Just as impressive as the Yes-vote was the turnout in the referendum,
organised by the Falkland Islands Government in response to renewed pressure
from Argentina. Of the 1,649 islanders eligible to vote, 92 per cent did so,
blowing away concerns that a display of apathy might result in the
As expected, Argentina, which invaded the Falklands in 1982, dismissed the
poll as a ploy to mask the weakness of the British claim to the islands.
David Cameron called on Buenos Aires to “take careful note” of the
wishes of their inhabitants.
The emphatic Yes-vote is a public relations setback for Cristina Kirchner,
president of Argentina, who has reignited the dispute over sovereignty,
maintaining that the islanders are an “implanted” population
lacking the right to self-determination.
Sybie Summers, owner of the Pod gift shop, on Stanley’s chilly waterfront, was
in less than forgiving mood about the No trio.
“I don’t know who they are but if they’re not standing up for our islands
then they shouldn’t be here,” she said. “We never turn anyone away
from these islands but if that is how they feel then they can have a one-way
plane ticket out of here marked ‘Do not return’.”
The referendum was one of the more unusual exercises in democracy, involving
mobile polling stations – four-wheel drives equipped with ballot boxes –
criss-crossing the lonely landscapes of East and West Falkland, the two main
A light aircraft acted as an airborne polling station for even more remote
communities in areas inaccessible by road and smaller islands. The
referendum was supervised by a team of independent observers, including ones
from Latin America, who pronounced it free and fair.
Jan Cheek, a member of the Falklands eight-strong legislative assembly, was
unfazed by the three No-votes.
“Those votes gave our referendum credibility,” she said. “If it
had been 100 per cent in favour, it would have been very suspicious.”
Members of the assembly have travelled to Washington to present the result to
Congress in the hope that the United States will abandon its fence-sitting
on the issue of self-determination for the islanders.
“It would be a nice if one of the greatest democracies would show its
support for one of the smallest ones,” said Mrs Cheek.
On the outskirts of Stanley, by the old racecourse, live Roddy Napier and his
wife Lily. Mr Napier, 85, came in for some unwelcome attention when, in the
period before the 1982 invasion, he wrote a letter published in the islands’
newspaper calling for an accommodation with Argentina.
At that time, the Foreign Office in London was trying to sell a ‘leaseback’
agreement in which sovereignty would be transferred to Argentina while
retaining British administration.
“I said that it was essential to open up communications with Argentina,”
said Mr Napier. “In the long term, I still think that we have to come
closer to Argentina. You cannot isolate yourself from your neighbour forever.”
The reaction? “People said I was pro-Argentine, a traitor.”
So were they two thirds of the mysterious No vote? “We voted Yes, of
course we did,” said Mrs Napier.
“Being British is very important. We have to have a mummy country.”
Falkland islands referendum: who were the three ‘No’ votes? – Telegraph.co.uk
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