By Stephen Kangal
July 11, 2012
Current proposals originating both in POS (The Green Paper) and Scarborough (The Draft Bill of the THA) now in the public domain and geared to accord a higher level of self-governance to Tobagonians must not result in another façade Legislature exercising political and administrative autonomy merely to achieve peace, order and good governance in the sister-isle. There must be fundamental changes both in structure and substance. Tobago must be treated with dignity, the inalienable right of its people to self-determination respected and their ownership or sovereign rights over adjacent maritime resources to be exploited for the welfare of its people recognized and legitimized.
Tobago must accordingly be granted an adequate measure of resource jurisdiction and effective and exclusive control over its rich maritime patrimony to be exploited as Tobagonians see fit to increase their self-reliance and economic independence and incrementally reduce their traditional dependency syndrome on Trinidad. These hydrocarbons lie on the natural physical prolongation of Tobago into and under the sea. That is the legal basis for claims to the resources of the sea universally. They are nearer to Tobago and installations are clearly visible.
The Green Paper plan to endow the new Legislature and Executive Council to extend its law-creating capacity exclusively to the island of Tobago and ten miles of Territorial Sea and leave the jurisdictional status of the off-shore islands, the archipelagic waters and the air-space over these areas including over the ten mile territorial sea band in a limbo is to grant a “bob-tail” brand of self-governance to the island. This must be opposed using well-known Tobago muscle and intellect.
The strategic location and value of Tobago in the archipelagic state of T&T cannot be over-emphasised. The entire boundary between T&T and Barbados on the one-hand and with Grenada is measured from and derived from Tobago. It stands to reason that Tobagonians must now be accorded a type of functional exclusive economic jurisdiction over the living and non-living resources of a sizeable part of the Exclusive Economic Zone located seawards of the limits of the 12-mile Territorial Sea over and beyond what is being proposed using as a determining factor the question of adjacency. Tobagonians cannot be encircled by maritime oil/gas blocks on all sides and yet are blocked from deriving direct benefits from these oil and gas fields. This is a denial of their solemn maritime patrimony to be harvested equitably for the benefits of its people.
Accordingly the proposed Tobago Legislature and Executive Council should be invested with the law-creating capacity to apply and extend to the main island, the off-shore islands, the archipelagic waters, the territorial sea of 12 miles, their superjacent air-spaces and the exclusive economic zone located north, East and West of Tobago.
In order to determine the geographical reach of the law-creating and law-implementation capacity of the proposed legislature the Act must contain a definition of Tobago. The following is offered:
Draft Definition of Tobago
Patented by Stephen Kangal
“Tobago shall comprise the island of Tobago, Little Tobago, St. Giles Island, Marble Is, Goat Island, Sisters Island and other off-shore islands, the archipelagic waters and Territorial Sea, the air-space above these two aforementioned maritime areas as well as over the land-space and shall exercise sovereign and other rights over the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zone on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago as set out in the Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, Act No 24 of 1986, extending to the limits established by internationally-recognized maritime boundaries and the jurisdictional limits to be agreed in maritime areas lying between Tobago and Trinidad and/or in maritime areas where no bilateral limits have been agreed to with the two neighbouring states concerned, to 200 nautical miles.”