**This article was sent to mercopress in response to the Falkland Islands Association article and mercopress refused to publish it.**
Last January 4, an article entitled "The "Expulsion Myth" - Argentina's Greatest Historical Falsehood" by the Falkland Islands Association (FIA) was published on the Mercopress’ site. It begins by accusing Argentina of "brainwashing" its population and, apparently, also the United Nations General Assembly, and even blaming the Foreign Office for "having not researched the history of the Falklands properly".
It repeats arguments that were largely refuted in our book “The Malvinas/Falklands between History and Law”, available in www.malvinas-falklands.net. Here we will briefly rebut the main issue suggested by the FIA’s article, the question of the British forcible action against Argentina of January 1833.
THE MALVINAS/FALKALANDS BEFORE THE BRITISH EXPULSION)
After its formal taking of possession of the islands in 1820, Argentina carried out innumerable acts of sovereignty, such as granting land and cattle concessions, appointment of authorities, application of legislation on hunting and fishing. During this period Britain recognized Argentine independence and establish diplomatic relations. Both countries concluded a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation in 1825. This implied respect for the sovereign equality of the parties, which includes the respect for their territorial integrity. If Argentina would have violated British territorial sovereignty through its previous acts in the Falklands/Malvinas, that was the occasion for the British government to advance its claim. Yet no reference to the issue was made, simply because the UK did not claim sovereignty over the islands at that time.
On June 10, 1829, Argentina created an administrative structure in accordance with the growing importance of its settlement. Thus, it issued decrees to create the Political and Military Command of the Malvinas Islands and the Atlantic Adjacencies of Cape Horn and appointed Luis Vernet as its Political and Military Commander. The islands had never witnessed a similar human development at the time the European colonial powers were present. It was the efforts of the new Argentine nation that produced this development and proved the usefulness of the islands. It was the British Empire, with its political, military and economic supremacy, which took advantage of these efforts through the use of force.
British protests of 1829 and 1832
The British protest of 1829, after 55 years of silence in front of a continuous and exclusive Spanish presence in the islands between 1774 and 1811 and the sovereign acts accomplished by Buenos Aires as successor of Spain, was motivated by the wish to put a feet in the South Atlantic. It was belated, limited and made in bad faith. Belated, because the British government knew the previous acts of public authority over the islands carried out by Buenos Aires between 1820 and 1829. Limited, because it is circumscribed to the decree of June 10th, 1829, without protesting against any previous acts. Finally the protest was made in bad faith, because of the grounds invoked, falsely alleging an inexistent Spanish recognition of British sovereignty and ignoring Spain´s continuous presence in the islands until 1811 and Argentina´s subsequent acts.
On September 28th, 1832, a second British protest was made, again only regarding a new decree. It is telling that during 1831-1832 The Argentine and the American governments were openly discussing about actions taken by the Argentine authorities in the islands and the partial destruction of the settlement by an American sailor (the “Lexington incident”) while the British government remained silent during the whole period. Both protests were merely assertive of a claim, without any specific requirement to the Argentine government, let alone any proposal to settle the issue. Not even a single warning about any further British action was included either.
The forcible expulsion of January 3rd, 1833
On August 30th, 1832, the Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Sir George Shee, communicated to the Admiralty Britain´s decision to exercise “sovereignty rights” over the Falklands/Malvinas by sending a ship to Port Egmont and organizing an annual inspection trip. On November 28th, 1832, T. Baker, Chief Commander of the British Naval Station in South America, ordered John James Onslow, Captain of the “HMS Clio”, to set sail for Port Egmont. The order stated that, if necessary, he could use force to overcome any foreign resistance to Britain´s exercise of sovereignty. Having taken possession of Port Egmont on December 23rd, 1832, Onslow set sail for Puerto Soledad and proceeded to expel the Argentine forces present there on January 3rd, 1833. It is worth highlighting that this action was performed autonomously, since going to Isla Soledad was not among his instructions, which were limited to Port Egmont.
