View from the Falklands: The other British isles

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Amid the sheep and battlefields of the Falklands, the diversity is a surprise

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by Jennifer Coombs / April 11, 2017 /

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Published in May 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine

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©Renato Granieri/Alamy stock photo

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The Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic offer a starkly beautiful but treeless landscape of mountains, moorland and rivers. Britain has ruled the Falklands for the best part of two centuries, but scarcely knew it until the Argentinian invasion in 1982.

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We flew into Mount Pleasant Airport from Santiago in Chile on the once weekly service from mainland South America. An alternative is to fly with the RAF from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on one of the twice-weekly flights (20 civilian seats available, subject to cancellations.) There is only one proper hotel and a handful of guest houses. Change is always in the offing, although it is difficult to build new infrastructure because the Argentinians refuse to allow more flights over their airspace. And the British won’t allow flights from Argentina at all unless the Argentinians once and for all give up their claim to what they still call the Islas Malvinas.

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Since 1982, the military presence based at Mount Pleasant Airport and Mare Harbour has transformed the cultural fabric of the archipelago. After all, the presence of over 2,000 military personnel increases the overall population by well over half. Keeping them there costs around £60m annually. This behemoth is augmented by the Falkland Islands Defence Force. Its budget, funded by the Falklands’ own government, is just £400,000. It is a light infantry company manned entirely by the local population. They meet once a week for training.

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There are 2,400 people living in Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. The rest of the population, which numbers only a few hundred, is thinly scattered across the farms of the mainland and outer islands. Surprisingly, it is a multi-racial society, with 60 nationalities, including ninth generation islanders. Under the 2009 Constitution the islands are self-governed, though the UK remains responsible for foreign affairs. Through traditional sheep farming, commercial fisheries, oil exploration and nascent tourism, this community has achieved self-sufficiency—but only if you disallow the extraordinary cost of the defence.

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We visited the military sites with Nobby and Carrot, fifth generation islanders with West Country accents. We drove to San Carlos over the rugged terrain populated by sheep, upland geese and the odd raptor. A short walk away from the San Carlos Water is the small museum containing photos and relics of the battle that was fought here. The stone corral of the Blue Beach Cemetery overlooks the Water.

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Our next stop was Goose Green—site of the most famous battle of the conflict. Geese wander on the grassland in front of the Gallery Café. Nearby was the site where Colonel “H” Jones led his men in his last assault. We called at the Argentinian cemetery nearby and then on to Tumbledown, Two Sisters and Mount Harriet—all remote places no one in Britain had heard of, until they earned their fame as battlegrounds where our men fought and died.

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Back in Port Stanley while preparing to leave for South Georgia, 800 nautical miles to the east, I took a ride to Eliza Cove—the Port Stanley rubbish dump. Along the side of the road was a group of Africans sheltering from a rain squall in an empty container, an unexpected and miserable sight. Nearby two of their colleagues were poking around in the field with bamboo sticks. Here was the elite 36-man Zimbabwean Mine Clearance Unit run by the British bomb-disposal firm BACTEC. They are continually clearing mines from the war with little or no record from the Argentinians as to where the ordnance was placed. It is, then, the real as well as the diplomatic war that rumbles on.

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The Falkland Island Museum was packed with Argentinian veterans who were fascinated with the original footage being shown on a screen, which they were trying to record on their smartphones. These visiting veterans will have largely been ill-equipped teenage conscripts back then, and they visit the islands via a special once-a-month flight. At Mount Pleasant Airport on the way out, they searched poignantly for the rocks and earth they collect as souvenirs. A large pile of the rubble was in a corner of the check-in area when we departed from Stanley, while the RAF flew two Eurofighter Typhoons in a screaming display overhead.

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The islands also remain as a strategic point of entry to our British Antarctic Territory, one more reason why they deserve our continued interest and support. As for the dream of oil production, two companies recently merged and have signed a £57m deal, now that the Argentinian government has dropped the threat to prosecute exploration activities in the Falklands’ Maritime zone. Oil is always “just around the corner” here, but it would so transform this place that on the islands, there is talk of little else.

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In March 2013 a referendum was held, purportedly on the political status of the Falklands, but really it was a publicity exercise. The islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, rejecting Argentina’s call for negotiations on sovereignty. On a turnout of 92 per cent of eligible adults, 99.8 per cent voted to stay British. That implies there were only three votes against.

