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  • 9 March 2013, 19:49

Falklands: Sky Poll Reveals Nations Divided

Only 15% of Argentinians think Falkland Islanders should have a say in their own future, and a quarter still believe that the islands will one day be governed from Buenos Aires.

Those answers, in an opinion poll conducted by YouGov for Sky News, come on the eve of a referendum in which Falklanders will be asked whether they want to remain British.

It is expected to result in an overwhelming yes vote, but the islanders' enthusiasm for Britain doesn't seem to be reciprocated in the UK.

When asked what was the most important international issue affecting their country, only 1% of British respondents said the Falklands, while the figure was 24% in Argentina - just ahead of those worried about the economy.

There was an even bigger divergence of opinion between the two countries over the rights of the people on the islands to have a say in their future.

Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) British people who were surveyed thought the islanders should have a say on who ruled them, while six out of 10 (59%) Argentinians thought they should have no say on sovereignty.

Jan Cheek, one of the eight members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, told Sky News: "Sadly that says a lot about Argentina and their view of democracy.

"It's a populist theme. We saw it used by the military junta in '82 and it's being used in the same way by Christina Fernandez de Kirchner today."

The Argentinian president has tried to buttonhole David Cameron on the issue and has raised it at the United Nations.

"We've seen a lot of propaganda going out from Argentina. Some of it entirely false, some of it a distortion of the facts," said Ms Cheek.

"We would like people to recognise that we have the right to self-determination and we hope that democratic countries would wish to afford us the same right."

It will arguably be the most significant moment in the history of the Falkland Islands since British forces liberated them 10 weeks after they were seized by an Argentinian invasion force in 1982.

The result is not in doubt, only the precise number voting yes. And those who have organised the referendum acknowledge that they need a high turnout to send a clear message.

Dick Sawle, another member of the Legislative Assembly, said: "I think if we got 100%, people would think it was rigged. I think we will get a very high percentage, in the nineties, voting for yes."

There may be a few no votes, because while nobody is thought to favour Argentinian rule, there are a few who would prefer complete independence from Britain.

"One or two people might think that no means that they could have independence immediately," said Mr Sawle.

"I don't think this country is ready for independence yet, I think we have a long way to go in terms of government structure, in terms of responsibility for elected members and so on. We're too small."

Liam Felton-Short is a typical voter. "I'm British. I'm a sixth-generation Falklander," he said. "We are a British people. We're very much proud to be so."

Sybie Summers owns a gift shop in Stanley and is angry about the detrimental effect the Argentinian government has had on her business which relies on tourism.

It's been a slow year because some cruise ships stayed away under pressure from Buenos Aires.

They were told they would not be allowed to sail in Argentinean waters if they sailed into Stanley.

"It annoys me to think what they're trying to do to our islands," said Ms Summers.

"They're trying to cut us off. And hopefully the rest of the world will realise that they just can't do that."

The anti-Falklands policy has become more inventive in recent years, with adverts being placed in British newspapers, and a video secretly shot in Stanley showing one of their Olympic athletes preparing for the London games by training on what the video said was Argentinian soil.

What angered islanders most was that the video showed deserted streets as if the people didn't exist.

They hope that the referendum will give them a voice which the world can't ignore, even if Argentina continues to deny their right to self-determination.

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