Falklands : MPs Impressed With Falklands' Facilities and Potential
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 25.11.2004 (Article Archived on 09.12.2004)
A delegation of British MPs completed their visit to the Falklands on Thursday. Vera Baird, Lab. Redcar. (VB) Dari Taylor, (DT) Lab. Stockton South, Alun Cairns, Cons. Welsh Assembly (AuC) and Alan Campbell, Lab. Tynemouth (AC) had a busy programme with trips to camp, Mount Pleasant and Stanley.
Photo (c) J. Brock (FINN) - MPs enjoy summer sunshine in Stanley.
MPs IMPRESSED WITH FALKLANDS' FACILITIES AND POTENTIAL
By J. Brock (FINN)
MPs stand on the steps of the Malvina House Hotel in Stanley.
A delegation of British MPs completed their visit to the Falklands on Thursday. Vera Baird, Lab. Redcar. (VB) Dari Taylor, (DT) Lab. Stockton South, Alun Cairns, Cons. Welsh Assembly (AuC) and Alan Campbell, Lab. Tynemouth (AC) had a busy programme with trips to camp, Mount Pleasant and Stanley. They visited several Government departments as well as the Museum in Stanley, as well as Pebble Island in Camp and several areas at Mount Pleasant.
MPs held a press conference at the Malvina House Hotel the day before they left for the UK. It didnít take long for the enthusiasm to come out.
VB: Weíve seen some absolutely stunning scenery and wonderful wildlife. We, through some of the presentations we have had not only to see the beauty but also become aware of some of the difficulties of such a small place, so I will be bringing back a mixed set of impressions. The wildlife is absolutely magic and we had a wonderful time on Pebble Island and the guide there was second to none. Weíve got some understanding about the way your economy works and the fluctuations in your economy and what you have hopes of for your future. I think I have some extremely interesting stuff, which I will take back to the UK.
DT: I wonít repeat everything Vera said but I totally support everything she said. I think the thing I found incredibly pleasing was the way, which the community works each with each other. Every family knows each other. There is a sense of tolerance and support. For me, itís like going back to the Ď50s, where a community was safe. That is added to by the fact that I didnít really have the sense of how many islands or how large a geographic space we were going to see. And, I have taken aback by the space Ė by the diversity of it, the sheer beauty of it and, of course, the wildlife. You see the penguins within a yard or two Ė very quietly. You see the Sea Lions within fifty yards very quietly. They are stupendous to watch.
AuC: I certainly support what the others have said but is remarkable to me is the quality and the standard of living that people have here. Not only is there excellence in education standards, which would compare well with any school in the UK but also no medical waiting lists. What impresses me over and above everything is the way that you manage to attract young people back. And, thatís certainly something I am going to take back to Wales and to the Welsh Assembly and there are lots of lessons we can use in terms of there is a situation where in our rural areas, young people tend to go to Cardiff or London and they rarely come back to those communities afterwards and I am so impressed with how your young people apply their skills to the Fisheries Department, for example, Tourism, to all of these uncomplicated structures that, to a small community and such a small pool, there is exceptionately high talent.
AC: Itís been a very interesting and enjoyable visit. Whatís impressed me greatly is the warmth, by which we have been welcomed by local people. There is a very strong sense of community here in the Falklands, a great sense of safety in the community, a great sense of tradition and a great sense of independent mindedness, too. But also there is a very forward-looking view, a changing economic situation and increasing entrepreneurial and outward-looking society, too. And what interests me is how the Islands move on from here. And, how they retain what is best but also look forward to taking advantage of the opportunities that will be there from things like tourism, from things like oil and mineral exploration.
It didnít take long for the subject to turn to the petty Argentine economic harassment about flights to the Islands and other economic sanctions have had on the economy.
AuC: I say certainly that itís quite obviously an issue because you canít generate enormous wealth within the Islands but unless there is effective communication both through containerisation and through effective air links with the rest of the world. Quite obviously that wealth is almost unimportant because unless you can spend the money and create and quite obviously the standard of living has improved since the war. What I would say is that I think the Falkland Islands Government have been very successful in managing the transition form having no income from fisheries to having significant sums of income from fisheries. And that could have caused enormous social problems and it also could have caused immigration problems from a sudden change-over in economic structure. And therefore, I think containerisation and other issues could offer the next step of wealth generation. And, itís exceptionately important that thatís managed as effectively as the transformation from no fish income to significant fisheries income.
