Falklands : Motion for Adjournment Speech by the Hon Mr Gavin Short
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 09.03.2013 (Article Archived on 06.04.2013)
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members I am just trying to get in early perhaps to give people a target or two to shoot back at.
Motion for Adjournment Speech by the Hon Mr Gavin Short
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members I am just trying to get in early perhaps to give people a target or two to shoot back at.
First of all I would like to start by fully associating myself with the comments made by the Honourable Mr Edwards regarding the Commander British Forces. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with him over the time he has been here and I certainly wish him and his family the very, very best for the future and he will be an extremely hard act to follow.
The past weeks and indeed months have been an absolute whirlwind but there has never been a dull moment. I guess we should thank our PR Agency, Kirchner and Timerman for giving us yet more media exposure during the recent botched visit to London of the Argentine Foreign Minister and also their point blank refusal to even sit in the same room as representatives of the legitimate and legal Government of the Falkland Islands.
Dick and Jan were chosen from amongst us to head north and meet the great man, should he decide to practice what his country preaches – that is to enter into productive dialogue on matters concerning the South West Atlantic.
I know that they probably regretted not having a go but due to the inept way the Argentines handled the whole visit, they spent hour after hour talking to interested Members of the press and putting the true message across with great statesmanship, unlike the bellowing and trumpeting and I suspect laterally wailings from the opposition.
Although they were the front line, I would like to thank all Members around this table who also did media work from here in the Falklands and also once again I am humbled by the way that a great number of our ordinary citizens used the internet to spread the truth across the world.
I may have used the term “ordinary citizens” but the people of the Falkland Islands are, in fact, not ordinary. They are extraordinary and the love and commitment that they show for their country and the zeal and vigour which they defend it at every opportunity.
With a team like this and although our numbers may be small, those who wish to usurp our country and subjugate us have more than met their match. There will be no surrender.
The CPA Regional Conference followed within a day or two of Dick and Jan getting back here. I know that others have spoken of this and others will speak after me I am sure much more eloquently than I can ever manage. But I would like to say that the way that Claudette and Cherie choreographed, managed, herded chastised and persuaded to be where they should be doing what they were meant to do at the time they were meant to do it. It puts any organisation that I have seen up until now into the shade, just two people did a far better job than a whole army of organisers could in Sri Lanka. We owe you both big style.
Of course we should also remember the families of Cherie and Claudette as they, in effect, lost their better halves for a few weeks and I would like to thank them for their understanding and patience. There were also other people who helped with the presentation of the whole – supply of sound system, supply of goods, through to organising smokos and a day out for the delegates. I thank you one and all.
Last Friday it was my pleasure to accompany the representatives from jersey and Guernsey when they visited the Jersey Estate and the Water Treatment Plant which are both on my beat. I take my hat off to Bonnie Curtis and Craig Paice for showing the delegates around. They were knowledgeable, chatty, and chucked in all sorts of local background on many subjects that had absolutely nothing to do with water or housing but it was the real, raw enthusiasm that the two showed for their areas and the Falklands in general that will last a long time in both mine and the delegates’ minds. This enthusiasm for our country is mirrored right across our society both in the private and public sectors, Camp and Stanley and is a joy to behold.
Over the last three and a bit years I found our public meetings have always had a good attendance. Numbers seem to hold up and maybe increase a little. But I will remember the amount of people at our first public meeting that actually terrified the living daylights out of me. But to put us back on subject, in most cases they have been brilliant, non-combative and seemingly with a genuine desire on both sides to improve what can be done and accept suggestions, etc from the public – the spirit of co-operation rather than that of confrontation. And that is how it should be. Although you are quite within your rights should you beat us unmercifully should we start straying from the straight and narrow.
Alas, though, I may have failed in one item that was raised at this last public meeting. It is nearly 100 years ago, so I am told, since the Lady Liz limped into Stanley never to part. It was suggested that we should mark this in some way, perhaps by raising a flag on her. I have written to both Leona in the Museum and Manfred, who is full of all sorts of knowledge and groovy ideas, about how we may commemorate the event.
I am not sure whether raising a flag off the old girl is such a good idea. I personally have never set foot on her in my life but gazing from the shore towards her makes me think that she’s probably pretty ripe on board. And I certainly would not want to ask anyone to endanger life or limb. Also, I think she is still private property but I could be wrong on that. But if it is the case, it could well be trespass and maybe even an act of piracy to leap aboard and start raising flags. I am waiting to hear back from Leona but I am sure that those splendid folk at the Museum have the date firmly in their sights.
