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PM Arthur is Grand Charging
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

By Stephen Kangal, Caroni

Trinidad and Tobago

Allow me to express my astonishment that the Prime Minister of the sovereign State of Barbados, The Rt. Honourable Owen Arthur found it necessary to issue a half-baked, formal Press statement after his Monday morning meeting with PM Manning who unfortunately traveled to Bridgetown to be insulted.

That statement is riddled with so many deliberate errors, misrepresentations and sensationalism on the question of the prevailing norms of the 1982 Montego Bay Law of the Sea Convention/The 1990 TT/Venezuela Treaty that it is not worth the paper on which it is printed. It is an affront to and will have sullied the diplomatic image of Barbados before the international community/ law of the sea experts.

It is intended to deceive and deliberately mislead and obfuscate three quite separate and quite distinct maritime issues, i.e. the current flying fish dispute, secondly the maritime boundary question and thirdly the legal status of the 1990 TT/Venezuela. In fact it is not clear which of these three marine questions is being submitted albeit pseudo-unilaterally by Barbados but procedurally flawed, to the jurisdiction of the Hamburg-based International Tribunal For the Law of the Sea (UN). He also refers to International Arbitration and erroneously states that both are compulsory for T&T. Which adjudication procedure is he invoking?

What PM Arthur's statement reveals much to the embarrassment of PM Manning and possibly to the Venezuelans is that PM Manning gave an undertaking to the Caricom Heads of Gov't to undertake unilaterally a review the TT/Venezuela Treaty. However on assuming office in 1991 PM Manning indicated quite unambiguously that he had no problem with the Accord although he was violently opposed to the Agreement as Leader of the Opposition. PM Manning having made so many congenital faux pas on simple and mundane national issues is now flaunting his penchant for "foot in the mouth" to the international setting and in the process blemishing the outstanding diplomatic reputation forged by the hard work by T&T diplomats.

Barbados cannot now argue that after 14 years of enforcement and existence that the 1990 TT/ Venezuela Treaty is not relevant and opposable to it. Barbados as a neighbouring maritime state had maritime interests that stood to be affected by the Treaty. Failure on its part to reserve its position on the 1990 Treaty when the said Treaty was registered at the UN in 1992 is a classic case of estoppel. The International Tribunal for Law of the Sea will have no difficulties in rejecting out of hand all objections to the Treaty made by Barbados in 2004 if and when the dispute is adjudicated.

Contrary to PM Arthur, and this is unforgivable arrogance for a Prime Minister, the 1990 bilateral treaty did not allocate either to T&T or to Venezuela even a pimple of maritime territory belonging to Barbados or Guyana. Beyond the 12- mile territorial sea littoral states exercise rights over resources and not ownership of the sea, seabed and subsoil. Barbados is located 223 miles from point 22 (last point) of the TT/Venezuela Agreement

Additionally to categorically state that the Treaty allocated one-third of Guyana's land territory to Venezuela is the apex of Bajan irresponsibility, a fabrication and pure, unadulterated sensationalism geared to rope in Guyana to gang up against T&T. The map is not integral to the Agreement.

How can PM Arthur flippantly dismiss the feasibility of a negotiated TT/Barbados maritime boundary when such negotiations have not even gotten off the ground? The UN will not be fooled. International jurisprudence requires the prior conduct of meaningful negotiations among the parties leading to a settlement as well as the exhaustion of local remedies. According to PM Arthur PM Manning, quite unwittingly if he did, agrees with position of not negotiating further. Why then is Senator Lenny Saith in Barbados today at the head of a T&T Delegation?

Having not commenced bilateral maritime boundary negotiations how can PM Arthur's statement speak of "... after careful review of the current status of its negotiations with T&T on maritime boundaries..."? Who's fooling who?

Barbados will be considered a laughing stock by the Tribunal for attempting to unilaterally submit a non-existent maritime boundary dispute on which national negotiating positions have not even been concretised. Or will Barbados ask the Tribunal and/or his unilateral International Arbitration to declare the 1990 TT/Venezuela Treaty null and void. Barbados has no "locus standi" in the matter since the Treaty is "res inter alios acta" and not binding on third parties but now opposable to Barbados, Grenada, Guyana and St.Vincent and the Grenadines via the principle of acquiescence (Article II (2).

Let it be understood, and Barbados is quite au fait with this established procedure, that it is only by a carefully and precisely worded agreement mutually arrived at by T&T and Barbados that the fishing matter can be submitted to the Tribunal' jurisprudence. There is neither basis nor justification for the Hamburg International Tribunal being seized of a TT/Barbados maritime boundary matter at present.

As for CARICOM it can only perform a good offices facilitation function between two sovereign states via the Secretary-Genera or the current Chairman Prime Minister.

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