The Falkland Islands is South America’s most important penguin breeding site, but greed and corruption at the very highest level of government has resulted in the loss of over 5 million penguins. When a British biologist, funded by the British government to establish a penguin monitoring programme, began drawing attention to the disaster, he found himself at war with the Falkland Islands Government. For five years Mike Bingham and his family suffered police harassment, death threats, attacks on their property, and attempted deportation.
Eventually Bingham took the Falkland Islands Government to the Supreme Court for Human Rights abuse, and won. The Governor, Chief Executive, Attorney General and elected members of Executive Council were ruled to have committed acts of human rights abuse that the Supreme Court described as "morally and constitutionally indefensible". This is the story of the Falklands Regime.
In 1764 a young French officer, Luis Antoine Bouganville, landed on these uninhabited islands and claimed the archipelago in the name of King Luis XV of France. King Charles III of Spain protested to the French government for what he saw as an incursion into Spanish territory, and in 1767 France gave possession of the Falklands to Spain, who occupied and administered the islands for the next 45 years.
In 1766 a British settlement was established at Port Egmont on Saunders Island. The Spanish authorities in Buenos Aires ordered the expulsion of the British settlers, and this was carried out in June 1770. A year later, British settlers return to Port Egmont and remained there until 1774, when they were again forced to leave.
In 1811 the Spanish settlers on the Falklands were withdrawn to reinforce Spanish troops exiled in Uruguay, in an attempt to resist the independence movement of Buenos Aires. The Spanish forces were finally defeated in 1814, and the United Provinces of the River Plate (subsequently known as Argentina) declared independence from Spain. Argentina declared possession of the Falklands in 1820, and resettled at Port Louis in 1833, 22 years after the Spanish had left. But by this time the British had also settled the islands, and set up British administration of the islands, a situation which was to lead to a long-standing dispute with Argentina over sovereignty.
On 2nd April 1982, this long-standing dispute boiled over into war, with Argentina taking the islands by force. Prior to this invasion the Falklands had been a thorn in the side of the British government, one which they were seeking diplomatic means to extract. Eight thousand miles away, the Falklands were an unwelcome drain on the British economy. Had Argentina been patience they would have eventually gained ownership of the islands by diplomatic means, but the faltering Argentine government of the time needed a quick fix for its disastrous economic policies, and the popularity of retaking the Falklands by force lifted the Argentine government on a wave of public support.
But this popularity was short lived, as an equally determined British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, dug her heels in. Letting the Falklands slip away through diplomacy was one thing, but having Argentina take a piece of British Territory by force was an insult to the British people, and had to be addressed. Britain sent troops to recover the islands, and on 14th June 1982 the Argentine forces surrendered. The war was over and 266 British and 649 Argentine soldiers lay dead. Britain had won back a sheep-farming outpost that they had been trying to get rid of for years. Politicians in Britain decided that having gone to so much trouble to win back the Falklands, that they had better do something with it. After years of neglect, the British government came up with a very simple plan to rejuvenate the Falklands economy.
In conjunction with representatives of the Falklands community, it was decided in a series of secret talks that a 200 mile fishing control zone would be established around the Falklands, and that any vessels fishing in these waters would have to buy licences. All that was needed was people to sell these licences. With the smell of money, and the realisation that more fingers in the pie meant less pie, certain people involved in these secret talks claimed their slice of the wealth by giving up secure employment to set up fishing companies. This appeared like madness to other Falkland Islanders, until the secret plan was revealed. Much of the division of wealth which exists in the Falklands today stems from these dealings. Today most people with power and influence in the Falklands have financial interests in commercial fishing, which they will protect at any cost.
Within a couple of years the Falklands economy turned from poverty to enormous wealth, but this surplus of wealth came with a hidden price tag. With huge amounts of fish and squid being removed from Falklands waters, it was perhaps not surprising that seabirds and seals which relied on the same fish and squid for food began declining.
