Editorial: Falklands’ sovereignty must be up to the islanders

 

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Starting tomorrow, 1,800 eligible Falklanders will vote on the question of whether they wish their islands to remain an overseas British territory.

Few doubt the outcome; in the last such referendum – in 1986 – fully 96 per cent voted to stick with Britain. After several years of ever-louder sabre-rattling from the Argentinian government, however, the inhabitants are understandably keen to make their position clear.

Sad to say, Buenos Aires shows little inclination to listen. The plebiscite has already been dismissed as both “illegal” and “irrelevant”, not least because the current population of the “Islas Malvinas” is “implanted” and therefore has no right to be consulted. Only bilateral talks with London can resolve the issue, says Argentina’s indefatigable President, Cristina Kirchner.

From a leader keen to distract attention from economic problems at home – and with one eye on the vast reserves of oil thought to lie under the South Atlantic – such bombast is no surprise. It is that which is the irrelevance, though. The Falkland Islands’ sovereignty must, simply, be decided by those who live there. Anything else is a derogation of the basic principles of democracy. Recognised or not, formal or not, the outcome of this weekend’s poll should be the final word.

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