Falklands says "yes" to remaining British

The residents of the Falkland Islands have voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in favour of remaining a British overseas territory.



Only three votes out of more than 1500 were cast against the motion.


However, Argentina has rejected the vote as a meaningless publicity stunt.


Santilla Chingaipe has the details.


The referendum was held over two days following pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War with the Britain.


The question was:


“Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?”


Residents were then simply required to respond with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.


Chief referendum officer, Keith Padgett, says voter turnout was high among the 1,649 Falklands-born and long-term residents registered to vote.


“The total number of votes publicly cast in the referendum was 1,517. The percentage of turnout for the referendum was 92 per cent. The number of ‘yes’ votes cast was 1,513, which represents 98.8 per cent.”


Britain has held the Falklands since 1833 but Buenos Aires maintains that the islands are occupied Argentinian territory.


Diplomatic tension between Britain and Argentina has flared up again, more than three decades since they went to war over the South Atlantic archipelago.


Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has dismissed the referendum result.


Ms Kirchner says it will not affect Argentina’s claims on the Falklands, which it calls Las Malvinas.


But British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged Argentina to respect the wishes of the islanders.


“The Falkland Islands may be thousands of miles away, but they are British through and through, that is how they want to stay and people should know we will always be there to defend them. I think the most important thing about this result is that we believe in self-determination and 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.”


Meanwhile, the United States has refused once again to take sides in the dispute over the islands.


However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the US has noted the overwhelming yes vote by Falkland Islanders to remain a British territory.


“The residents have clearly expressed their preference for a continued relationship with the United Kingdom. That said, we obviously recognise that there are competing claims. Our formal position has not changed. We recognize the de facto UK administration of the islands, but we take no position on sovereignty claims.”

Residents of the islands welcomed the vote with enthusiasm in the capital, Port Stanley.


One of those was Neville Haywood, who told the BBC he hopes the result will allow the Falklands to be accepted on the international stage.


“Probably not Argentina, but maybe the rest of the world needs to start looking at it and thinking differently.”