In October 1993 Mike Bingham began work for Falklands Conservation, the government-funded conservation organisation. One of his first tasks was to conduct an island-wide penguin census, which revealed massive population declines. Population studies by the British government in 1984 (Croxall, McInnes and Prince 1984 "The status and conservation of seabirds at the Falkland Islands", ICBP Technical Publication No.2, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge) had estimated a population of 6 million penguins, but by 1996 this had declined to just 1 million. The loss of 5 million penguins over 12 years coincided with the establishment of commercial fishing around the Falklands.
The Falkland Islands Government were very hostile towards Bingham’s report, and he was told by Councillor Mike Summers and Chief Executive Andrew Gurr that such a report could be very damaging to the Falklands economy which depended on commercial fishing. The government refused to accept the findings, and then when the evidence became overwhelming, they blamed it on a world-wide decline in penguins.
The penguins which had undergone the greatest declines were Southern Rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, both of which are restricted to the Falklands, Chile and Argentina. So during 1996/97 Mike Bingham carried out a census of populations in Chile and Argentina, confirming that penguin populations in these countries had NOT declined. The only place where these penguins were declining was in the Falklands.
By October 1996 plans for oil exploration around the Falklands were proceeding at a pace. Concerned that Falklands Conservation would demand protection for wildlife, the director of Desire Petroleum, Lewis Clifton, was proposed as chairman of the organisation. By law such an appointment had to be put to a vote at the Annual General Meeting, and it was clear that the director of an oil company drilling for oil would never be voted in charge of the Falklands’ only wildlife conservation organisation. With no chance of election, trustees ignored the law, and elected themselves and Clifton prior to the Annual General Meeting. This was totally illegal, and the UK Charity Commission wrote to Falklands Conservation stating that they had breached the constitution, and that the appointments were illegal, but Falklands Conservation did not reverse the appointments. The Falkland Islands' only wildlife conservation organisation was now in the hands of an oil company director, with disastrous consequences for Falklands wildlife.
Mike Bingham objected to an oil company director being made head of Falklands Conservation, and to the illegal manner in which Clifton and other trustees had been appointed. As a result Bingham was told that his services were no longer needed, and kicked out of Falklands Conservation. A few weeks later three separate oil spills occurred from oil rig supply vessels, killing hundreds of penguins, cormorants and other wildlife, just as Bingham had warned.
Instead of leaving the Falklands, Mike Bingham set up an independent wildlife conservation organisation, the Environmental Research Unit, and wrote up the results of his penguin research. The decline in penguins was published in Penguin Conservation (Bingham 1998 Penguins of South America and the Falkland Islands. Penguin Conservation 11:1) and Oryx (Bingham 1998 The distribution, abundance and population trends of Gentoo, Rockhopper and King Penguins in the Falkland Islands. Oryx 32:3) but doing so made him powerful enemies within the Falkland Islands Government.
In September 1998 Bingham sensed that somebody had been in his home, and on closer inspection found a 9mm pistol and ammunition hidden under his bed. It was obvious that the pistol had not been put under his bed as an early Christmas present. It had been put there to be found, but not by Bingham. He threw the pistol and ammunition into the sea, and went to see the Governor, Richard Ralph, to express his concern that his dispute with Falklands Conservation and Falkland Islands Government was getting out of hand. The Attorney General, David Lang, was also present. The Governor assured Bingham that he would not tolerate any harassment by the police or government officials, and promised that if Bingham’s prediction that his property was about to be searched turned out to be true, that he would investigate the matter most thoroughly.
Mike Bingham was still unconvinced that the Governor and Attorney General were not involved, so he wrote to several newspapers stating that despite having never been arrested for anything in his entire life, that he feared his property was about to be searched in an attempt to frame him. On 21st November 1998 the search occurred, just as he had predicted. Bingham went back to the Governor and Attorney General. The Governor was too busy to see him, and the Attorney General, David Lang, told Bingham "I do remember us having a meeting Mr Bingham, but I don't recall the details of our conversation."
A few weeks later two police officers called to Mike Bingham’s house and told him that he was being arrested for deception under the Thefts Act. He was taken down to Stanley Police Station, and told that he had been arrested for making a false statement about his qualifications on a job application form. Bingham told the police that the document they presented as evidence had been falsified, and that he was not prepared to answer any more questions until he had a chance to check it out. The Falklands Police later admitted printing the document themselves on the police station computer, and substituting it for his original which had made no false claim.
