Falklands vote: Over 99% choose to remain British

In a two-day referendum that recorded a turnout of 92 percent, 99% islanders voted in favour of staying British.

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2013, 10:51 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Stanley, Falkland Islands: In a clear win for the British government, an overwhelming majority of more than 99 percent Falkland Islanders voted in favour of retaining the current political status that is, remaining a British overseas territory.

In a two-day referendum that recorded a turnout of 92 percent, out of 1,517 valid votes cast, a whopping 1,514 islanders voted in favour of staying British.

Only 3 people voted `No` to the question: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?" Hence results showed that 99.8 percent people were in favour of the Falkland Islands to remain a UK territory.

Welcoming the results, the British government urged "all countries" to accept it and "support" the islanders.

On the other hand, the Falkland Islands Government had said that if a majority said "no," they could explore alternatives in a second vote later.

Argentina maintained that the vote was illegal and that islanders — an "implanted people" — have no voice in a dispute that must be settled bilaterally.

The islanders hope the result will help them keep any deal off the table — and perhaps even persuade neutral nations such as the United States to come down on their side.

The referendum was held after Argentina mounted up the pressure on Britain claiming the South Atlantic islands 31 years after the Falklands War.

The referendum was aimed at showing the world that the residents` self-determination must be considered in any discussion about the future of the remote South Atlantic islands that are claimed by both Britain and Argentina.

The government barred from voting any visiting contractors or personnel from the sizeable British military deployment, as well as anyone who had not resided in the islands for the last 12 months, thus excluding several people with islander status who have chosen to live in Argentina.

Argentines consider the "Islas Malvinas" to be part of their national territory, taken from them by the British more than 180 years ago. One group at the iconic obelisk in Buenos Aires said Monday that it had gathered 100,000 signatures supporting Argentina`s claim to the territory and the resource-rich seas that surrounds the archipelago.

The islands` community, which includes families that have worked the land for nine generations, is steeped in British culture, and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in the tabloid The Sun on Sunday that "as long as the Falklanders want to stay British, we will always be there to protect them. They have my word on that."

But islanders have worried that British support is not guaranteed. They well remember that Britain was preparing to hand over the islands to Argentina before the military government in Buenos Aires occupied them in 1982, prompting a war that killed 907 people.

With Agency Inputs