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British double-standards in the Falklands

Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina.

Published time: March 13, 2013 13:35
Islanders take part in the "Proud to be British" parade along Ross Road in Port Stanley, Falkland (Malvinas for Argentina) Islands, on March 10, 2013 (AFP Photo / Tony Chater)

The British government and press are noisily congratulating each other over the results of a referendum amongst the 1800 or so voting “Kelpers” as Britain’s second-rate nationals in the Falklands/Malvinas Islands in the South Atlantic are called.

Clearly a useless but highly politicized exercise in UK-brand “democracy” that serves, however, to unmask British double-standards.

All along, self-determination has been the excuse the British Government has wielded far and wide for carrying out this referendum on those bleak and distant islands, more than 8000 kilometers from Britain’s coast and a mere 600 km from Argentina’s Patagonian coast. Islanders voted almost unanimously to remain under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.

"We believe in self-determination.”, Cameron dixit… “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."

Argentina, however, maintains that this was an illegal and "pointless" vote because the entire population of the Falklands is an "implanted people" who actually have no voice in a dispute that is not with them but between Argentina and Britain.

There are several overtones to this, not least of which are the enormous oil reserves in the area.  That Britain should play the “champion of the right to self-determination” role - even if only of a very tiny group of less than 3000 inhabitants in some far-away windswept islands – is grotesque and hypocritical so say the least.
Because it begs the question: was it always so with Britain?

Answer: not quite…

We need not go back too far in British imperial history to learn how dictatorial and unjustly Britain behaved towards its vanquished colonies, systematically trampling on their right to “self-determination” and just about every other human right in the book.  

Islanders celebrate after the annouce of the referendum's result in Port Stanley, Falkland (Malvinas for Argentina) Islands, on March 11, 2013 (AFP Photo / Tony Chater)

We could point to the Opium Wars of 1839/1842 and 1856/60 when the Crown-backed British East India Company forcibly pried China open to the glories of opium, imposing death and destruction upon tens of millions of Chinese all in the name of huge financial profit for the likes of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp (aka, HSBC) and Mathieson Ltd. 

We could also mention how in the first half of the 20th century Britain fully ignored the right to self-determination of millions in India using genocidal tactics to retain that colony for the British Crown until Jawaharlal Nehru and the great Mahatma Gandhi rallied the Hindus and threw Britain out of India after the second world war.

We might even mention the nice concentration camps Britain invented and in South Africa during the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century.

But no.  No need to go that far back.  Just take a look at the more recent case of Diego Garcia Island, which look so much like the Falklands and yet Britain handled so differently.

"We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take. It is only right that, in the 21st century, these rights are respected.” 

How shrewd of Mr Hague to be so forward-looking into this 21st Century, whilst he avoids looking back at the UK’s track record, which fully condemns Britain politically and morally.

Diego Garcia Island

This is (or was) the only inhabited island in Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, another remote UK colony officially known as the British Indian Ocean Territory.

In 1966, at the height of the Cold War, then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson agreed with US President Lyndon Johnson to lease Diego Garcia to the American Military, who badly needed a military base in the Indian Ocean to monitor Soviet activity.  Diego Garcia was just perfect!

In return, the Americans made a major financial contribution to the UK’s Polaris submarine program.
One small snag, though: the 2.000 “natives” that had been living on Diego Garcia since the 18th century; before the Brits had even taken a look at the Falkland/Malvinas.  

These “Chagossians”, as they are called, were the descendants of slaves originally brought to Diego Garcia by the British for forced labour in their coconut plantations.  To comply with Britain’s agreement with the Americans, in a bout of high respect for the “self-determination” of the Chagossians, starting in 1968 the British government promptly threw them all off their island. 

As The Guardian newspaper reported in February 2012, “from the late 1960s onwards, those leaving the islands for shopping trips or emergency medical treatment often found their return barred. Bfy 1973, all the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, the descendants of slaves… had been forcibly removed – dumped in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they were left to fend for themselves.  Four decades on, the Chagossians – who gained full British citizenship in 2002 and now have a 1,000-strong community in Sussex – are still struggling to return home.” 

