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Falklands Report

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The following newsreport is from the Falklands Islands News Network




UK Minister for the Overseas Territories Ms Meg Munn MP has visited the Falklands on a familiarisation Visit from 03 to 05 January 2008.  Ms Munn is responsible to the UK Parliament for a range of issues for UK Overseas Territories.


She arrived on the 03 January Air-bridge from Ascension Island where she took the traditional 90 minute tour and met Ascension’s Advisory Committee, Commander of the RAF Base and Administrator Mr. Michael Hill.  She also took a short tour of the Island before leaving on the Air-bridge to the Falklands.


Ms Munn began her visit by visiting Gypsy Cove and attending the unveiling of the Royal marines’ Memorial on the Triangle by former 1982 ‘42 Commando Commanding Officer, Maj. Gen Nick Vaux RM, (Ret). 


Her busy first day continued with a visit to the Town Hall to witness the count for the Stanley by-election and ended the day at dinner in Government House for invited guests.  On Friday Ms Munn met Government Officials and Councillors before lunch with the business community.  The afternoon was taken up with the Military on HMS Nottingham; a helicopter trip to Sea Lion to visit the HMS Sheffield Memorial had to be cancelled.  Instead, Ms Munn visited a farm.  “I really want to understand some of the pressures of people who live in the countryside and ways they have had to adapt their lives to changes and pressures in agriculture, which are not unique to the Falkland Islands,” she said.


On Saturday Ms Munn went to the KEMH and had a chat with members of the Social Welfare Department.  As a former Social Welfare professional, Ms Munn holds a great interest in social issues.  She expressed amazement that the Falklands provide a whole range of services while having the population of a small village in the UK.   Prior to leaving on Saturday’s LAN flight Ms Munn held a press conference at Government House with FINN, Penguin News and FIRS.


Ms Munn said that she found it interesting to come to the Falklands, especially her impression of the Islands’ beauty and huge land area. “I am amazed how a small population manages in relation to a whole range of issues,” she said as she explained how she met various members of the Government, Business community and Islanders.  She mention some of the issues as flights, access issues, relationship with Argentina as well as the constitutional review going on here in the Falklands as well as other Overseas Territories.  “I am very please to hear that the discussions have gone so well,” she said. 


“We are very keen on being able to run and manage their own lives but within the context of our responsibilities as Government.  We are very clear that it is a matter of self determination for people on the Islands and that they want to remain British,” she continued.  “People felt rightly proud about the unique wildlife and conservation and I think it’s the kind of thing that strikes you immediately,” she said.


“The one impression I will go away with is whether you are talking about people in business, people in the public sector or people running farms is that everybody has to be a multi-tasker.  You can’t just do one thing because you wouldn’t earn enough or the Society wouldn’t have the range of skills and abilities it needs,” she said.  She recognised the entrepreneurial spirit of the Falklands, great flexibility and willingness to turn their hands to whatever needs to be done.


“One of the interesting things for me actually visiting the Overseas Territories, this is my second one as I already went to Cayman Island in December, is looking at that relationship.  What I think is evident from the Falklands is that the links with the UK are good and I think other territories could learn more and the UK Government could do more parts of the UK Government in providing advice and support to overseas Territories,” she said.  They are small populations and are struggling with issues that the Falklands are into.


Issues that were discussed with Councillors included air access.  She said it was important for the Falklands and it was an enormously tricky issue and that there was a full and frank discussion about the options.  “I am under no illusions that the Falkland Islanders and Councillors are extremely aware or very concerned about it and are looking at ways to exploring it,” she said.  Ms Munn went on to say that from Government’s point of view it has to have a high priority because it is clearly a major issue for Islanders in all sorts of ways.  Also mentioned was limited access for people who found communications detrimental to their businesses.  She emphasises east-west access as well as the air-bridge.


“We would like to see the Next of Kin visit from the Argentines to take place and we had a discussion about whether that could be a charter flight or the option of a ship is logistically better and I would like those discussions to continue between the Falkland Islands and Argentina.” She said.  “It’s important that the Falkland Islands are seen to be offering much needed support for people in compassionate circumstances,” she continued. 

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