DT: I actually think the challenge to you from Argentina has to be met. And, people have got to keep talking. I think it is crucial that your focus, your statement that you are British and these are British Islands has to be one of the strongest statements you can make. But equally, to not talk with them and to not acknowledge that without such air transportation, so much of what could happen here would actually be reduced. The Islands offer tremendous potential for adventure holidays for the tourist industry and if Argentina is going to block a second flight, and maybe a third flight Ė I donít know how this is going to develop but it would be my keenness to say that we are expanding airports in Britain and there are going to be complaints about that because of the noise and the environment. But it is clearly your link to further, greater and other in terms of tourism. So, talking with them, persuading the Foreign Office to keep talking to them. Frankly I donít hear that they are doing more than talking. I donít think there is an aggressive threat, albeit there is a serious determination to undermine your economic development. But frankly, that challenge has to be met head on.
Mr. Rammell hasnít given up on us to get the charter flights reinstated.
DT: We spoke to Mr. Rammell before we came out. I am very keen to hear how he had spoken with you Ė how he had spoken with them. And, I think he has a very clear statement to the Argentines that all they are doing is actually damaging international relationships because when they feel that they can pin you down, theyíve got to acknowledge there are other and bigger forces that are equally respond to that. There is no relationship that is specifically Argentine Ė Falklands, either. We are living in an international, global community and with interdependence, itís going to be more the case not less the case. And, that is the approach that the British Government is very robustly taking.
It would help if we could talk directly with the Argentines about a range of issues but, at the moment, the moderator is Mr. Rammell, who expresses our wishes to them.
AC: Itís not for us to tell the Falkland Islands Councillors or the Government what they should be saying to the Argentines. Most of my constituentsí views about the Falkland Islands and mine and perhaps my colleagues were conditioned by what we saw 22 years ago in 1982. Thatís a series of events thatís clearly in the minds of many Falkland Islanders. There clearly is a lack of trust with regard to your Argentine neighbours. If you are not under a Military siege, then there is certainly a feeling of being under one of an economic siege. Itís up to the Argentines to help build on that trust. Unfortunately, it seems subject to their, hopefully short-term, unreasonable attitude of the Argentine Government at present. In my view, itís about those issues that are not up for negotiation, such as sovereignty, while keeping the door open on future issues that are of mutual importance, like, for example, environmental matters. There are also issues around tourism and around fisheries. But the Councillors and the Falkland Islands Government need to make a real valuation of their view of these issues. It depends very much on it being a two-way street and the Argentines being reasonable. It seems to me that at present, thatís not what they are doing.
AuC: And, as the Argentines continue object with the existence of the Falkland Islands Government, I think there needs to be recognition in the first instance in order to open the communications.
VB: We are always clear, I think, that from the UK point of view, sovereignty simply isnít negotiable. We couldnít be clearer. Now that we have been here for the better part of a week, we know Falkland Islanders are absolutely straight and absolutely up front about their determination to retain those bridges. But there is absolutely no way to negotiate anything that is connected with sovereignty. I have a strong feeling that certainly the majority of people in the Islands are anxious to be good neighbours to Argentina and anxious for Argentina to be good neighbours back. And, it is key, therefore, to keep open every channel of communication thatís available. But I think one has to touch base with reality as well and say that as history has proven the case, the Argentine Government would use the issue of the Falklands whenever it needs distraction from its central concerns. And, as an enterprising community such as this has shown us it is in the very short time we have been here, itís going to look at other options and not accept that any difficulties are dependant on Argentine good will or much of its trade, we have to be at the same time talking to them and talking to other people so you can set up all sorts of alternative trade deals and alternative relationships. In any trade deal you have to look at other options and you must keep your options open. Talking is very important and I think it displaces bad will. I donít think Argentina should deflect you from the course that you normally would take.
End Part 1
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