This handout photo of the Mauritius based charity association "Group de Refugies de Chagos" and dated 09 April 1971 shows John Todd (C), the administrator of the Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean Chagos Archipelago, announcing to the population the introduction of a law that will have all the Chagos Islands population deported toward Mauritius and Seychelles (AFP Photo / HO / Chagos Refugee Center)

Why the different treatment?  Well, maybe the fact that the Falkland Kelpers are of white British stock - “Aryan” WASP’s (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants)! - might help to explain London’s eagerness to protect their “self-determination rights”, whilst - Alas! - the Diego Garcia Chagossians are of far swarthier stock…  Ergo, no self-determinations rights for them!!

Racism you say?  No, just another example of how Britain respects “21st rights” as Mr Hague so eloquently put it.   
But there’s more to this.  Today, the US military operates a Naval Support Facility (NSF) on Diego Garcia with around 4000 troops, used after 9/11 to support combat operations against Afghanistan and Iraq.  They also operate a Guantanamo-like CIA manned prison facility there which former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said back in 2004 the US had “repeatedly assured him that no detainees had passed in transit through Diego Garcia or were disembarked there”. 

Nevertheless in 2007 the all-party Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament announced it would launch an investigation on the continued allegations of a clandestine prison camp on Diego Garcia, a fact confirmed by repeated comments made by Retired US Army General Barry McCaffrey. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, in turn, said there is credible evidence supporting allegations that ships serving as CIA “black sites” use Diego Garcia to incarcerate and torture detainees.

That’s Britain and its US ally spreading “self-determination rights” and “democracy” throughout the world…!

Legitimizing Colonial Occupation

Dick Sawle, a member of the Legislative Assembly in the Falkland Islands government who was at the voting count in Port Stanley, called this week’s referendum results "absolutely fantastic". 

Exiled Diego Garcians demonstrate outside Downing Street in London (AFP Photo)

Dick: what’s so fantastic about asking a small group of staunch Britons who hate the Argentinians whether they wish to remain British or become Argentinian? 

The UK’s referendum in the Falklands is exactly the same as asking the 400,000 or so ultra-right wing illegal Israeli Settlers in the West Bank and elsewhere in Palestine to vote whether they want to remain Israeli or wish to switch over to Palestinian National Sovereignty!! 

Mr Sawle then added that the vote will "send out the strongest possible message to the rest of the world about our right to self-determination, a right which was fought for in 1982 and which we've honored tonight."   

The real reasons for this mock referendum are otherwise: Britain and its second-rate local Kelper puppets need to justify to global public opinion that the Falklands are “British” - even if only with this thin layer of “referendum legality” -  because full-fledged oil exploitation is about to commence with US and British oil companies getting ready to gobble up trillions in profits.

Oil, oil and more oil

Recent estimates indicate that oil reserves in the shallow Argentine continental shelf in the South Atlantic are over 60 billion barrels.  This seems to have caught Britain’s (and the US’s) eye in the Falklands in recent years, especially after other primary oil sources have become geo-strategic hot spots - notably the Middle East and Venezuela - as a consequence of gross geopolitical mismanagement on the part of the US and Britain. 

A group of refugees from the Indian Ocean island of Chagos gather outside the High Court in London on October 31, 2002. They are seeking compensation from the British government for forcibly removing them to make way for the Diego Garcia U.S. military base 30 years ago (Reuters / Michael Crabtree)

Thus, over the past three years oil exploration companies like Premier Oil plc, Nobel Oil Corp, Rockhopper Exploration plc, Argos Resources, Falklands Oil Co, Desire Petroleum, Borders & Southern Petroleum and Cairn Energy, all profusely financed by mega-banks like Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC (“ah… the good old Imperial days are back!”), Bank of America and JPMorganChase. 

After them will come, Exxon/Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron/Texaco… 

The glories of “self-determination”  

Yes, once again, it’s all about oil.  This is clearly one of the reasons why George W Bush reactivated the US Fourth South Atlantic Naval Fleet in 2008, after it had been deactivated in 1953. 

Further afield, it’s also about British claims over Antarctica which houses incalculable natural resources wealth in terms of oil, mining, potable water, fishing…  and where Argentina’s traditional presence there today is all but non-existent.

Maybe it’s even about the vast, sparsely inhabited and immensely rich in natural resources Patagonian Region of Argentina itself, where the Brits, Americans and Israelis would love to get their hands on… 

But I’m getting ahead of myself by some 10 or 15 years…  Because first comes “Latin American Spring”.  

Adrian Salbuchi for RT

Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina. www.asalbuchi.com.ar

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.