Letters: Falkland Island

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It is depressing to read that the British ambassador to the United Nations has given the Secretary General on our behalf a rather obviously selective account of the history of the Falkland Islands and British claims to sovereignty (report, 4 February).

While one can have no quarrel with the emphasis on the right to self-determination of the islanders, it is important to remember that the United Nations links this right closely to policies in favour of decolonisation.

Furthermore, it is grossly unjust to treat Argentina now as a potentially belligerent power, when the regime of the generals is long gone, and when their government only seems to be asking for discussions about sovereignty.

As every reader of the Franks report on the Falklands conflict knows, such discussions were formerly our government's policy, The Falkland islanders did not object to talks on condominium in 1974, nor exclude discussions on sovereignty in 1977, nor yet reject leaseback in 1980. They do not seem to have protested when the Argentines built them their first runway and provided them with medical supplies, petrol at mainland prices or free secondary education in Argentina if their children wanted it.

The shift in British policy back then seems to have come about because the Conservatives were low in the polls and resorted to banging the imperial drum to increase their support. In consequence we alienated public opinion in many parts of the world and exasperated our allies. It is to be hoped that our representatives avoid further confrontational gestures now, and above all reread the Franks report before they muddy the Falklands waters.

NIGEL GLENDINNING

London E3

Philip Hensher (3 February), suggesting that Britain should sell the Falkland Islands, neglects to consider the wishes of Falkland Islanders. In exercising their right to self-determination, the Falkland Islands remain a British Overseas Territory by the choice of the people who live there.

The Falklands place no financial strain on the British economy; aside from the cost of defence we are economically self-sufficient. The UK contribution to the cost of defence of the Islands is no more than 0.5 per cent of the defence budget, and is enormously appreciated by our people. The Falklands provides a unique training ground for British military forces, and the Falklands Government contributes around 3 per cent of its GDP towards defence costs.

Please do not disregard the rights of 3,000 people, of families who can trace their heritage back through nine generations, and of the people who have chosen to make the Islands their home. You should also not forget the sacrifice of those brave souls who lost their lives defending our rights 30 years ago, people to whom we are eternally grateful.

Dr Barry Elsby

Member of Legislative Assembly

Falkland Islands Government

Nice idea from Philip Hensher. And if the locals object to our selling their rights from under them, we could always get Prince William to drop a few out of helicopters. I believe that's a favoured Argentine way of dealing with dissent.

D G Martin

Ryall, Dorset

The Channel Islands are no one's to give away (letter, 4 February). For example, Guernsey is known as a Crown Dependency but we have our own democratically elected government, our own sterling-based currency, set our own economic, social and environmental policies, and have a very distinct culture and identity.

We do, of course, have a "special relationship" with the U.K. Bearing in mind the UKs relationship with the European Union, the Channel Islands' independent status may be of greater substance.

Laurie Queripel

Vale, Guernsey

Snow reduces south to 'chaos'

Yet again, a little bit of the white fluffy stuff has fallen and unimaginative reporters have decided to repeat a story that has been repeated annually for over a decade.

In the north of the UK snow has been falling for over a month, but northerners just get on with their lives. In the south there have been warnings, but drivers ignored them. So the first bit of snow and there is "chaos" among the whingeing soft southerners.

Then there is the attempt to blame both the local authorities and Highways Agency for motorists' refusal to take any notice of weather warnings. We all know it is going to happen, but in the north we just acknowledge that you can't control nature and we adjust our lives accordingly.

Duncan Anderson

East Halton, North Lincolnshire

Why parents slap their children

Annalisa Barbieri ("A child will learn nothing from being hit", 31 January) says that children "aren't born bad". My understanding is that personality characteristics are heritable and that psychopathic behaviour, for example, has a genetic basis. This suggests that some children are born with tendencies which are likely to manifest themselves as bad behaviour. Children are born with personalities and some of them will be more difficult to raise than others.

I do not advocate slapping children but the development of moral sense involves a complex interplay between the child's personality and society (including parents). What works with one child may not work with another.

To say that many parents claim that being slapped "didn't do me any harm ... but scratch the surface and there's always damage" is a sweeping generalisation. What evidence is there for this?