In February 1999, Mike Bingham flew to Chile to get married to his Chilean sweetheart Elena. It should have been the happiest day of his life, but the wedding was marred by the thought that the Falklands police were now involved in a witch hunt to deport him from the Falklands, using any means at their disposal. Following their wedding, Elena and her 9 year old son moved to the Falklands with Bingham, so he now had their safety to think of, not only his own.
On 3rd March 1999, within days of their arrival in the Falklands, Mike Bingham was arrested again, this time on charges that he had concealed criminal convictions for car theft, burglary and affray. Bingham had never been convicted of any criminal offence in his life, and told them so, but he was taken down to the police station and fingerprinted like a criminal. When Bingham finally got home he sent his father an e-mail asking him to contact the British police for help.
A couple of days later Bingham went to the Post Office, and received hateful remarks from everyone he met. An elderly lady which Mike Bingham didn't even know, spat at him and told him "We don't need your kind here. Go back to where you came from".
The Falkland Islands Government had notified the public that Bingham was a convicted burglar, knowing full well that in such a small community this would make him and his family the subject of hate and retaliation. Their intention was clearly to stir up public hatred towards Bingham, his wife and 9 year old step-son, in the hope that they would be driven out of the Falklands.
A few days later Bingham’s father sent through the results of the investigation by the British Police. They confirmed that Bingham had no criminal convictions whatsoever. His father also faxed down the court records for the convictions which the Falklands Police had listed. It showed clearly that these convictions belonged to a totally different person, with the same surname, but with different first names and different date of birth. Any search of criminal records would use date of birth, and yet the Falklands police had ignored this. Bingham did not believe that following two attempts to frame him that another error could have occurred by accident.
Bingham went down to the Police Station and showed them the documents from the British Police and the Courts, but the Falklands police refused to look at them, and said they could not confirm his innocence until they had conducted their own investigations, which would take several weeks. Bingham explained that he and his family were suffering abuse from members of the public who had been told by the Police that he was a convicted criminal, but the Falklands police said it was not their concern.
Elena’s son, Juan, started at his new school in March 1999, and the teachers were absolutely wonderful with him, but Juan was immediately hassled by the other children who believed Bingham was a criminal. Juan was constantly harassed by comments such as "your dad's a burglar", "we don’t need your sort here" and "go back to where you came from". Finally Juan could stand it no more, and went back to Chile to live with his grandparents. The Falkland Islands Government and Falkland Islands Police had succeeded in hounding a 9 year old child out of the Falklands.
Eventually Mike Bingham received a letter from David Wolstenholme, the Head of Interpol UK, which stated "I am satisfied that in a telephone conversation on 8th January my office did tell the Falkland Islands Police that the identification we had found was not an exact match and pointed out to them that we had had a different date of birth."
Bingham was furious and really fired up. He now had proof that the Falkland Islands Police had publicly accused him of having criminal convictions for burglary, car theft and affray, after they had already been told by Interpol that he did not. He was determined to have the officers involved prosecuted, and went to see the Chief of Police, David Morris, who now admitted that Bingham’s original application form had been swapped for a different one prior to Bingham’s arrest.
The Chief of Police told Bingham that former Police Chief Ken Greenland had entered the details from Bingham’s original application form onto the computer. By accident the details relating to his qualifications had been entered incorrectly, making it look as though Bingham had lied about his qualifications. Bingham’s original application form had then been mislaid by the police, so they had printed out a copy from their computer, passed it off as the original, and arrested Bingham on the basis of the changes which they themselves had made, unaware that their "copy" was different from the original. According to the Chief of Police this was all just an administrative error. It was all shear coincidence that this had occurred at the exact same time that the police had been accusing Bingham of having criminal convictions, when they knew from Interpol he didn’t.
Mike Bingham demanded an independent investigation into the conduct of the police officers involved but the Chief of Police refused. Bingham wrote to the Police Complaints Authority in Britain, but they said that they were unable to act since the Falkland Islands Police were not answerable to anybody outside of the Falklands. Bingham also complained to the Governor, the Customs & Immigration Department, the UK newspapers, Dafydd Wigley MP, and Index on Censorship, a British human rights organisation.
