Falkland Islander shocked by citizenship controversy

Monday 20 June 2011 16.22
Falkland Islands - Britain refusing to discuss issue of sovereignty
Falkland Islands - Britain refusing to discuss issue of sovereignty

The first Falkland Islander to accept Argentine citizenship has told a British newspaper he is shocked at the storm he has created.

James Peck, who has been hailed a national hero by Argentina, received death threats from enraged islanders and found himself at the centre of a bitter dispute between Britain and Argentina over the islands in the South Atlantic.

'I imagined something, but it's been like I killed somebody,' Mr Peck said in an interview with The Times published today from his home in Buenos Aires.

'The whole thing has been mad.'

Argentina claims sovereignty over the British-held islands and invaded them in 1982 but a British task force retook control of the archipelago after a brief war.

President Cristina Kirchner handed Mr Peck an Argentinian national identity card on 14 June at a ceremony to mark the 29th anniversary of the conflict.

Some Falkland Islanders have interpreted Mr Peck's move as treason.

'I've had messages saying that if I go back I'll be shot,' Mr Peck said, but insisted he was not trying to make a political statement.

The 42-year-old artist said his decision was purely a practical one. He separated from his Argentine wife 18 months ago and wanted to live near his children but found that was complicated because he held a British passport.

However, contrary to reports he said he had not renounced his British passport – 'unless it has been annulled in my absence', he told The Times.

Mr Peck said he had not meant to cause offence to the British soldiers who died in the conflict - it's 'not meant to insult anybody, it's not meant to insult British soldiers', he said.

'I just think that we should not be fighting and arguing any more. We're too close, we're only several hundred miles off the coast here, and I just don't think there should still be so much animosity.'

British Prime Minister David Cameron last week insisted there would be no negotiations with Argentina on the sovereignty of the Falklands 'full stop'.

Mr Cameron's comments drew an angry response from President Kirchner who described them as a 'gesture of mediocrity' and 'almost of stupidity'.