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Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

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Adam Smith, Hans Lander, Alex Nicholson, Hank Oslo and special guest P.T. Carlo

Notes:

“The House meets this Saturday to respond to a situation of great gravity. We are here because, for the first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power. After several days of rising tension in our relations with Argentina, that country’s armed forces attacked the Falkland Islands yesterday and established military control of the islands.” -Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, 1982. For many, the Falkland Islands represented an obscure British territory in the South Atlantic that held little economic value, let alone a place where one could easily identify on a map. But as the conflict between one of the world’s aging empires and a military junta unfolded, the powers of the world took note at how modern warfare between fairly well equipped naval and air forces lent themselves to managing a ground invasion. As the smaller wars of the late 20th and early 21st century began, many militaries and governments looked back to how the Thatcher government gained in national popularity from armed conflict – if not in economic or even strategic terms.

Timeline: 

1690 – Falklands first discovered by English captain John Strong
1764 – French establish Port Louis on East Falklands Island
1766 – English establish Port Egmont on Saunders Island; French concede Port Louis to Spanish, becomes Port Soledad
1770 – Spain captured Port Egmont
1771 – close to war, Spain gives back territory to Britain
1806 – Napoleonic Wars, Britain invades Rio de la Plata, Spain abandons its garrison, leaves gauchos, fishermen
1820 – Buenos Aires attempts to assert control
1832 – British reassert control after Argentina garrison mutiny
1840 – Falklands become an official Crown Colony – Scottish settlers create pastoral colony with cattle, sheep
1844 – government moves to Port Jackson, soon renamed Stanley
1851 – wool industry surpasses ship wrecking business
1871 – steam ships surpass sailing ships
1914 – Panama Canal opens, effectively ending Cape Horn transshipment business
1914-1945 – Falklands used as strategic posts against Germans and Japanese
1979-1981 – Britain considers transferring sovereignty to Argentina to save money, but negotiations stall
1982 – Argentina invades
April 2, 1982- Falkland Islands are invaded by the Argentine armed forces, resulting in British subjects being placed under arrest.
April 3, 1982- Britain goes to the UN, drumming up international support against Argentina and creating the pretext for armed intervention.
April 5, 1982- Britain sends naval, air force and army units towards the Falklands Islands with the intention of forcibly retaking their territory.
April 7, 1982- 200-mile war zone declared by the British government.
April 30th, 1982- British naval forces arrive in the Falklands and the USA declares public support for Britain’s war effort.
May 2nd, 1982- General Belgrano, an Argentine battleship, is sunk by a British submarine. Approximately 320 Argentine sailors are killed.(edited)
May 4th, 1982- HMS Sheffield hit and sunk by Argentine air-launched Exocet missile strike.
May 21st, 1982- British troops begin amphibious landings in San Carlos waters; HMS Ardent sunk by Argentine aerial bombing, resulting in 22 deaths; 15 Argentine aircraft shot down
May 24th, 1982- HMS Antelope destroyed after being bombed by Argentine forces.
May 28th, 1982- 17 British soldiers killed, dozens killed and thousands captured on Argentine side at Battle of Goose Green.(edited)
June 8th, 1982- RFA’s Sir Galahad and Sir Tristam are destroyed after aerial bombing, resulting in over 50 deaths.
June 14th, 1982- HMS Glamorgan hit by Exocet missile strike; Argentine forces surrender to Major-General Jeremy Moore
June 17th, 1982- Argentine President Leopoldo Galtiero steps down from leadership in Argentina.
1983 – attempts to de-mine ceased after deminer casualties
1983 – military dictatorship in Argentina transitions to democracy
1989 – Argentina and UK formal relations re-established
Present Day – UK assert sovereignty over Falklands based on resident’s self determination

References: 

– Falkland Islands, Thatcher (1982) – https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104910
– Treasure Islands, The Economist (2014) – https://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2014/02/oil-and-gas-falklands
– The Falklands War in Retrospect, Friedman (2015) – https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-falklands-30-years-later/
– The Falklands War- Differing Causes of Conflict, Liffiton (2016) – http://www.e-ir.info/2016/02/06/the-falklands-war-differing-causes-of-conflict/
– “Unsinkable” American Aircraft Carriers- Five Nonsensical Statements, The Saker (2017) – https://thesaker.is/unsinkable-american-aircraft-carriers-five-nonsensical-statements/
– The Falklands War – The Untold Story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rgmos0Q6xK0
– The Falklands War Full Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3sZMYfcu6s
– The Falklands Legacy, Hastings – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obiTCUh7drU

Falklands concern with vast fishing fleet gathering on high seas

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Friday, January 12th 2018 – 07:18 UTC

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Barton confirmed the fleet had been out there from an early date and was likely to be catching small squid as well as having the capacity to catch a great deal of squid

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Falkland Illex fishing season starts on Feb. 15 2018 and the level of fishing effort is unchanged from recent seasons at 105 jiggers and one trawler (Pic N. Bonner)

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Fishing vessels, some 200+, in orange on the high seas 400 miles north of the Falklands – inset gives scale mile.

