Falklands : US CONGRESSMAN IN FALKLANDS FACT-FINDING VISIT
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 23.02.2012 (Article Archived on 08.03.2012)
US Representative Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr., R - Wisconsin and his aide Mr Todd Washam are visiting the Falkland Islands this week to find out for themselves how the place operates and what the people think about their right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter. Photo (c) J. Brock (FINN)
US CONGRESSMAN IN FALKLANDS FACT-FINDING VISIT
By J. Brock (FINN)
Frank James Sensenbrenner, (R – 5th Congressional District of Wisconsin) at the Conference Room of the Malvina House at noon on Thursday. Photo © J. Brock (FINN)
US Representative Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr., R - Wisconsin and his aide Mr Todd Washam are visiting the Falkland Islands this week to find out for themselves how the place operates and what the people think about their right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.
On Thursday Congressman Sensenbrenner addressed Legislative Assembly saying it was an honour but due to House Rules it unfortunately could not be reciprocal. He is the first member of the House of Representatives to visit the Falkland Islands officially, though a member of the Senate visited in 1987 on an unofficial basis. Mr Sensenbrenner hopes it will not be the last visit and admitted the Islands did not fit the stereotype he had prior to his arrival of a remote back-water. What he found was a vibrant, economically self-sufficient community with a democratic government having the remit in all areas except foreign affairs and defence.
Mentioning that the Falklands seemed to have escaped the recession he assured all listening that then United States has always supported the principle of self-determination. “We let the British Crown know that about 230 years ago,” he quipped. “We haven’t changed our viewpoint that the people should be allowed to direct their own government, choose the system of government and make whatever alliances and determinations that are necessary.
“I have talked with a lot of people in the Falkland Islands and not one of them would like to change their status and become a colony of Argentina,” he said. He went on to say that if the United Nations means what it says then they would have to back up the decisions the Falkland Islanders have made themselves rather than getting involved in a geo-political game benefitting nobody. Argentina had invaded the Falklands 30 years ago and he hopes the tragedy will not be repeated.
Mr Sensenbrenner had the opportunity to meet the Falkland Islands’ Press at noon in the conference room at the Malvina House Hotel.
Not a fan of things US President Obama has done both domestically and in foreign policy, Congressman Sensenbrenner said he was concerned that Obama’s recent statement about the Falklands was counter-productive in cooling the rhetoric coming from Argentina. If Argentina lives up to the spirit of the UN Charter that country would recognise the Falkland Islands’ spirit of self-determination. Their inconsistency would be of greater import in the United States and elsewhere. He hopes that the recent embarrassing assertions made by the Argentines have toned down and the rhetoric has cooled.
When asked by Mark Spruce of FITV whether trade between Argentina and the US would be affected if the US would side with Britain on the Falklands issue Congressman James Sensenbrenner, (R – 5th Congressional District of Wisconsin) said that it would be up to the Argentines and that the US would trade with anybody. He went on to say that economic embargoes usually do not work, with the exception of the one against the apartheid government in South Africa which ended up by having a peaceful transition to a democratic government with majority rule. The Congressman does not envisage the United States doing anything unilaterally as a result of the issue of the Falklands.
Penguin News asked whether or not we have good governance the Congressman said that it was something for the Islanders to decide, rather than a foreigner claiming to be an expert having been here only two or three days. Having said that, he expressed the opinion that the Legislative Assembly was a combination of what a local Council would do and what a National Parliament would do. Usually matters relating to the quality of roads were dealt with by State governments but he feels the combination in the Falklands is very interesting.
“Speeches on the motion to adjourn were not debatable in the House of Representatives,” he said. It was instructive to him to hear the closing remarks and to hear a broader view of the complaints they were getting.
“When you are in elected position you become an attraction for people who want to complain and not to give one a pat on the back and say, ‘good job.’” He continued. He was amused by what the Hon Mr Gavin Short said about when you see the law being broken you should call the police and not a Member of Legislative Assembly.
Though he likes Sean Penn as an actor, Congressman Sensenbrenner feels that the man should keep out of focus his efforts on acting and not being an expert on foreign policy. Sean Penn decided which side he would be on without the benefit of hearing arguments on both sides. Congressman Sensenbrenner hopes that we would invite the actor to the Falklands and get an apology from him after having spent time here and understanding what the people think.
“It’s an efficient government,” he said, “but it has to be put in the context that after the war ended in 1982 there was nothing here in terms of governmental infrastructure or services to the public. That certainly has changed in the last 30 years as the Falkland Islanders themselves have built up their infrastructure, their democratic institutions because they had the freedom to do this.
Congressman Sensenbrenner feels that if the Governor comes to the United States that he has to make the point that he is NOT a colonial Governor but a Governor of a British Overseas Territory. “There is a big difference between the two,” he said. He went on to say that the general public in the US and the UK may not know the difference between the role of a pre-1982 Governor and a present day Governor.
Penguin News asked if the Image of the Falkland Islands would be clearer if we didn’t have a Governor but just a diplomat?
“Well, he is a diplomat,” was the reply. “I hope he would be judged outside the Falklands not on his title but on what he does,” said the Congressman.
PN: it might be different if that were changed
FS: I think that should be decided in Whitehall and not in Washington.
Thus far Congressman Sensenbrenner has enjoyed his time in the Falklands. Half-way through his visit Mr Sensenbrenner has been to see several government departments as well as to Sea Lion Island where he saw Falklands’ wildlife up close and enjoyed the hospitality provided him by the Lodge and its Manager Ms Jenny Luxton. This afternoon he will be visiting the Education Department and the schools and he will visit the Falkland Islands’ Chamber of Commerce. On Friday a visit to Mount Pleasant Complex is planned.