falkland Islands. I am as much a Falkland Islander as those who can lay claim to eight or nine generations of Islander ancestors because I am part of that fundamental process of choice and freedom. It is the case since 1765, when Britain formally claimed the Falkland Islands, that no civilian population has ever been expelled.

Argentine Foreign Minister Timerman will claim later this morning that an Argentine civilian population was expelled from the Falklands in 1833. In 1833, Britain did expel an Argentine military garrison that had been sent to the islands three months earlier, but the small civilian population present on the islands in 1833 was encouraged to remain and all but four individuals decided to do so – not forty, four hundred or four thousand, but four.

Argentina may wish to replace its rhetoric with evidence and detail to support its claim that an Argentine civilian population was expelled by force ?

Both British and Argentine historical accounts do not support this Argentine government theory.

No Argentine civilian population has ever been expelled from the Falkland Islands. However, Argentine military forces have twice invaded and occupied our country and have rightly and justly been expelled on both occasions – 1833 and 1982.

UN resolution 1514 (XV) section two states:

“All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”

I urge you today to stand by this statement.

Furthermore, in 2008, and in contrast to the text approved by this Committee, the UN 4th Committee rejected new language that attempted to qualify the principle of self-determination. Specifically, the language proposed by this Committee attempted to reject the application of the principle of self-determination to cases where sovereignty was disputed. This was rejected. The 4th Committee accepted that self-determination is an inalienable basic human right and thus cannot be qualified.

This fundamental point cannot be ignored in relation to the Falkland Islands.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies – these concepts refer back to the basic premise that sovereignty is not negotiable. Sovereignty is not a question of ownership and control over a country – it has to be determined, accepted and respected by those who are governed in order for it to have legitimacy.

The Argentine claim does not meet any of these fundamental requirements.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies – I believe that it is your duty as guardians of the fundamental principles of the UN to respect these statements and support the ideals they represent.

Argentina makes much of resolution 2065 which invites Britain and Argentina to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

Mr Chairman, your Excellencies – Despite the aggressive and unjust approach taken by the Republic of Argentina, both the UK government and the Falkland Islands government have over the years attempted to talk and agree ways forward with Argentina whilst respecting sovereignty. In response, Argentina has broken agreements, invaded our country and attempted to restrict our external communications and our economy. Argentina seems only interested in aggressive territorial expansion and sovereignty claims over our land, and not peaceful solutions.

In 1999, the Falkland Islands signed a joint statement with Argentina, which was later distributed jointly within the United Nations General Assembly. The aim of the Statement was to agree on various items that would be mutually beneficial. In short, according to the terms of the Statement:-

• We allowed Argentine passport holders to the Falklands

• We agreed the resumption of scheduled civil air services between Chile and the Falklands.

• We agreed to cooperate over straddling fish stocks, poaching and high seas fishing regulations via the South Atlantic Fisheries Committee, together with the sharing of scientific information.

• We agreed to a memorial being built at the Argentine cemetery at Darwin

• We agreed to continue working together to evaluate the feasibility and cost of clearing land mines

• The Argentine government agreed to consider toponymy in the Falkland Islands

Mr Chairman…we have fully complied with our side of the Joint Statement and still do so today. Sadly, Argentina has not continued to do so.

• Argentina has refused to share scientific data on fish stocks and as a result fish stocks are under threat and declining. We are, as we always have been, fully prepared to cooperate.

• Argentina has refused joint research cruises which we have offered

• Argentina has refused to attend meetings of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission which we are happy to attend.

• Argentina has not reverted regarding toponymy

Yet this is not the whole story. Argentina’s unilateral actions have also included:-

• In November 2003, banning all charter flights to the Islands through Argentine airspace.

• Placing its sovereignty claim into its Constitution in 1994

• Legislating for sanctions against fishing companies who have interests in both countries

• Tearing up the joint hydrocarbon exploration agreement of 1995

• Legislating for sanctions against any company dealing with Falkland Islands oil related business.

• Introducing Decree 256 which ignores the right of innocent passage and is contrary therefore to UNCLOS. Decree 256 requires any vessel transiting Argentine territorial waters to and from the Falklands or South Georgia to apply for an Argentine permit.