A few days later Mike Bingham crashed his Landrover on the Airport Road, because somebody had removed the wheel nuts from his front wheel whilst it was parked outside Stanley Airport. Fortunately Bingham had not built up much speed at the time, and felt the wheel wobbling before it came off, so the accident was not serious. Four days later his car was sabotaged outside his work, when somebody cut through the clutch cable. Two weeks later somebody ripped out the dashboard wiring, and two weeks after that the engine block was filled to the brim with petrol through the oil filler cap.
Fortunately the excess petrol had leaked out of the dip stick holder causing a huge puddle of petrol under the car which alerted Bingham to the problem prior to starting the engine. Had Bingham started the engine without noticing, the petrol would have been blown all over the engine and ignited by the ignition system, causing a fire ball. This not only threatened Bingham, but also his wife and 9 year old son who also travelled in the car. This act demonstrated the kind of people Bingham was dealing with.
Finally Index on Censorship published their findings in their September newsletter. Dafydd Wigley MP also got involved, and raised the matter with the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. The whole matter was raised in the House of Commons, and the British newspapers quickly got hold of the story.
The British press really went to town with headlines such as "Arrested, framed, accused and threatened - Researcher fights a one-man war in the Falklands".
The story first appeared in The Sunday Times and
The Observer on Sunday 10th October 1999. This was followed by two articles in The Guardian, and articles in The Daily Post, The Mail on Sunday, Private Eye and Birdwatch Magazine.
The Falkland Islands Government, Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Police were all exposed for the dirty deeds they had used against Bingham.
Within a week of the story hitting the headlines, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office sent a Police & Criminal Justice Advisor to the Falklands to conduct an inspection of the Falkland Islands Police. The Governor also wrote to Bingham apologising for having ignored his correspondence.
The Police & Criminal Justice Advisor arrived in the Falklands on the afternoon of 19th October 1999, and at 8am the following morning the Falklands Chief of Police called Bingham by phone to officially apologise; no doubt with the British government’s Police & Criminal Justice Advisor standing over him. He accepted that his officers had made a number of mistakes, but continued to insist that they had been administrative errors, rather than any deliberate attempt to frame Bingham. He did agree however to make a written apology.
The Police & Criminal Justice Advisor completed his inspection and made a report itemising a number of ways to prevent a similar incident happening again. This report
1) stated that there was a need to strengthen police accountability through democratic process.
2) highlighted the lack of civilian oversight of the complaints procedure.
3) stated that complaints against the police needed to be independent, and must be seen by the public to be open and transparent.
4) recommended that the Governor establish a body to oversee the investigation of complaints made against the police.
5) pointed out that it was not good practice for the police to also act as prosecutors, and suggested the roles be undertaken independently.
Unfortunately none of these recommendations were ever adopted by the Falkland Islands Government or Police. The Chief of Police, Ken Greenland, had already taken early retirement, and the Conservation Officer for Falklands Conservation resigned and left the Falklands. On 27th October 1999 the matter was raised in the Houses of Parliament, and John Battle MP made the following statement on behalf of the Falkland Islands Government
"Mr Bingham has every right to complain that incorrect information concerning previous criminal convictions was used by the Royal Falkland Islands Police. This was clearly an error. I regret any embarrassment caused to Mr Bingham."
Paramount Studios in Hollywood heard about the story from the British newspapers, and came to the Falklands to do a documentary about Bingham’s work, which was show around the world on Discovery Channel.
However Mike Bingham’s triumph was marred by the discovery that his wife had begun having an affair. She explained that ever since she had arrived in the Falklands as his wife, she had been told by the police, government officials, newspaper articles, her friends, parents of her son’s school mates, and just about everybody else she met, that Bingham was a convicted burglar who would shortly be kicked out of the Falklands, leaving her and her son homeless. Led to believe that her husband was a criminal, and fearing that she would shortly be left to fend for herself, she had begun having an affair. By the time Bingham’s name had finally been cleared, Elena had become pregnant by this other man, and their marriage was at an end.
