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Lennox Ballah - An Appreciation
Posted: Friday, April 4, 2003

by Stephen Kangal, Caroni

I wish to celebrate for the benefit of both posterity as well as for living history the unparalleled and unique contribution made to national development and Caribbean diplomacy by the late Lennox Fitzroy Ballah, former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry who was cremated on Thursday last.

The late Ballah faithfully served T&T in several fields of national endeavours with outstanding and meritorious successes. But it was in the very specialised field of developing the new corpus of the Law of the Sea at the United Nations (1967-1982) that he carved an exceptional reputation for himself and which redounded to the benefit of the national interest of T&T. As a student/subordinate of Ballah, I can vouch that former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Maraj was correct in asserting that Ballah's knowledge and contribution in this field was unsurpassed.

Until recently, Ballah was one of the few surviving architects/fathers of the new public order for the oceans that came into being with the coming into force of the 1982 United Nations Montego Bay Convention on the Law of the Sea. It was this accolade more than any other of his several outstanding credentials that recently earned him a seat on the bench of the International Tribunal For the Law of the Sea located at Hamburg in Germany.

His was the flame that fired my own young passion for the law of the sea as well that of Industrial Court Judge Cecil Bernard, Ambassador Philip Sealy, Errol Matthews, Rodney Appleton, Independent Senator Christopher Thomas and the late Chief of Defence Staff, Commodore Mervyn O. Williams who constituted a most formidable T&T delegation to the UN Conference that lasted nine years. He led the T&T delegation to the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from start to finish driven by an uncanny awareness, foresight and vision on how the new laws were likely to impact on the maritime interests/resources T&T and the wider Caribbean.

Ballah's ratio dicidendi lay in defending and promoting in the most erudite fashion T&T's right to the maximum extent of its potential marine space for the exploitation of its hydrocarbons, transportation, tourism, fishing and leisure. That was the heart and soul of his negotiating strategies and the law of the sea formulations/theses that he tabled in and outside of the United Nations. For this he was deservedly awarded a National Award, Medal of Merit (Gold) by Former President Hassanali.

Mr.Ballah's personality and infectious diplomatic modus operandi and charm exerted a compelling and disarming influence at the United Nations on behalf of T&T. He conducted a genre of effective international diplomacy that bore no relationship to the small developing island status of T&T. Ballah was an outstanding legal publicist/commentator on the law of the sea and prosecuted the marine interests of T&T at fora held at the bilateral, regional and international levels with a view to influencing the United Nations law-making process. Even though the rest of the Caribbean, except Jamaica, was largely represented on the fringes at the negotiations/Meetings, Ballah safeguarded and defended their maritime interests especially with respect to the negotiating positions put forward by Venezuela relating to the status of islands and delimitation criteria. In fact he played a leadership role in the conclusion of the 1991 TT/Venezuela Delimitation Agreement as well as several fishing and other bilateral accords.

As Permanent Secretary at Foreign Affairs Ballah distinguished himself as an integrative manager always focussed on promoting the national interest at home and abroad. He set high standards for his staff.

A whole generation of architects of the new law of the sea passes away with the demise of Lennox Ballah. He toiled unremittingly for 36 years, unsung and unheralded, to forge and usher in a more equitable public order for the oceans that was more responsive to the needs of the developing world. That order was not premised on might being right.

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