BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter email@example.com
STANLEY, Falkland Islands — The pending referendum to decide the political future of the Falkland Islands will be done under the scrutiny of a "whole series of international observers" come early 2013, Legislative Assembly member Dr Barry Elsby has said.
Dr Elsby, who has responsibility for oil, the environment, historical buildings, mining and demining, told a group of Caribbean journalists yesterday that "the referendum is to try to send a signal to the world about the wishes of the Falkland Islanders as to what they want and how they wish to determine their own future".
The question of the status of the self-governed British overseas territory has occupied centrestage since the British and Argentine war in 1982 after the Argentines invaded the islands originally discovered by the British. Since then, Argentina, even though it had retreated and surrendered, has argued that the islands were rightly theirs. However, Britain has held that the Falklanders have a right to determine their status.
Yesterday, Dr Elsby said that the all-important question to be put to the voters has not yet been set due to the delicate nature of the issue.
"...That is because we want the referendum to be seen as totally fair, totally above board and not in any way biased. And so it might seem that the question is very easy to ask but what we don't want is for someone to come back and say that question was leading... so we are asking organisations that are experts at setting questions to ....phrase the question. These are going to be world-respected groups," Dr Elsby explained.
"...It's taking a little longer than we thought but we are determined to have this referendum in a totally free and fair way and be validated so that we can stand up in the international forum and say, look this is the wish of the Falkland Islanders, if you believe in a people having the right to determine their own future the Falklands had spoken and that's all we are trying to say to counter the whole barrage of misinformation from the Argentines," he added.
He said the intention is to send a signal to the democratic world of what the islanders want.
"We are not looking for independence at this time. That's an option but I don't think there is any move at the moment to be independent. We are very certain as to who we are now which is a self-governing British Overseas territory," he said.
"We are absolutely not a colony; we are absolutely self-governing," he emphasised further.
The Falkland islands, located in the south Atlantic, is home to some 3,000 persons comprising 30 different citizenship.