In 2001, the British Government gave Mike Bingham funding to continue his penguin research on an official footing, and the Chilean government invited him to set up a penguin monitoring programme in Chile, giving him Chilean citizenship. In 2003 Bingham also began working with the Argentine government to monitor and protect penguins in Argentina. With the backing of three governments, the Falkland Islands Government were no longer able to dismiss his work so easily, and found themselves increasingly isolated as the only country not protecting penguins.
In 2002 the International Spheniscus Penguin Conservation Report was published, sponsored by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, written by 43 penguin conservation organisations, and supported by 124 other conservation organisations from around the world. The report made it clear that the Falklands was flouting world opinion by refusing to protect penguins from over-fishing, and the report outlined what was required to rectify the problem.
It called for action against harvesting down the food web through industrial fishing and stated:
"Recommend that there be no inshore fisheries within 30 miles of the coast in the Falklands. Restrict industrial fishing from areas of known concentrated penguin use at sea, including wintering and foraging areas for fledglings. Argentina and Falklands should establish an integrated series of marine reserves and zones to benefit all species of fish, seabirds and marine mammals".
In 2002 Bingham published his research in Chile’s most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Chilean Journal of Natural History. The manuscript was entitled "The decline of Falkland Islands penguins in the presence of a commercial fishing industry". In April 2002 conditions became so bad that beaches around the Falklands were littered with the corpses of over 100,000 dead penguins. A few of the corpses were sent to the government Veterinary Department by concerned landowners for analysis, and this confirmed that the penguins had starved to death. Some of the landowners managed to save a few of the penguins by feeding them fish and squid to build up their strength, further proof that starvation was the one and only cause of death.
Despite this national disaster, Bingham’s ex-employers Falklands Conservation said they had nobody available to investigate the mass starvation, since several key personnel were away on annual leave. A veterinary surgeon from the University of Mar de Plata in Argentina, with specialist skills in seabird mortality, came to the Falklands offering to assist, but was refused permission to analyse the corpses!
Whilst Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Government were keen to do nothing, landowners and members of the public kept phoning Bingham asking him to do something to draw attention to what was happening. So Bingham contacted a couple of sources in the British media, and very soon the story hit the headlines, both in Britain and South America.On 9th June 2002 The Sunday Independent ran a full page story entitled "The Plight of Falklands Starving Penguins", and this was followed by the BBC who broadcast the story world-wide on Radio and TV. Within a few days the story was on Radio and Television across the USA and Canada, and by 27th September 2002 La Prensa Austral published the story across South America in an article entitled "100 mil pingüinos mueren de hambre".
The Falklands and British governments received a flood of complaints demanding that they take action to protect penguins. During 2003, a handful of dead Gentoo penguins were found. These penguins were well-nourished and had not died from starvation, so Falklands Conservation identified the cause of death as toxin ingestion caused by red tide, and used it to cover up the mass starvation of penguins that was such an embarrassment. In reality there was absolutely no connection whatsoever between these fat, well-nourished penguins, and the penguins which had been reduced to skin and bone by starvation in May 2002.
By now it was increasingly clear to the world that Falklands penguins were in desperate trouble - the loss of 5 million penguins since the start of commercial fishing, beaches littered with penguins that had died from starvation, the annual starvation of penguin chicks, and the government’s refusal to protect penguins from commercial fishing. The Falkland Islands Government realised that they had to act to suppress mounting international criticism.
The following month Mike Bingham received a letter from the Falkland Islands Government, saying that his right to remain in employment had been revoked by a change in the law, and that Bingham must leave unless he could obtain residency. Bingham applied for residency, and received a letter from the Governor of the Falkland Islands, Howard Pierce, stating that Executive Council had refused on the grounds that Bingham had "repeatedly sought to discredit and bring into disrepute the state of the Falkland Islands environment and the role of the Government in its protection".
This was a clear breach of the law, which protects the rights of the citizen to criticise government without discrimination. Mike Bingham complained to the Governor, and told him he would take the matter to the press. A few days later Bingham received a phone call threatening to kill him if he went to the press.