No one wants to slap their children but many parents, in a moment of exasperation, have done so. We should discourage slapping; but we should not make parents feel like inadequate failures if they cannot always live up to this.

C Wigston

Edinburgh

Football unites Muslim and Jew

Your news report and the opinion column by Adrian Hamilton (3 February) fail to appreciate the significance of the Ahly football club to the man in the street in Cairo. A recent conversation I had in Cairo illustrates this.

In writing a book on the city of my birth, I revisited a garden I was taken to in my childhood. I was accosted by a teenager who asked me if I was a Muslim. When I replied that I was not, he asked me what my religion was. As a Jew, I knew that his generation did not know the difference between a Jew and an Israeli. I therefore told him that it was too complicated to explain.

He then asked whether I prayed, indicating that he did so five times a day. When I replied that I did not pray, he seemed puzzled and dismayed. In order to put him out of his misery I compromised and told him that I did occasionally pray. Asked for an example of when I would pray, I told him that I sometimes did so when my football team was playing.

Big smile. Chelsea? Manchester United? No, I said, Arsenal when I am in London and Ahly when I am in Cairo. This transformed the situation. From then on there was no talk of religion. I was mobbed by 15 teenagers, flattered that a Londoner was an Ahly supporter. I photographed them all posing as a football team and left the garden surrounded by a cheering gang.

Raymond Levy

Emeritus Professor, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London

What Olympics mean for London

Dominic Lawson (31 January) presents a particularly gloomy picture of the impact that the 2012 Games will have on London. While there will be undoubtedly be challenges, the Olympics present a tremendous opportunity for London to showcase all it has to offer.

Over 1,000 London firms have been awarded contracts, contributing to the capital's economy. There will be millions of visitors and this should provide the chance for many firms to capitalise as long as they plan ahead, ensuring that their staff and deliveries can get to where they need to be on time.

The Games give London the opportunity to cement our reputation as the best city in the world.

Colin Stanbridge

Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

I was disappointed to read Dominic Lawson's negative take on London 2012. As the longest, continuous supporter of the Olympic Movement, at Coca-Cola we know just how many economic and social benefits an Olympic Games brings to its host country.

We are excited that through the essential funding we provide we will help Locog bring the magic of the Games to London this year. Furthermore, our three-year partnership with doorstep sports charity StreetGames will help 110,000 young people get active, driving participation in sports in some of the most disadvantaged communities across the UK.

Daryl Jelinek

General Manager, Coca-Cola London 2012 Project Team

Contempt for Parliament

Your report on Ed Miliband's attempt to get the proposed NHS reforms thrown out by an all-party alliance in the Lords (6 February), raises an interesting point. The response from Government ministers is that it is too late, as the changes to put GPs in charge of commissioning care are already being implemented.

What is the point of presenting a bill to Parliament for debate in both houses and the final decision to accept it perhaps in amended form or reject it entirely, if in the meantime the proposed policy has been put into practice? It makes a mockery of parliamentary government.

James Snowden

Nottingham

Teaching to the tick-box

One of the reasons nurseries are asked to concentrate on the 3 Rs (leading article, 3 February) is the insistence that all learning can be quantified and ticked off by administrators and inspectors.

Anyone can provide paperwork to show whether every child in a class has recited the numbers from 1 to 10 or not; it is harder to present quantifiable evidence that they understand that "eight is more than three" and even harder to quantify skills like paying attention.

"Smart targets" and similar box-ticking exercises which devour far too much of teachers' time and energy do not promote learning; they work against it.

Cheryl Thornett

Birmingham

'The King is dead ...'

My abiding memory of 6 February 1952 is of the headmaster at the boarding school I attended in Kent interrupting our Latin class to announce that the King had died and that we had a new Queen.

I am somewhat ashamed to confess that while I was saddened at the death of a much-loved King, the first thought that went through my head was: "No more lessons today." That prospect was dashed when the headmaster continued: "But as sad as we all must be, I am sure His Majesty would have wished us to continue with our normal routine."

Robert Readman

Bournemouth

Amazing

I agree with M D Essinger (letter, 6 February) that we should ban the word fantastic; that would be brilliant.

Mark Thomas

Histon, Cambridgeshire

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