Democracy hard won
EVERY now and then while trawling through the online newspapers in the Jane Cameron National Archives (and if you haven’t checked them out yet you definitely should https://www.nationalarchives.gov.fk/) an absolute gem pops up.
The latest was in The Falklands Islands Weekly News August 1945 edition – something of a battle royale between the editor, also the local vicar, and an infuriated gentleman who simply referred to himself as The Socialist.
It was an absolute delight; a socialist rebel sticking it to a conservative institution in 1945 – a so called newspaper apparently controlled by the church and also, according to Mr Socialist, preventing freedom of expression.
Mr Socialist claimed the vicar had refused to publish an article that had criticised the ‘top dogs’, goes the story.
The editor responds to his critic by outlining the policy of the paper.
The paper did sound a bit feeble: ‘We do not feel inclined to enter the field of heated controversy as for example whether the colony should be completely revolutionised because we feel that in the first place our space is too limited to do justice to either side…’ Not the best excuse. As we all know, you don’t need much space to say something controversial. Then again Twitter hadn’t been invented so he didn’t have that example available to him.
But here’s the plot twist – in the next sentence I forgave him everything. He added a rather rabble rousing statement.
‘The Weekly News has only one strong political view and it is that the people of the colony must have elected representation at the earliest possible moment. We pay taxation; we look forward to representation.’
Well hell yeah! I don’t think Mr Socialist was the only rebel in the village.
For those not in the know, up until 1949 Falkland Islanders had no elected representatives. Decisions were made by the Governor, Colonial Secretary and Senior Government Officers. In March 1949 the new constitution meant four of the eight members of Legislative Council could be elected by popular vote – one for East Falklands, one for West Falklands and two for Stanley. It was a gigantic step forward for the Falklands democratic process.
So yes, the Falkland Islands Daily News editor’s Clark Kent to Superman transformation really made my day. One moment he was all “Look we’re just a sensible newspaper serving the people and providing the news and not causing a ruckus” and the next he was telling the Governor Sir Allan Wolsey Cardinall, “drop the colony gig, drag yourself out of the last century, and stop screwing over the locals”… or words to that effect.
But of course just so that you don’t feel you’re missing out on all the life-changing political drama that nineteenth century Falkland Islands residents were treated to, please bear in mind that you too (well some of you) will have the opportunity to impact our democratic process on September 24 with the Single Constituency referendum.
Yes OK take your head out of your hands its going to happen whether you want it to or not and it is absolutely vital that people use their votes. This may sound obvious and even a little bit sarcastic but if you do not use your vote there exists the possibility it will not go the way you want.
This referendum has been a long time coming and it hasn’t necessarily been welcomed by everybody but it’s time to start thinking about your choices again. As you can see from the story in our Memory Lane and the editorial above, democracy and choice was hard won by Falkland Islands residents – we didn’t always have it. So let’s really make the best of it. We owe it to the people that came before us.
Falkland Islands residents – I will be harassing you closer to the time