Mike Bingham reported the threat to the police, and arranged for the Cable & Wireless switchboard operator to identify the caller if they threatened his life again. A few days later the caller threatened to kill Bingham again, and the switchboard operator recorded and traced the call. The Falkland Islands Police caught the culprit, but decided not to prosecute. Furthermore, the police said it was not in the public interest to identify the caller. Not only did the police refuse to prosecute, but they actually protected the identity of the person whom had threatened to kill Bingham.
Mike Bingham contacted Cable & Wireless, the telephone company that had identified the caller, and requested the identity of the culprit. Brian Summers, Manager of Cable & Wireless, and by coincidence also a trustee of Falklands Conservation, wrote to Bingham stating: "I am advised that I cannot reveal the identity of the malicious caller. All details relating to the call have been forwarded to the Police."
The Falkland Islands Police had sunk to an all time low. Not content with fabricating evidence in an attempt to deport Bingham, they were now protecting the identity of somebody who had threatened to commit murder. Bingham complained to the police in writing, but they only repeated in writing what they had already told him, that they had identified the person who had made the threats, had decided to drop the charges, and would not reveal the person’s identity.
At the time that the caller had threatened to kill Bingham if he went to the press, the only person with whom Bingham had discussed going to the press was the Governor. That, combined with the fact that the police were protecting the person threatening to kill Bingham, suggested that the culprit was somebody high up in government, somebody who simply could not be identified without an international scandal.
Mike Bingham engaged a British lawyer to take the Falkland Islands Government to court for abuse of human rights. One of the first things that his legal team did was demand the release of key documents. Transcripts of Executive Council meetings recorded how Councillors, the Governor, Chief Executive and Attorney General had discussed ways of getting rid of Bingham to stop his work to protect penguins, even though they acknowledged during those recorded discussions that to do so would be illegal.
With the discovery of such documents, it was clear that Bingham was going to win in court, but he was afraid that these ruthless people would either frame him for something really serious, or carry out their threat to kill him. Mike Bingham therefore made plans to seek protection in the one place where he knew the Falkland Islands Government’s long arm of corruption could not reach - Argentina.
It is ironic that for so many years the Falkland Islands Government had claimed the moral high-ground over Argentina in terms of political morality and democracy, and now the Falkland Islands Government were about to be exposed in the Supreme Court for high-level corruption and abuse of human rights, whilst Bingham sought safety in Argentina. The British servicemen who gave their lives to uphold democracy in the 1982 war, would have turned in their graves if they could have seen where their sacrifice was to have led.
On 17th October Mike Bingham attended court to swear in his final affidavit, and left the remainder of the court hearing in the hands of his legal team. On Saturday 18th October 2003 Bingham took the flight to Rio Gallegos in Argentina, where he would await the outcome of the court hearing under the safety of Argentine justice.
The Supreme Court began on 22nd October 2003, and presented their findings on 25th November 2003. The verdict of the Supreme Court was that Governor Howard Pierce, Attorney General David Lang, Chief Executive Michael Blanch, and elected members of Executive Council had behaved in an illegal manner for improper motives. Chief Justice James Wood described their abuse of human rights as "morally and constitutionally indefensible".
"Bingham wins in Supreme Court" and "Morally and Constitutionally Indefensible" were the headlines in the local newspaper. Falkland Islands residents were outraged, and demanded the resignation of these officials. The newspaper was full of letters demanding a public apology from government, and an explanation as to how such corruption could have been allowed to occur unhindered at the very highest level of government.
Despite attempts by the British and Falklands governments to prevent the British press running the story, the story did hit the headlines, from London to Buenos Aires. ‘El Magallanes’ and ‘El Mercurio’ (both in Chile) and The Buenos Aires Herald (Argentina) all condemned the Falklands for corruption, human rights abuse, and the death of 5 million penguins through political greed.
But this was the Falklands. The Governor and Executive Council knew that in reality there was little that either the public or the law could do about the situation. The Falkland Islands Government made their own laws, and were a democracy in name only. The Falklands people had no real say in what went on.
