Falklands government turns professional as new era of oil dawns

Have your say

Falkland Islanders have elected a new government to manage the transition of the British territory as oil exploration turns to development.

Five members of the Legislative Assembly were selected to represent Stanley, the capital, and three for Camp, which is everywhere else in the South Atlantic territory of mostly remote sheep farms and small settlements.

For the first time, the legislative positions will be full time and those elected will receive a salary and must quit any other jobs.

Officials said 75 per cent of Stanley voters participated and just over 85 per cent of the Camp constituency cast ballots – 1,046 votes in Stanley and 242 for Camp.

The main issues facing the legislators are Argentina’s continuing claim to the islands and preparations for the oil wealth expected from offshore drilling. Oil exploration is already pumping millions of pounds into the economy and most islanders seem concerned about the potential for problems from rapid change brought by the new industry.

“Some now, unfortunately, are dazzled by the figures being bandied about, but until commercial oil is actually flowing and royalties being received we must proceed with caution,” Jan Cheek, one of the five new legislators for Stanley, said in her campaign manifesto.

Michael Poole, another Stanley member, believes Falklanders need to reach out more to Latin American countries to tell the territory’s position and offset Argentina’s campaign for sovereignty.

While the Islands are internally self-governing, Britain is responsible for defence and foreign affairs. Argentina claims the territory despite nearly 180 years of British control and a failed occupation 30 years ago.