PM: Govt firm on defending
Posted By: News In Response To: Panday: Coast Guard will arrest Bajan fishermen (News)
Date: 20, February 04, at 8:26 a.m.
In Response To: Panday: Coast Guard will arrest Bajan fishermen (News)
By RIA TAITT, Newsday TT
The Coast Guard and Defence Force have been put on high alert to take defensive action. In the face of an "invitation" by the Barbados government to their fishermen to invade Trinidad and Tobago's territorial space, Newsday has been reliably informed that Government has taken the following action: 1) The Ministry of National Security has directed that the resources be dispatched, adequate to maintain the territorial integrity of Trinidad and Tobago. 2) These resources include fixed wing aircrafts with inter-red, radar and attack capacity as well as marine crafts with attack and interdiction capability. 3) Commanders in the Coast Guard and Defence Force have been given orders to take adequate measures to protect our territorial integrity. But speaking at his regular post-Cabinet news conference, all Prime Minister Patrick Manning would say was that Government was standing firm and resolute in defence of our sovereignty, territorial integrity and natural resources.
That is the message to Bajan fishermen who attempt to heed the call by their government and fish in the waters outside of their 12-mile territorial boundary. "The Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago is resolute in its determination to protect the country's natural resources, whether it be oil, gas or fish. We wish to make that pellucidly clear to the national community and everybody else," he said. He said Cabinet considered the matter at length and after having received a comprehensive report from Gift, had a much better appreciation of the issues involved.
Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur is not coming to Port-of-Spain. "We got word that it is not convenient for him to be here," Manning said. On the postponement of the trip to Barbados by a 26-member delegation on Wednesday, Manning said when the ministerial team which he led left Barbados on Monday, they were under the impression that the discussion would continue on Wednesday in Bridgetown. But Government was advised on Tuesday that the Barbados government had not received confirmation from Trinidad about the visit, "which was very strange, and they were not in a position to receive us." "We were not under the impression that any further communication was necessary." He said the delegation was and still is ready to go to Barbados to hold discussions. These talks would centre on an interim agreement while the dispute over the maritime boundaries is being resolved. Manning said he hoped that this issue would not impact on Caricom trade.
He said the Government of Trinidad and Tobago thus far had been very responsible and restrained, "trying to take away from the deliberation a lot of the emotion and animosity that could have easily characterised our public utterances." He reiterated that the Government felt the integration movement was more important and would continue to be as non-contentious as possible. Manning also revealed that a small delegation of ministers headed by himself would be meeting with Caricom secretary general, Edwin Carrington tomorrow in Port-of-Spain.
He said the Cabinet yesterday established a ministerial team headed by the Prime Minister, and comprising the Ministers of National Security; Trade and Industry; Attorney General; Agriculture; Energy, Foreign Affairs and two ministers with a close association to Tobago, Keith Rowley and Rennie Dumas, as well as THA Chief secretary Orville London. The team will consider all issues relating to the matter. one of the priorities it would consider is the necessity to keep the Trinidad and Tobago public informed at all times on the latest developments. However, Manning noted that the dispute was entering a legalistic phase and therefore Government may not be saying too much on the matter. Stating that Trinidad and Tobago had not agreed to have the matter to the UNLOS (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention), Manning gave the assurance that Trinidad and Tobago's position had always been in accordance with international law. "And therefore we are not fearful of these things (to UNLOS)," he said. He said he was not bothered by the fact that Barbados had assembled a legal team since last year, long before this country realised where the fishing dispute was heading.
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