Councillor Mike Summers told a Public Meeting that they were not going to be told who could remain in their country just because "some judge" said so. That "some judge" to which Mike Summers referred, was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the highest authority in the land. Such arrogance and contempt towards the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court outraged the local population, who had been hoping for a change towards democracy following the court ruling.
The Editor of Penguin News, the Falkland Islands’ local newspaper, wrote an editorial which said "Chief Justice Woods found Executive Council’s decision ‘morally and constitutionally indefensible’. That’s a pretty strong sentiment. So will we see hands held up and an admission of ‘Sorry we made a mistake’? It doesn’t look like it. The statement issued by Executive Council this week in response to Chief Justice Wood’s judgement didn’t include the merest hint of an apology. The statement could have been the perfect opportunity to publicly take on board the Chief Justice’s words and apologise to Mr Bingham for this gross breach of his constitutional rights, and to the public as a whole for this error. After all the judgement has come from the Supreme Court - the most authoritative court in the land." (Penguin News 28th November 2003)
The following week the editorial read "The public’s angry response to the lack of apology from councillors following the Bingham judgement is clearly reflected in this week’s letter page and by the number of calls we’ve had to the office over the past few days." (Penguin News 5th December 2003)
The Penguin News was full of letters of support for Bingham, condemning the Falkland Islands Government for their corruption and failure to apologise. Concerned Falkland Islands’ citizens wrote in with the following comments:
- "The total disregard by Councillors for Mr Bingham’s constitutional rights is what should be at the front of all our minds when we call upon our Councillors to justify their actions. They have acted, and continue to do so by their unwillingness to apologise, in a manner more akin to some tin-pot dictatorship than a community that likes to think of itself as democratic. If this community really wants to be democratic, and perhaps more importantly to be seen to be democratic, then we must demand that the relevant Councillors explain their actions publicly. Many people died liberating these islands so that we might be free. That freedom was hard won, don’t let politicians take it away without a fight. Today it was Mike Bingham, tomorrow it might be you or your children." (Penguin News 5th December 2003)
- "Councillor Summers is completely wrong when he says that the Bingham case was about the right to choose who becomes a citizen. The case did not concern the right of government to make choices. The case actually concerned the need for government to act within the law when exercising its powers, not to impose personal prejudice on its choices, and not to abuse its authority. In acting as it did, Executive Council abused the trust we as citizens put in Government to act fairly, impartially and properly." (Penguin News 12th December 2003)
- "In response to the penguin deaths, we tried to tell Falklands Conservation but no one bothered to look. The problem started in April 2002 when we lost 500 gentoos and 2000 rockhoppers. Falklands Conservation wouldn’t come out, so we called Mike Bingham who did come out." (Penguin News 20th December 2003)
- "I accuse certain members of this administration of the unjust treatment handed out to Mike Bingham. In fact it is against the Haig Convention of Human Rights which this administration has signed up to. I understand the reason Mr Bingham is being treated so is that he had the audacity to question imaginative accountancy by Falklands Conservation regarding penguin numbers. I, like Falklands Conservation, am not an expert on penguins, but what does it take for these people to realise that there is a problem? Emaciated penguins outside the Falklands Conservation office with a begging bowl, squawking up ‘Please can we have some more’? For evil to triumph requires only that good men do nothing." (Penguin News 20th December 2003)
- "Could the Attorney General tell us if he was aware that the decision by Executive Council to refuse Mike Bingham’s application on the grounds that he was critical of government was a breach of his Constitutional rights to freedom of speech. If he was aware of this, could he please tell us what action he took to defend Mr Bingham’s Constitutional Rights?" (Penguin News 12th December 2003).
That such a corrupt regime operates under the protection of the British government is a disgrace to every hard working Britain. British servicemen gave their lives in 1982, under the false belief that they were upholding democracy. These servicemen made that sacrifice to ensure that the people of the Falklands would have the right to lead their lives free from political tyranny; free to hold beliefs and opinions without oppression.
It is ironic that 22 years after British troops died for democracy in the Falklands, that a British citizen would be forced to flee the Falklands to escape political corruption and death threats, to seek democracy and freedom of speech in Argentina.