Falklands and referendum: clearing penumbra

 

The Falkland Islands will have a referendum over two days, 10 and 11 March. The islanders will have the chance to give their opinion about their political status. Terms such as self-determination, self-governing, political status, sovereignty , overseas territory and even referendum are used in the explanatory note that precedes the one question they will have.
On the one hand, Argentina’s government reclaims full sovereignty over the islands (even included at Constitutional level) and rejects the referendum. On the other hand, the British government is in favour of the consultation, maintains its sovereignty over the Falklands and expressly allows the islanders to decide their future. In the middle, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands. And with them the population of both Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Indeed, it is an important time for the islanders. But it is also an important time in international relations. There are already examples of referendums in similar situations (one in Kashmir and two in Gibraltar) that clearly demonstrate that opportunities like this can be (and in fact are) missed by those who are the centre of the dispute.
Now more than ever the Falkland islanders should be provided with the necessary means to vote in an informed manner. It is time to leave behing egoistical political agendas and focus on what people want and need. Therefore, it is crucial to define clearly what this referendum really means and its possible implications. As we have just seen, Argentina’s government simply rejects it. However, they are missing the United Kingdom is giving them (let us remember the United Kingdom allows the islanders to decide their future). Nevertheless, not only does the Argentina’s government remain in a stubborn position but also the British one makes subtle decisions when choosing its words-e.g. sovereignty, to allow to decide.
From Monday we will see why the Falkland islanders have the right to be listened (contrary to the argument used by Argentinians governments to reject any involvement of what they have called and still call ‘implanted population’). In  addition to this, we will define the implications of a concept such as self-determination and its relationship with sovereigtny. It is important to make clear that self-determination does not imply per se independence (one of the main Argentinian’s objections) and may in fact result in different political status. However, that is different from saying that the Falkland islanders should be “allowed” to exercise their right to self-determination: why would anyone have to allow us to do something that should only depend on our will? Is not that a contradiction of terms, a self-defeating wording?
In the meantime, and in order to have an informed opinion and discussion:
Falklands referendum: dates, question and booklet

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