Falklands : FIRS GOES ONE TO ONE WITH MIKE SUMMERS
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 07.04.2013 (Article Archived on 21.04.2013)
On the programme this Tuesday Stacy Bragger talked with the Hon Mr Mike Summers MLA. He reported on discussions held in the USA and the Caribbean to highlight the referendum result. Mr Summers feels it was a productive trip. A Report for FIRS by Stacy Bragger
GOES ONE TO ONE WITH MIKE SUMMERS
Report for FIRS by Stacy Bragger
On the programme
this Tuesday Stacy Bragger talked with the Hon Mr Mike Summers MLA. He reported on discussions held in the USA
and the Caribbean to highlight the referendum result. Mr Summers feels it was a productive trip.
MS: We had a wide range of discussions on the
first Monday in the States. I stopped in
Miami for a while and talked to some cruise companies there about what happened
here over the Christmas period and also met with Congressman Mario Dules Belar
who has a key interest in the cruise industry.
And we had some very good discussions and confirmations there from a
couple of cruise vessel companies that they are reinstating their business in
the Falklands again next year. I also
understood from the congressman how the industry dealt with the situation. I think that was also very helpful.
Sharon Halford carried on to
Atlanta to do some interviews with CNN and I was diverted to new York so Sharon
also dealt with the announcement of the results of the referendum in Washington
on Tuesday and did all the media work there.
Wednesday was a key day in
Washington. We had a whole series of
meetings with various Congressmen and I think we met nine in all -people in
important positions in the Western Hemisphere Committee, people in the Foreign
Affairs Committee and others who we knew from other activities. And without exception the congressmen were
saying that the referendum changed the game in the Falklands. It changes the way that people should be
seeing the Falklands and it brings another clear dynamic to these discussions
they were very supportive of our right to self-determination – all of
them. And I am not sure if you have
heard or it has been announced that there is a Motion now on the floor of
Congress supporting the right to self-determination for the people of the
Falkland Islands. And it remains to be
seen how many signatures that collects.
It could be open for quite some period of time and we will keep a close
eye on that and see what’s happening with that, so the discussions with
Congress were really important and add a new dimension to our direct
relationship with the US Government.
Thursday was a day back in New
York where we met with UN Officials at the Under-Secretary level – that’s one
level down from the Secretary General.
We had a very good opportunity to present the Falklands’ case about the
referendum, how it went and what the programme was going on from there. They listened very carefully. I think they were generally very supportive
of what we had done and what we are doing but naturally much more cautious
about what the UN might say as a result of the referendum.
And there is no indication at this
stage that the UN as an institution will take any different view in
public. But clearly they get the
referendum and what it means. The same
day we had a very interesting meeting over lunch with a number of UN
Ambassadors to the UN, all of whom sit on the C-24. It was a very positive discussion with people
clearly understanding what it is we are doing and why we are doing it,
appreciating the dynamic that the referendum brings. Some of them are agreeing very strongly with
the concept of self-determination for the people of the Falklands. Others perhaps are slightly more cautious.
Even amongst countries that we may
not have expected automatic support it was evident. Countries like Indonesia and Iraq expressed
quite strong support for the right to self-determination for the people of the
Falklands. We also had a good discussion
led by the Ambassador from Papua New Guiana about different ways of doing
business in the C-24 and I think there is a caucus of countries that sit in the
C-24 who are frankly fed up with the way that it operates and that they need to
do it differently. It was an interesting
discussion that will be very helpful to us and I am looking forward to June.
SB: Regarding the US vision on the issue, do you
think that’s going to filter through until they change the official policy?
MS: On Friday we went back to Washington and had
meetings in the National Security Council and State Department who are the
advisors to the US Government on Foreign Policy. The State Department are very supportive and
agreed that the referendum changed the dynamic.
The State Department tends to be a little more cautious but they at a
personal level very much appreciate what we were doing and why we were doing
it. And in fact the US position on the
Falklands has changed by a degree or so and this is the way it’s going to go.
We are not expecting a big
bang. It has changed by a degree or so
in that the statement by the US after the referendum was that it recognised the
democratic nature of the referendum and it then went on to refer to
negotiations between all parties. That’s
different because previous statements had referred to both parties.
