Islanders vote on future of the Falklands
THEY were not exactly overtaxed, the two officials supervising the polling station at Goose Green.
It was, after all, Sunday afternoon and the population of the settlement – at some 45 people, the second biggest in the Falkland Islands – was enjoying its lunch. Had anyone yet voted in the two-day referendum to decide if the islands should remain a British Overseas Territory?
"I can't say, I'm afraid," said the lady who answered the door.
This is voting Falklands-style, unhurried and not exactly pulsating with election day drama.
A five-seater Islander turboprop aircraft and several Land Rovers criss-crossed a desolate archipelago, acting as mobile polling stations for remote farming communities, the handfuls of voters arriving at each wind-battered stop.
Exactly 1,675 people are eligible to vote in the referendum, which has reignited the issue of the Falklands, subject of a short but bloody war between Britain and Argentina in 1982.
The Argentine government condemned the poll – a simple yes-or-no vote on remaining under United Kingdom supervision organised by the Falkland Islands government – as a propaganda exercise cooked up in London.
"This new British attempt to manipulate the question of the Malvinas Islands through a vote by the population implanted by the United Kingdom in the Malvinas Islands has been firmly rejected by the Argentine Republic," the foreign ministry in Buenos Aires said.
Argentina has claimed the referendum is irrelevant, but the statements from Buenos Aires suggest discomfort at the establishment of the Falkland Islanders as a distinct voice, separate from Britain.
"The Falkland Islanders are citizens and they have the right to express themselves," said Jaime Trobo, an international observer from Uruguay.
His words will infuriate Cristina Kirchner, who has sought to portray the islanders as an isolated community.
There is no No campaign for the vote and those considering voting in the negative have kept silent. The result will be announced tonight in Port Stanley. (© Daily Telegraph, London)