There is no doubt that these actions may be qualified as a forcible action, despite the fact that not a single shot was fired. The use of a war ship and military staff, the coercion exercised by requiring the lowering of the flag and withdrawal of Argentine forces within 24 hours with a warning that in case they failed to do so, he would do it himself, mean that possession was obtained by a military presence in the territory and by threatening the use of force.
This was the interpretation made by the government of Buenos Aires three weeks after the events, in qualifying Onslow´s actions as “an aggressive and violent dispossession” and “the most outrageous abuse of force.”
The aim of the FIA’s article is quite clear: attempting to prove that the Argentine population was not evicted, thereby circumventing the argument which denies the application of the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination to the present British inhabitants of the islands. It would be hard to justify the application of this principle to a situation in which the colonial power replaced a population with its own and then claimed that the latter should decide the fate of the territory.
The fact is that, as a consequence of the British invasion, 53 people who were living on the islands returned to Buenos Aires from Puerto Soledad. Only 22 remained on the islands. That is to say, the British eviction resulted in almost 70% of the inhabitants leaving the islands.
If the British eviction had not occurred, the population would have remained on the islands, and the reestablishment of order would have permitted the return of the population scattered by the “Lexington” in 1831. The Argentine settlement would have continued to develop, a task Luis Vernet was devoted to in Buenos Aires. It is of little use to claim that Captain Onslow tried to persuade some i inhabitants to stay: to place a population, established in the islands by the actions of Argentina, under the authority of a British subject is a typically colonial action.
The key point here is that: 1) there was a permanent human settlement in the islands, aiming atthe economic development of the territory promoted by the Argentine government and under its authority; 2) in 1831 the Lexington´s brutal actions disbanded most of the population; 3) in 1832, Argentina was making the necessary efforts to re- establish the situation and 4) in 1833 the British dispossession put an end to the first true human development of the Falklands/Malvinas.
Great Britain expelled Argentina from the islands in 1833. They evicted the authorities and part of the population – men, women and children. The key point is that by this act of force Argentina was prevented from re-establishing the settlement that had been founded in the 1820s with so much effort. The FIA does not mention that, as a consequence of the 1833 use of force, the residents of the Argentine settlement in the Falklands/Malvinas who had been removed in 1831 were never able to return. The residents living in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1833 were only part of the population.
British officials who analyzed this question in internal ministerial reports have referred to the act of January 3rd, 1833, in categorical terms. The preliminary Memorandum issued by the Foreign Office´s Investigation Department on September 17th, 1946, concludes: "the British occupation of 1833 was, at the time, an act of unjustifiable aggression which has now acquired the backing of the rights of prescription". The 1946 Memorandum is correct only on one point. Even if acquisitive prescription were a title under international law, Argentine lack of renunciation of its rights, would prevent the UK to acquire sovereignty by the mere passing of time. The Malvinas/Falklands is a typical example of the policy of the force against the law.
The simple truth is that the British Government only “remembered” the existence of the islands when Argentina’s significant effort that had lasted a decade was beginning to bear fruit. Its aim was strategic. It took advantage of its power as the main colonial and naval authority of the time to confront a young State mired in fratricidal struggles that could not confront it militarily but that nevertheless protested immediately. Once again, imperial arrogance was the only reply to Argentina’s attempts at diplomacy.
No prior warning was given to Argentina by the British Government before its use of force. There was no British proposal to resolve the issue through negotiations or any other means, in spite of the existence of diplomatic relations and a Treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation in force. The British protest of November 1829 was not followed by any action, in spite of the serious incident of the Lexington in 1831 and the dispute between Argentina and the United States regarding an issue that directly involved the exercise of the sovereignty over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The British Government simply took advantage of the situation and imposed is power through a unilateral act of force.
Argentina immediately protested and it maintained its protests over time. Great Britain refused to settle the dispute, in a typical show of a policy of force. Since then, the British Government created the Colony in 1843 and has control over migration to the territory until today.
The United Kingdom must fulfill its international obligations to settle disputes by peaceful means and to put an end to colonialism in all its forms.
Prof. Marcelo G. Kohen
Esq. Facundo D. Rodriguez