So it provides the opportunity for
different interpretation of the US position.
On the one hand we have heard of Argentina for going to the US and
thanking them for supporting the opposition on the Falklands – actually it’s
rather different than that. And the US
won’t certainly at the present time come out and express open support for the
people of the Falkland Islands and the right to self-determination – I think
the couple of degrees of change have been in our direction. So that’s entirely satisfactory.
SB: some of the articles in the media have
criticised the US for not backing its main ally, Britain. Do you think the increase of pressure on the
US will have any change on this effect?
MS: I think all governments respond to pressure
and the US probably doesn’t feel much pressure on this issue to be honest. But I think the action of the Congressmen is
important because that begins to build a democratic base for pressure in the
US. If you talk to people, whether they
are democrat or republican they will say to you that in all likelihood, if you
went to a referendum in the United States a 99.8% would support the right to
self-determination because that’s the way Americans are and the way they think. And it’s inconceivable to mist individuals
that you wouldn’t support the right to self-determination. So I think what is happening in Congress is
important and will begin to build a little bit of pressure.
Also the meetings we had with
those people are important. They see the
faces, they see the people, they see we exist and they hear arguments about not
having to support the UK over Argentina over the UK or the UK over Argentina
but follow the fundamental democratic principle and support the people of the
We are keen not to make this a
party political issue in the United States.
And one of the dangers of criticisms of the US for not supporting the UK
is that it is being used for party political purposes and we wish to avoid that
but I think there is pressure on the US, not only from outside sources but also
in their minds saying that it must be rationalised somehow. And I think it all just takes a bit of time.
SB: I believe you then moved on to the Caribbean
MS: Sharon left us from New York and she went on
to Antigua, St Lucia and Granada. I went
along with Teslin Barkman to Jamaica and Guiana. Jamaica was quite interesting. We had some useful meetings there and people
get it. They understand what we are doing. People change to the dynamic and they all
confirm there is a change to the dynamic of these discussions – confirm to us
they will put pressure on Argentina in multi-lateral meetings not to try and
use more aggressive language, not to push for more aggressive resolutions on
Bur we are unlikely to see an
overt change to Jamaica Government policy on the Falklands. They are part of a region that is under
pressure because of Venezuelan oil and other things to conform to certain ways
of doing things. I think the change we
see from there will come from the background rather than up front.
We went to Guyana because it’s the
home of the Secretariat of CARICOM, which is a union of a large number of
Caribbean countries. And the possibility
there is to try to get the likes of CARICOM and the Organisation of East
Caribbean States, which is in St Lucia to take a more collective view on
self-determination in the Falklands and give some of these other countries a
bit of cover.
It was quite a positive meeting at
CARICOM but I am not overly hopeful that they will change their philosophy
overnight. I think it’s something that
you have to keep working at.
And we met members of the
Government of Guyana and the opposition.
The opposition were very helpful.
But we met several people from the Foreign Affairs committee in Guyana
and they were very positive about the referendum and the results of it.
So I think the overall message
from our visit – and I think Ian Hansen, who has been away, has a similar theme
– is that people clearly do understand why we held the referendum, appreciate
the results of it and very much appreciate us coming out to deliver it and
talking to them about it. And I think
without exception they agree the dynamic in the discussion and what we do from
here on in is going to be the key, I think as to how this thing turns out.
SB: Just returning to the United Nations – it has
been reported in the last couple of days about Mr Timerman travelling to New
York to meet with Ban Ki Moon and also the Chair of the C-24 Committee, so do
you think they are coming in from the back foot because of the referendum?
MS: I think they are struggling to know how to
deal with it. I think it is inevitable
that he would go to the UN. We thought
perhaps he might have gone last week or the week before. This week, after we had been, it is
inevitable he would try to do this but I think the arguments that we have about
not being an implanted population and not being a colony and about Argentina
wanting to colonise the Falklands and all those sorts of things are pretty
powerful and pretty well understood and simply going there and repeating a
number of slogans that have a limited base in fact will have limited effect.
He will go, he will no doubt make
a statement and We and/or the British Government will make counter-statements
but I don’t think it will make that much difference. I guess it’s inevitable he would go but there
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