The Falkland Islands are a dependant territory of the United Kingdom. The executive authority is exercised by the Governor of the Falklands in the name of Her Majesty the Queen.
The present constitution of the Falklands was established in 1985.
8 legislative councillors, 5 from Stanley and 3 from the rest of the islands are elected every 4 years. Each year the legislative council (LegCo) elects 3 of its members to form the executive council (ExCo).
The Governor presides over the executive council which is composed of the 3 members coming from the legislative council, of 2 ex-officio members, of a chief executive and a financial secretary. Furthermore the Commander British Forces Falkland Islands and the Attorney General may help the executive council and intervene on all subjects. The ExCo meets once a month.
The legislative council, presided over by the Governor, is made up of the elected councillors and two ex-officio members, the chief executive and financial secretary. As with the ExCo, the Commander British Forces and the Attorney General may intervene. The legislature council is authorised to create laws for the maintenance of order, legislation and the government of the isles. These new laws are subject to the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, intervening through her Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Meetings of the LegCo are organised on request but are usually at least four times a year.
Defence and foreign affairs remain under the responsibility and control of the English Government.
Since the invasion by the Argentinians, the isles have been protected on land, sea and in the air. A garrison has been maintained to assure security and prevent the repetition of the events of 1982. The completion of Mount Pleasant, fully operational in 1986, allows a reduction of the number of forces stationed on the islands.
A permanent uneasiness...
Since the end of the conflict, several visits have been organised to allow the families of Argentinian soldiers killed and buried in the isles to come and meditate at their graves. The Falklands government, thinking it would be judicious to send the bodies back to Argentina, offered funds for such a displacement. However, the Argentinian government refused this offer claiming that the bodies were already buried on Argentinian soil.
This anecdote shows well that relations between Great Britain and Argentina, concerning the sovereignty of the isles, are still very strained and remain a bone of contention.
The Argentinians have always sworn they have a right to the Falklands. The Argentinian claim to the islands is mainly based on the fact of having been the successors of the Spanish royalty of River Plate, which also governed Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and the Falklands. For the Argentinian people the Falklands compose the only part of their territory taken away by force in 1833.
The English retort that the first man to put a foot on the archipelago was the Englishman John Strong and that the administration of the Falklands has lasted 168 years, only briefly interrupted during the conflict of 1982.
More than ten years after this conflict, the Argentinians again claimed the Falklands by inserting a declaration of sovereignty in their constitution. It is not necessary to say that the British government and that of the Falklands have always rejected this claim which lacked historical and legal proof.
The problem of relations with Argentina is a worrying subject for the inhabitants of the Falklands. It's a thorny problem because it is entirely in the hands of London which is in charge of foreign policy and defence. Even though possessing consultative voices, on the international politics level, the opinion of the 2’800 inhabitants of the Falklands is considered to be negligible. This is why the population has a strong mistrust towards the British government. Any attempt to normalise relations with Argentina is seen as treason and a beginning of the disengagement of Great Britain with respect to its responsibility for protecting and defending the isle.
Perhaps the key to the outcome of this conflict would be to give the power of deciding to the inhabitants themselves. Many people think that the only logical thing to do is to let the sovereignty of the isles be decided by the people who live there. Besides, the main British political parties affirm their support for giving the right to the inhabitants of the Falklands to determine their own sovereignty. As the islanders have intense loyalty and deep attachment to England, the British government would not be taking a great risk in granting them such liberty.
Relations with Chile and Uruguay
The Falklands have always had good relations with Chile and Uruguay. Before the conflict of 1982 the government was in contact with Argentina for all external communications, critical medical care and high studies. These arrangements were then changed and established with Uruguay. Since the 1982 conflict relations with Chile have never stopped improving. A weekly flight between Santiago, Punta Arenas and the Falklands has been established with the airline Lan Chile. Commerce has developed between the two countries: building materials, livestock, fresh fruit and wines are imported from Chile.
Text: © M.Chabod / F. Bettex