DEF alone with the director of the Kelper newspaper in Malvinas: “Politicians keep us apart”

DEF alone with the director of the Kelper newspaper in Malvinas: “Politicians keep us apart”
DEF alone with the director of the Kelper newspaper in Malvinas: “Politicians keep us apart”

The general editor of the Penguin News, weekly newspaper of Falklandsreceived DEF during special and exclusive coverage in the Islands. The interview – the full version of which you can read at DEFonline It took place in the newsroom of the media, located on the central Ross Road, in Argentine Port. Among the main topics covered, the current situation of the Islands, the possible oil exploitation and the expansion of the port by the British stand out. What is the view that the islanders have about Argentina?

Born and raised in Malvinas, Lisa Watson He was 13 years old when Argentina recovered them. He does not have good memories of those days: his family farm was the surrender point for six members of the Royal Marine Corps who had escaped after the landing on April 2, 1982. Argentine troops entered his house and carried out a raid. strong requisition.

Born and raised in the Malvinas, Lisa Watson was 13 years old when Argentina recovered them (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

After the war, Watson took advantage of the injection of money that Great Britain provided for the population of the Malvinas and, thanks to a scholarship, He studied English Literature at Bangor University in Wales.. In 1999, she joined Penguin News as assistant editor and, the following year, she became editor of the weekly.

On this occasion, we were interested in talking to her not about the time of war or about issues of sovereignty, but about current events in the Malvinas. Her career makes her an authorized voice to know what impact the enormous economic growth that the islanders experienced had as a result of the granting of fishing licenses (which the Argentine State opposes, considering them illegal) and a possible offshore oil exploitation. shore. Clear, During the talk, we differ on toponymy: she will talk about “Falkland Islands”; us, from “Malvinas”.

The interview with Lisa Watson took place within the framework of exclusive DEF coverage in the Falkland Islands (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-As an expert in international reality and knowledgeable about the local community, do you see possibilities of finding some positions of agreement between Argentina and the islanders?

-It is very difficult to answer you. And it’s all a bit crazy, because when I meet people from Argentina, I always think that it would be so easy to understand each other… However, it is a political issue and it is the politicians who keep us apart.

-Today, relationships are more ideological than state policy or national interest?

-Yes absolutely. Maybe I’m biased, but sometimes I feel that it is in the interest of Argentine politicians to keep Argentines from the Falkland Islands separate. I feel that it is convenient for Argentine politicians that there is conflict; not to the government of the islands. When I talk to Argentines, they are always very surprised by the reality of the islands. It is as if a veil is lifted and there is an understanding. I also think that sometimes many islanders feel a little uncomfortable when there are Argentinians around. It is good that they come to Malvinas and see how we live. Somehow, this place belongs to everyone in the world. Land is just land, you know?

“When I talk to Argentines, they are always very surprised by the reality of the islands,” reflected Watson, who does running as a hobby (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-How would you describe the current situation of the islands?

-I would say that, compared to the current situation in many other countries, it is very reasonable. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us: tourism and the hospitality industry have suffered and that also affected our rural community, because many depend in part on this industry as they offer bed & breakfast services.

However, in general terms, I would say that we are doing very well financially. The government of the islands has financial reserves and continues to maintain them. The fishing industry has had good years and the Malvinas government has income from the corporate tax applied to that industry. A lot of the islands’ income comes from there, so the islands have that excellent fishing reserve and that hasn’t collapsed. Thanks to these funds, we have public health, public education, and even a university.

Postcard of Puerto Argentino, Malvinas Islands (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-Did Brexit affect the fishing industry because it was left out of the European common market?

-Yes, there was a small problem due to Brexit. As is known, there was a time when there were no tariffs – because it is an EU territory – and now there are. It wasn’t a big problem. I think there was a level of “hot air,” as we call it, where the fishing industry complained a lot. Anyway, our fishing industry likes to complain a lot when there is a problem. But in fact, they have a great income. And if there is the slightest problem, they like to make noise. So if they can get help from the government, they will get it. That’s the industry. But they’re doing very well, because the State can see their records, can see what their income is, and it’s really good. So, in general, I would say that economically the Falkland Islands are very good, although it can never be said that everything is perfect. Everyone is hit when there are problems on a global level.