Also on the way is the 100th anniversary in 2014 of the Battle of the Falklands. And a group has been set up to try and make it a great event. Already ideas are pouring in and I was especially interested and humbled, thanks to this event, to learn a lot more about a gentleman called Chris Andreason, a seafarer from Denmark who, like many of our early inhabitants arrived here – I guess – by accident and never left. And although born in Demark would go on to play a pivotal part in helping the British success on the 8th of December and saving his adopted country from attack.
It is humbling to know that such people lived amongst us and it is a life story that I am sure will be brought to the fore next year. It will also be 100 years in 2014 since the Falkland islands’ Volunteers lost so many fine men in a boating tragedy at the Canache. Again, this will be commemorated and I have already suggested to the OC of the FIDF that they may like to raise a monument or something like that in the area of the Canache close to where those who were forerunners of the FIDF lost their lives.
All in all, next year is going to be quite special and I am actually looking forward to it with great relish.
Just recently, though, I have heard some disparaging remarks about the Public Jetty and people were wondering why a load of stone was flung into the harbour and seemingly just left there. There was a method to our madness. When the decision was made to give the PJ a make-over, the design that was chosen was one that allowed access to the jetty without causing too much disruption to the existing structure and flattening the Security hut on the Jetty. It was recognised that it wasn’t a brilliant idea to be hauling stone during the Tourist season plus most people who would be employed fetching the stone, etc. would be gainfully employed during the summer doing other stuff like building roads and topping other roads. Also it was suspected that Ross Road would possibly crack up even more when the trucks started hauling the rock to site. And we had to give ourselves time to make good any deterioration before the tourists turned up in their droves. So we put the rock in when we could and closed it all off and there it will sit until the contractors are in a position to start their work.
I did bump into Morrison’ head Man here in the Falklands the other day and he assures me that the pre-formed concrete casting is for the Jetty are well advanced so I guess that we will start seeing some action on this front fairly soon.
At the other end of the road, of course, Shorty’s gang, after taking residence next to me for a couple of months at the Malvina have now moved across the road and are now going great guns on the Museum building. And that was after equally speedy work by NCB Solutions and Mr Villion and his assistants who did the block-work etc. It is nice to see it all come together. PWD are still sticking to their time table to move out of the dockyard. There is no foot dragging by them. The whole project – PWD out, Museum in, seems to be sticking pretty much to the agreed time-table.
As mentioned at the FIDC Board by my Honourable Friend, Mr Summers, the Harbour development plans must be taken on by someone and moved forward. It is going to take time. FIG can certainly do its bits but a lot will rest with the private sector as well and until someone can give a rational time-table for what is going to be done as far as infrastructure goes, the project director, at least in my view, cannot really start to plan for their part. Indeed they may not wish to do anything but as a Government it is our job to facilitate and I hope they will grasp the business opportunities.
The passing a few minutes ago of the FIDC legislation means that my days as its Chair are all but numbered. Whilst I am not going to be happy to step down as over the years I have grown to admire fervently the work of the Corporation, I am actually content to see that we are heading in the right direction. It is only right and proper that the corporation is distanced further from the controls of FIG and can appoint its own Chair to represent it. I wish the new-look FIDC every success and know that it will go from strength to strength. Although I do ask that whoever it is that comes after me is that they look after the staff up there. They are your real assets and they are worth their weight in gold.
Once again the budget process looms and it is interesting to hear that the Treasury say we are running with a hidden £6Million deficit. Whilst I can see the revenues that are received from Hydrocarbon activities so far undertaken around the Falklands cannot be fritted away, I am unsure and perhaps a little uneasy that the vast majority of this income is ring-fenced for oil related activities. I most certainly am not going to champion any moves as seemingly suggested by some to go on a mega spending spree, but it is only right and proper that whilst part of this money is held back, to use for work to be able to ready ourselves for oil, should it happen, there does need to be a distribution of some of those funds towards our population, be it in the raising of wage levels, where they should be or perhaps changing the tax threshold, etc. and also in infrastructure works and investment in areas that will benefit us all.
Perhaps forgotten in all this is the pensioners. It’s thanks to them that we are eye-balling a wonderful future. The pensions, like mine and other people’s wages are being eroded by inflation but unlike me, some of them are at a stage in their lives whereby they maybe can’t get out there and take on a part time job to help maintain the good quality of life. And we should be finding ways to make sure they are rewarded for their efforts back in the ‘good old days,’ which compared to what we have now were pretty harsh old days.
