The dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands erupts again after the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, wrote a stinging letter to David Cameron demanding that the UK returns the Falkland Islands to Argentinian rule. Kirchner argues that Argentina was ‘forcibly stripped’ of the Islands, in a ‘blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism.’ Cameron, however, held firm in the face of such a public attack, declaring that he will ‘do everything to protect the interests of the islanders’ – something that Kirchner has completely ignored. Instead of exposing and potentially embarrassing the UK’s supposed lack of adherence to the United Nations’ resolution in 1960 to bring to ‘an end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations’, all Kirchner has managed to do is make herself look like a selfish child throwing a tantrum.
The fiery letter has, in fact, exposed the very reason why the Falklands should never be returned to Argentina. Kirchner did not mention the islanders’ interests at all in the letter but focused on Argentina’s misfortune at the hands of the British. She is clearly under the impression that the Falkland islanders cannot think for themselves. Surely the Falklanders have the right to self-determine how the islands that they inhabit are governed; after all, the question of sovereignty is going to affect them the most.
The Falklanders have appeared to be the missing party in the whole dispute despite the argument being about their islands, but Kirchner’s letter, published in various UK newspapers, has unsurprisingly provoked an angry response. The @falklands_utd Twitter account tweeted: ‘through our right to self-determination we choose to maintain our relationship with Great Britain… Kirchner can write as many letters as she wishes. They carry less weight than the paper they were written on.’ Nothing could have picked more holes in Kirchner’s letter. For one thing, her view that the Falklands are still a colony of the UK is unfounded, due to the islanders choosing to have UK sovereignty. The tweet also confirms just how selfishly Kirchner has acted, thinking only about the concerns of the Argentinian people. The Falklanders have a voice in this democratic world, and they will certainly use it. A referendum on the issue is due to be held in March, giving the islanders a deserved right to decide how they want to be governed. I would put money on them choosing to remain under British sovereignty.
Why would the islanders choose to become Argentinian again? Most of us don’t like change if we’re happy how we are, and surely coming under Argentinian sovereignty would change the Islands massively. The only official language of the Falkland Islands is currently English, whereas the official language of Argentina is Spanish. A change of sovereignty, and subsequently a change in how the island is governed, would probably mean a change in language use, which would surely cause problems for a predominantly English-speaking country. For Kirchner, with her clear opposition to UK influence in the Falklands, changing the political language of the Falklands would surely be one of the things that she would want to change, regardless of the islanders’ feelings on the matter.
Fore-fronting the Falkland dispute has only made Kirchner’s situation in Argentina worse, with many arguing that she has only drawn attention to the matter to deflect her political situation at home. She is losing political support, and there are more pressing concerns for the Argentinian people, such as economic difficulties, than deciding on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. Kirchner is clearly fighting a losing battle. Nothing can be implemented concerning the Islands without support, which Kirchner has very little of. Let the Falklanders decide in March, and then we can all finally put this drawn-out debate to rest.