• Repeatedly placing its sovereignty claim in various regional and international meetings (eg Mercosur and Unasur) where neither the Falkland Islands nor British Governments are represented.

• Refusing to discuss or recognise the only Government, that of the Falkland Islands, who have any influence over the British Government’s ability to negotiate Falkland Islands matters.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies…these are not the actions of a friendly nation. Furthermore, these are not the actions of a mature democratic government that respects the basic human rights of other peoples to self-determination. These are the actions of a bully-boy that has lost the fight and now is attempting to gain by political pressure what he failed to do by force. They are clear and unequivocal attempts to disrupt our economy, block trade and isolate us.

The end result is that any bridges that we may have attempted to build between the two countries have been destroyed by unilateral Argentine action.

When you consider our views, please do bear in mind that all that Argentina is placing on the table here today is a desire to colonise our country and subjugate us to its will – surely the opposite of what this committee is concerned with?

As the former Chair of this Committee pointed out in his address at the University of Belgrano last year, if Argentina were to gain sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, then it would immediately have to relinquish sovereignty as it would be obliged to respect our right to self-determination under resolution 1514. It is, therefore, on a futile mission as the only possible result of success can be failure.

Legitimate sovereignty is a self-determined desire to live under a government of one’s own choice. I call on you to see this challenge that we face for what it really is – a simple desire to steal what is rightfully ours – a desire to subjugate a fiercely independent people to an authority that we do not admire, respect, envy or want.

The Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, when addressing your first meeting of 2011, called for “concrete results” in the quest for self-determination. He went on to say “On a case-by-case basis, those Territories have to be given the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination”. That is the right that we desire.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies and Committee Members, you have heard our views today direct from the Falkland Islands. I believe you should now act in support of our desire to determine our own future and I call upon you to dismiss the Argentine arguments for what they really are…. Territorial expansionist desires which ignore the fundamental principles of the UN and which are aggressive in nature and colonial in intent. If you wish to stand by your principles, then you have no other option.”

Falkland Islands

One of my particular bones of contention is the beligerent way in which Argentina treats the Falkland Islands based on no claim whatsoever other than geography ( the islands lie closer to Argentina than the UK), and their need to take control over the south Atlantic in an attempt to exert some influence over the future of the Antarctic. Geopolitics pure and simple.

Oh yes, Argentina will come up with a concocted history claiming that they had founded a settlement in the 1820’s and then been thrown off by British forces in 1833. This is a selective, indeed spurious, version of events as it fails to note that the British first gained sovereignty in 1765. Long before Argentina was even a twinkle in a revolutionary’s eye.

There was no indiginous population on the islands when the first British settlement was founded and the sovereighty claim that Britain gained then has never been renounced nor abandoned

However, what is most important here in the 21st century is the future of the islander’s themselves. As an ex-colony and a non-self governing territory they are entitled to both protection and rights under the multi-lateral Treaty known as the Charter of the United Nations.

The Falkland Islander’s are empowered by the Charter to decide their own future and the British Government is meeting its responsibilities under Article 73 with that end in mind.

Article 73 states:

” Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:

a) to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;

b) to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free
political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each
territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;

c) to further international peace and security;

d) to promote constructive measures of development, to encourage research, and to co-operate with one another and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic, and scientific purposes set forth in this Article; and

e) to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories for which they are respectively responsible ….. “

The islanders have their own government in the form of a Legislative Assembly with eight elected members representing a population of around 3,000 islanders and they are increasingly taking responsibility for their own development.

For example the recent oil exploration licences were issued by the Falkland Islands Government, not the UK. These, together with fishing licences, sheep farming, tourism and the production of stamps, have reduced the islander’s dependancy on the UK to the point that the only costs the British pick up are those for defence.

However, there is another Article in the UN Charter regarding non-self governing territories.

Article 74 states:

” Members of the United Nations also agree that their policy in respect of the
territories to which this Chapter applies, no less than in respect of their
metropolitan areas, must be based on the general principle of good-neighbourliness, due account being taken of the interests and well-being of the rest of the world, in social, economic, and commercial matters. “

This Article applies to all of the Members of the United Nations and lays a duty upon them. Argentina is in breach of that duty. Argentina is not a ‘good neighbour’.