Falklanders vote to stay British - but was referendum legit?
Back off, David Cameron tells Argentina, after near-unanimous vote to keep Falklands British
FALKLAND ISLANDERS have delivered an "emphatic" message to Argentina after voting almost unanimously to remain a British overseas territory.
There was a 92 per cent turnout in the weekend referendum among those entitled to take part. Of the 1,517 people who voted, only three were against the islands remaining a British colony.
However, the fact that one-third of the population of 2,900 were not entitled to vote has raised questions about the legitimacy of the referendum.
Nevertheless, David Cameron urged Argentina to respect the wishes of the population and warned the South American country to take "careful note" of the result, adding that Britain would "always be there" to defend the islands.
"We believe in self-determination," he said. "The Falkland Islanders have spoken so clearly about their future and now other countries right across the world, I hope, will respect and revere this very, very clear result."
Daily Telegraph blogger Nile Gardiner described the vote as "a victory for the principle of self-determination, and a powerful rebuke to those who wish to suppress it".
Argentina now has "no prospect" of seizing the islands, he declared. "For as long as its inhabitants wish to remain under the protection of the Crown, Britain will defend them, and stand up to Argentina’s threats and intimidation."
The result was greeted in the Falklands by "a sea of union jacks and a chorus of Land of Hope and Glory," reported BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt. "These may be small islands almost 8,000 miles from the UK, but they have just spoken with a loud voice... The islanders' hope is that their voices will be listened to all the way to Buenos Aires and beyond."
Argentine attempts to claim the islands had "galvanised patriotic sentiment" on the islands, said the Daily Mail. "Residents lined up for 30 minutes outside Port Stanley's town hall waiting to cast their ballots... amid a festive atmosphere that left the Falklands' diminutive capital swathed in red, white and blue."
Not everyone was impressed. Writing before the results came out, Roy Greenslade of The Guardian predicted a 100 per cent vote in favour of remaining British.
"For a state to ask the descendants of people they exported to garrison a colony generations before whether they want to maintain their links with the mother country is a no-brainer," he said. "The answer is bloody obvious. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy."
He said restricting the vote to some 1,600 British citizens out of a population of 2,900 "amounts to a rigged ballot". Voting was limited to those over 18 and with seven years' residency.
Argentina maintains that the vote was illegal. "It's a manoeuvre with no legal value, which has neither been convened nor supervised by the United Nations,'' said Alicia Castro, the Argentine ambassador in London.
"We respect their way of life, their identity. We respect that they want to continue being British, but the territory they inhabit is not British."
Time magazine said the referendum served as "a useful distraction" for both David Cameron and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who faces mid-term congressional elections this autumn.
"What is certain though," says Time, “is that once offshore oil production commences in 2017 and the stakes for control are higher, the debate is likely to take an uglier turn." ·