To begin with, let me introduce myself. I am Janet Robertson, a Falkland Islander, and I grew up at Port Stephens on West Falklands. I am 39 years old and am currently employed as Marketing Manager at Consolidated Fisheries. I have made the decision to stand for Council because I believe that the electorate should have as wide a choice as possible when casting their vote, and because I believe that my commitment to these Islands, and some of the ideas that I have, can be of value to our Government.
There are a number of issues that need to be covered in a short space of time, but I trust that by the end you will have a clearer picture on what my views are and where I stand in the political spectrum.
This document which is currently under review, largely determines the political structure of Government and it is therefore very important to give it due consideration. The previous Council has done some excellent work in addressing substantive issues, but nevertheless there is work that is still required:
1) It is absolutely essential that there is proper “scrutiny” of the executive body of Government. By “scrutiny” I mean challenging, questioning and opposing arguments to executive decisions by onlookers, a political opposition if you like. If we want to have an effective opposition to the Government, if we want to be able to have the decision-making bodies effectively challenged, if we don’t want to rely solely on the media and public meetings to question these bodies in depth, then we must ensure that there is an inherent process, an intrinsic mechanism, defined by the Constitution to fulfil this process. I think that this, in particular, needs to be looked at in more detail, and more thought given to Proposal B in the Annex of the Report. This proposal does provide a mechanism for scrutiny by separating and defining more clearly the roles of the executive and legislative processes. It makes Councillors more answerable and accountable to the public and to the Government - it might mean dramatic changes to our current structures, but we should not shy from it because of that.
2) There are two other issues which I wish to highlight briefly : in proposing to treat the matter of constituencies through an Electoral Ordinance rather than in the Constitution, I think that some form of security for Campers, such as the recognition of Camp as a unique minority with special importance, should be retained in the Constitution itself. Further, the proposal by Select Committee to uphold the prohibition on non-Commonwealth citizens to become electors except through marriage or naturalization, can only lead immigrants of this category to feel under-valued in our society and less committed to it. Perhaps an alternative solution for those seeking voting rights could be for them to undergo some form of Citizenship instruction as part of an application process, to ensure that they properly understand our political structures and concepts.
Our relationship with Argentina forms the backbone of our stance on foreign affairs. It enhances our sense of identity, of our culture – of our nationhood – by reinforcing our total belief in our intrinsic and unequivocal right to self-determination. We know who we are, and what we want: we are Falkland Islanders who wish to be British, and there is no reasonable argument to oppose it. When we deal with any other country, Argentina, or Chile, or even Great Britain, we must pursue policies that are in our interest and to our benefit, with the self-confidence that comes from knowing that on this issue, we are right.
Of course, we do need to convince everyone else that we are right as well. And in this endeavour, we all have a part to play. When we represent our country abroad, at sporting venues, at trade fairs and conferences - even as visitors to other countries - we can make a positive contribution to how the world sees us, and what it knows about us. Similarly, the development of tourism is not JUST about necessary and welcome commercial development, not just about selling the culture and wildlife of the Islands, but the politics as well. We don’t need to be brash, or aggressive or boring about it – but a good impression taken away serves as its own ambassador to the Islands.
We are a very lucky community to benefit from the education services that we have. Only one school to choose from, but what a school! It is just as well, because we need to ensure that young Falkland Islanders can leave school properly equipped for developing their academic and technical skills, properly equipped so that future generations can reap the benefit of their knowledge and capabilities. But we shouldn’t be complacent either: our community is becoming more diverse, more culturally dispersed. This is a good thing - new blood can enrich a society - but at the same time we must ensure that these diversities do not lead to divisions. And it is at school that the spirit of integration and of acceptance can be encouraged and, even further, expected. It is also essential that we have the right disciplinary procedures in place, the right management structures in place, to curtail the type of unsocial behaviour which leads to disruptions and disciplinary issues in the classroom.
I, personally, would dearly love to see more physical education and other non-academic subjects on offer in the schools. A secondary language in the Junior School too. And when the economy allows it, and budget restrictions are more relaxed, and if I have a say in the matter, then I will certainly be trying to find support and funding for these subjects.
A healthy and viable economy is critical to our well-being, our political freedom, to our social and cultural development. We have had some difficult years in the Fisheries, but I have to say that good management by the previous Council and Administration means that growth has been maintained and serious recession avoided. This must continue: strict budgeting protocols, forward planning and careful administration are the keystones to proper management of the Government economy. I would like to see more: I am still reeling from the cost of the Town Hall roof, for example. I would like to see more conscious practices of re-cycling and petty cost avoidance throughout the Government sector, and better control of stock and resources.
There has been healthy development in the private sector over recent years – a buoyant private sector has helped buffer the consequences of reduced licence revenue to Government. A confident private sector leads to jobs, tax revenues, infrastructure development and diversity in the economy. Government must seek good opportunities to help the private sector expand, and in my view, continuing to find means to develop our port infrastructure has to be one of them. As Islands, adequate port facilities are essential to all businesses, from Fisheries, to Tourism, to Agriculture and to Retail. It is the gateway in and out of the Islands, and failure to properly plan for its expansion and eventual replacement is just plain short-sighted.
I have no more time to expand on any of my special concerns, but I can briefly outline other issues of interest to me:
- Conservation: the research and planning of good environmental programmes to protect our Islands natural attractions, and to enhance our reputation around the world, must continue to be a priority.
- Urban Development: the continued expansion of the town to meet ever-increasing housing needs is important, but we must ensure that the particular character of Stanley, especially the centre of Stanley, is not lost in the process. Protection of the remaining green areas in town should be a top priority.
- Health Services: the provision of good medical care should be a right, not a privilege, and therefore the Health Services will always be prioritised in budgetary considerations. However, a right also confers a responsibility, and as citizens we should help to avoid unnecessary costs to the health service whenever we can, and to be conscientious about our use of it.
- Camp: it is crucial that Camp remains viable and its economy grows. Research and practical advice into best farming practices, research into diverse sources of income should continue to be supported through the Department of Agriculture and by the farmers themselves.
- Young and Old: good sheltered accommodation for the elderly and infirm must also feature high on the list of priorities. With regard to children, it is important to recognize that the vast majority of families these days are double-income and a forum to discuss after-school care for Infants and Juniors will be of interest to me.
I hope that I have been clear and concise, but if anyone is interested in having a hard copy of this manifesto then please don’t hesitate to contact me on 21782, or on e-mail and I will send you a copy.