I am not a believer in pointing them down the welfare and hand-outs road. It’s cool that the option is there but as a people us Falkland islanders weren’t brought up on hand-outs and still are uncomfortable with having to approach or be approached by the Social. Better we find ways to maintain our pensioners’ independence.
I do wonder, though, what would be the loss in tax revenues to say that not only are monies that you pay into your pension tax deductible but also the pensions received be placed outside the tax regime and I would be grateful if my very good friend, the Financial Secretary, when she gets a spare moment, would see if she could get some figures so that we can’ at least have some idea of the implications of any change in that area should we wish to make them during the budget deliberations.
The referendum loometh and although we are weary of starting the campaign too early in case we turn people off I would like to say a few words about it as the next time we sit here at LEGCO (legislative Assembly) it will be all over.
I never fully appreciated the monster that we were letting loose when we decided to ask our people what they wanted for the future of their country. Many people have spent months working on this project and getting legislation in place, reviewing processes, down to handling the publicity and making sure that all the incoming observers and press have somewhere to rest. The plan does seem to be coming together nicely and the amount of world interest is extremely high if the amount of people who wish to observe this referendum is anything to go by. Also we will be knee deep in press folk. Again, this is a wonderful opportunity for everyone here to get their message and their wishes and dreams across to the world. Just keep telling the truth.
The fact that Argentina seems to be changing its stance from one of disdain for the referendum to one of vehement attacks on it seems to me to show that they are extremely worried about us exercising our right to self-determination. This, of course, is something that Argentina does not accept. In recent wild statements we currently are not a people, even though a great deal of us can trace our roots back much, much further than them across the way can, including their president and Foreign Secretary. And indeed, we don’t even exist and I do wonder if this might have been true if they had managed to hold on to our country back in 1982.
Well, Argentina brace yourselves. These non-existent people, who your Foreign Minister is so terrified to sit down with, are about to exercise a basic human right – our right to freely choose our allegiances that we wish to have and with whom.
As a young man I dreamed of full independence but as I got older and although I still hold on to that dream, it is tempered by reality and pragmatism. At this juncture in our history we are probably too small still to be able to function as an independent country. It is not just about deciding about who is the president or king or whatever we choose to have or what roads we fix, etc. but with independence comes international commitments and treaties, presences in world capitals, etc., all of which we may not be able to handle at this stage, let alone finance.
There is, of course, the very real prospect of being re-invaded should we become independent. And the protection that we take for granted at the moment disappears. Indeed the Argentine head honcho in the Defence Section is on record as saying that were it not for the presence of the small British Military contingent here on the Islands, the Falklands would, as he put it, be back under Argentine control. So think carefully before you vote yes or no.
I shall be voting YES. A yes allows me to keep the present status that we enjoy, allows me to still keep on taking more and more control over our country and even though we do practice DevoMax now. And a Yes vote also says that we can head towards full independence at a time of our choosing should we wish to – something that a No vote would not allow. If you want Argentina back then vote NO and say good-morning to being a colony again where as a people you would not have a say. You would be ruled by a country that would not respect your wishes or rights and probably not your interests either. Say hello to your masters complete with their corrupt ways and say good-bye to your freedom and your country.
Voting no, even if you want independence now, will have the same effect. You will eventually be on your own – no benign protecting power and I suspect that as you wake up the morning after the independence party you would find that your status would already have changed from the independent Falklands to that of a colony of an unwelcome and uninvited foreign power.
So let’s be positive, let’s all have a brilliant future, let’s vote yes.
Finally, I would like to return to those wild statements emanating from the guys across the water recently. Apparently their flag will be flying over our country within 20 years. Excuse me but I think I have heard that before somewhere. It was actually beck in the time of the Menem Government that a similar statement was made - Argentine control within 30 years. Well, those 30 years are almost up and they are further away than ever from colonising us. As a Member of this House said – and I wish it was a statement that I had made – they have more chance of raising their flag on the moon than over our country.
Now I am always up for a challenge as long as it doesn’t include any sort of physical exercise. Twenty years from now I should be near the ripe old age of nearly 71. And I must admit that in the interests of my long-suffering family, and humankind in general, I sort of hadn’t expected to be still stomping around as I expect my general levels of cantankerousness will not have diminished with age and I have no real wish to inflict it on the human race. However, I am going to accept this challenge that has been made. Have your flag flying over my country in 20 years? Over my dead body, will you?