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A vast fleet of fishing vessels assembling to catch Illex squid on the high seas, some 400 miles north of the Falkland Islands, is an issue of concern to the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department.

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Director of Natural Resources John Barton confirmed to Penguin News this week that the fleet had been out there from an early date and was likely to be catching small squid as well as having the capacity to catch a great deal of squid.

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This could, of course, impact on Falklands fishery catches. The vessels arriving early in the season are largely Chinese and they are now being joined by some Falklands Islands licence customers, so the fleet is growing.

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There are 200+ vessels fishing outside the Argentine EEZ in the vicinity of 45ºS.
The Falkland Islands Illex fishing season starts on February 15 2018 and the level of fishing effort is unchanged from recent seasons at 105 jiggers and one trawler with Illex licenses, said Mr Barton.

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Although the seasons starts on the above mentioned date: “It depends how far and fast the Illex migrate south whether vessels start fishing as the season opens or if it is a slower start as sometimes happens.”

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Asked what was anticipated for this season he said: “Predicting the season is difficult as even if the abundance of squid is good, the factors which influence migration and distribution can have a big impact on whether it is a good season for the Falklands or not. “
“The 2017 season at some 67,000 tonnes was a low season in terms of catch, although I believe that was compensated for to some degree by higher prices.” Illex is worth around £6.3 million per annum to the Falkland Islands 2014 and 2015 were bumper years with catches of 300,000 and 350,000 tons.

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Illex in a good year is worth around £11million in licence fees to the Falklands government. However in bad years licence fees are usually refunded.

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Putting together all income from fishing licences, a reasonably lucrative year would raise around £21.5million. That includes the two squid licence fee figures plus finfish licences as well as access fees and corporation tax.

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Falklands fishery – Falklands waters are noted for their high productivity, and for the sustainable management of the fisheries. Squid usually account for around 75% of annual catches of some 200,000 tonnes, and are destined for markets in Europe and the Far East. The remainder of the catches consists of various finfish species including Rockod, Hake, Hoki and Toothfish. 50% of all Calamari in EU is from Falkland Islands.
Illex argentinus squid are fished principally by specialist squid jigging vessels from the Far East.(Penguin News).

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Falklands congratulate Sir Joe on knighthood

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In Featured, News Page
January 4, 2018
Chronicle Staff

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The Falkland Islands Government has congratulated Gibraltar Government Minister Joe Bossano on being awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for 2018.
In a statement in which it described Sir Joe as a “long-standing friend of the Falkland Islands”, the Falkland Islands Government said he has spoken vociferously in support of Falkland Islander’s right to self-determination at various international forums.
Sir Joe has visited the Falkland Islands twice, lastly in 2012 at the invitation of the Falkland Islands government, as part of a series of events to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict.
Chair of the Legislative Assembly, MLA Teslyn Barkman, said: “We were delighted to learn of Sir Joe receiving this well-deserved honour and offer him our warmest congratulations.”

“His lifelong commitment to self-determination has particularly resonated with us here in the Falklands.”
“His support has been truly appreciated and is an example of the friendship between the Falklands and Gibraltar which we greatly value.”
LOCAL REACTIONS
Local pressure groups the Equality Rights Group and the Gibraltar Women’s Association have also extended their congratulations to Sir Joe on being awarded a knighthood.
“We are delighted at the news that Joe Bossano has been honoured with a knighthood for his services to Gibraltar,” Equality Rights Group Chairman, Felix Alvarez said.
The Group added that it was “happy to have played a part” having publicly called for this “long-deserved” honour to be awarded.
“It was following this that I wrote to the Governor of Gibraltar making the all-too-obvious case for Her Majesty to consider what was a widely-supported Community hope, whether you agree or not with aspects of his politics,” Mr Alvarez added.
“As Gibraltarians, we must stand together, cherish and honour our people for the many gifts they bring to us all.”
Mr Alvarez has conveyed congratulations on the announcement to Sir Joe through the Office of the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, the GWA in welcoming the news said: “Sir Joe is a prime example of a great man who has selflessly offered so much to Gibraltar as a whole over so many years.”