-If we compare between your childhood and this current situation of a strong economy, in what can we see it reflected at the infrastructure level?

-For example, you will see an increase in the number of houses. West Stanley (Puerto Argentino) is completely new. You will see all the new houses to the west, the area called “Sapper Hill.” Two years ago, I drove by Bennett’s Paddock and there was nothing. Recently, with a partner, we went for a walk there and it was full of houses. It was a huge surprise, last season I went climbing [N. del R.: Lisa Watson es aficionada a ese deporte] and there was only one house beginning to be built. Now there are about 50 or 60. In addition, there is the intention to build a new power station. That’s the next big capital project.

Lisa Watson told DEF that she was surprised by the growth in the number of new homes built in the Malvinas (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-Would the power station be powered by wind energy?

-Yes, it is a new power station that will be partially powered by wind energy. But they also want to use solar energy. That will be another capital project, and there are already a lot of people who are asking why they aren’t putting in solar.

Another great project is the construction of a space for the elderly, the most vulnerable. It’s going to be a big housing space in East Stanley, on the outside, called Tussac House. It is being built by a company called RSK, which is associated with the government, and the venture will cost £14m. When you ask me for an example of this good economy of the islands, that is one of the projects that we can cite.

Watson commands the editorial office of Penguin News, the only newspaper in the Falkland Islands (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-Are these projects managed by the government?

-Yes and they have collaborators, basically construction partners. RSK is a UK company.

-As you mentioned before, there is always something that doesn’t work well. What is the main problem you find in Malvinas?

-We call it the “island factor.” I think it applies to any community that lives in an island area. There are always shortages and there is the impact of the cost involved in transporting any product to an island or the slowness of importing. The price of imports is very high and that is always a problem.

Another problem is the lack of human resources. For example, we have good workers locally, but not enough. So, for example, the government will try to hire people, but if another contractor offers higher wages, all the electricians and plumbers will go to work there. I am very lucky: my partner is an electrician. He works for RSK, but if he wanted, he could leave the company and get another local contract, probably for a ridiculous price.

Children play on the side of a typical house in Puerto Argentino (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-After a first initiative in 2012, the possibility of exploiting the Sea Lion oil field was once again strongly raised. Do you think there will be progress in that direction?

-Don’t know. This happens all the time: they always say this time it will happen, but then international oil prices go down and nothing happens. Everything indicates that something is going to happen this time, but I find it very difficult to answer that question, because I have been in this position so many times… It is difficult because I am not a big fan of oil.

-I was going to ask you, precisely, if there are voices against it.

-It is a very sensitive topic now. 20 years ago, it wasn’t such a controversial topic. In any case, for the Islands it was always controversial, because talking about oil causes us political problems. It’s a very emotional topic for you too. As soon as the topic arises, Argentina begins to be more aggressive towards us.

A Penguin News editor (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-That is, it is not only an economic or environmental problem, but also a political one?

-An environmental problem is also a political problem for us. It has many pros and cons. I think you have to be very neutral here. Personally, I am on the side of the environment, but it is clear that any country or territory will feel the benefit of having a stronger economy. It will make us feel more independent and more confident. That’s an advantage. But, at the same time, if the islands have more resources, Argentina will want them. That’s a disadvantage. And also in terms of reputation, environmentalists are going to look at the Malvinas and ask what they are doing with the territory. This is a disadvantage. There are so many factors to look at…

In 1999, Lisa Watson joined Penguin News as assistant editor and, the following year, became the editor of the weekly (Photo: Fernando Calzada)

-And the local community talks about this?

-Yes, she does, although she is very silent. There are many mixed feelings. The local community is very protective of the environment.

-What happened to the port renovation project?

-The cost of the project went through the roof, due to the price of materials in times of COVID. They dismissed it because, locally, they said it was crazy and that they were being scammed by the company. Then they changed their mind and launched a new tender to see if a local company could partner with a foreign company that would bring a new idea. The tender date has been extended, because I think there was a lot of interest.

DEF special envoys to Malvinas: Juan Ignacio Cánepa and Fernando Calzada.

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