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Theresa May pledges no compromise on Falklands right to self-determination

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Theresa May and Falklands IslandPA/GETTY

Theresa May said she will never let anyone threaten the Islanders right to decide their own future

FALKLAND islanders have been told by the Prime Minister she will never let anyone threaten their right to decide their own future.

 gave them the guarantee, amid continuing sovereignty claims by Argentina, 35 years after its failed invasion of the British overseas territory.

It came in her Christmas radio message to the remote South Atlantic archipelago. The Falklands War in 1982 ended with the islands returned to British control after an Argentine surrender.

During the fighting 255 British and about 650 Argentine servicemen were killed, plus three Falkland islanders.

In 2013, residents voted overwhelmingly for the island to remain a UK possession.

In her personal seasonal message, the Prime Minister said: “This year marked the 35th anniversary of the conflict to preserve your freedom and independence.

“I want you to know that I will never allow anyone to compromise your right to self-determination – a right you freely expressed in the 2013 referendum; and a legacy for which so many paid the ultimate price.”

However, she said that there were “non-sovereignty related areas” where the UK would work with Argentina for mutual benefit, including a commitment to lift “restrictive measures” imposed on the islands.

Mrs May said her Christmas message was very simple.

“You can count on me as a UK Prime Minister who will do everything possible to support you in realising the full potential of these islands.”

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Falklands, next call for Indian Navy sailboat with an all-women crew

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Thursday, December 14th 2017 – 06:05 UTC

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INSV Tarini was open to visitors at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch. Nearly 200 visitors, from all walks of life, visited the vessel and interacted with the crew. (Pic Indian Navy)
The Indian Navy sailboat INSV Tarini left New Zealand on Tuesday for the next leg of its journey towards Falkland Islands, after completing the second leg of its circumnavigation voyage, an official statement said. Tarini, with its all-women team of Indian Naval officers, had arrived in New Zealand on November 29.
During their stay in the port of Lyttelton, the team members interacted with a wide range of stakeholders during the welcome reception hosted by the High Commission on November 30. It was attended by about 100 distinguished guests, including members of Parliament, state officials, businessmen, academicians, leaders from Indian community and media persons.
INSV Tarini was open to visitors at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch on December 3. Nearly 200 visitors, from all walks of life, visited the vessel and interacted with the crew.
The crew was also welcomed by the city of Christchurch during the traditional festive march, known as the ‘Santa Parade’. More than 200 school children attended a presentation and interaction session with the crew at Prebbleton School on December 5.
The all-women team also visited the Naval Point Yacht Club, Canterbury and Ara Institute, New Zealand, where a presentation on ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’ was given to the audience.
The crew visited the traditional Maori cultural centre, ‘Rehua Marae’, during the port stay and also had a trip to few tourist places near Christchurch, including Hanmer hot springs and the French harbour, Akaroa.

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UK to buy Iron Dome command & control system for the Falklands

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The United Kingdom is to spend £78 million (€ 81,9 million) to purchase a missile defence shield based on Israel’s Iron Dome to protect the Falkland Islands, British media reported Wednesday. According to a report in the Daily Mail, the UK will install a Sky Sabre system, which employs the command and control system used by Iron Dome missile defense system. The command and control is system is produced by Mprest for Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

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Date: Nov 23, 2017, 04:48 PM

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LONDON —The United Kingdom is to spend £78 million (€ 81,9 million) to purchase a missile defence shield based on Israel’s Iron Dome to protect the Falkland Islands, British media reported Wednesday.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the UK will install a Sky Sabre system, which employs the command and control system used by Iron Dome missile defense system. The command and control is system is produced by Mprest for Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
An UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson said: ‘Following an open competition, we selected Rafael for a £78m contract to provide the main computer system which will link our state-of-the-art radars and new Land Ceptor launchers together to boost our defence of the Falkland Islands.”
Natan Barak, chief executive of Mprest, told the Daily Mail that the system “can protect any area worldwide”.
“You have to identify, as fast as you can, which object is in the air, whether it is Great Britain’s or something else, and see if it is a threat,” Barak said. ‘It also has to be capable of integrating with launchers and missiles. Our system is capable of doing this very fast. We are going to be part of the NATO network and we are going to integrate our system with Britain’s command and control system. They will be able to operate and activate our system to fire on threats.”

 

Source: http://www.ejpress.org/article/UK-to-buy-Iron-Dome-command-control-system-for-the-Falklands/23696

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