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Nonsensical Definition of T&T
Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

I empathise with the enthusiasm demonstrated by Mr Marc Narine (Newsday 5 March, p 12) to share his "recent" discoveries of excerpts from the pre-ambular sections of our 1976 Constitution. However, I feel that I have an obligation to the readership in the interest of accuracy to correct the several errors contained in his letter as well as in the 1976 Constitution.

The Preliminary Section (1) (2) of the Constitution that he appears to have quoted somewhat erratically in his letter, is intended to provide a spatial cum geo-legal definition of Trinidad and Tobago. That definition has been flawed, incorrect and misleading since 1976 if not since 1962.

Firstly T&T has been declared an archipelagic state consisting of 23, not two islands in accordance with Legal Notice No. 206 of 1988 effected on the basis of Act No 24 of 1986.The consequential amendment of Section 1(2) was not effected in Parliament.

Secondly while the seabed and subsoil located beneath our 12-mile territorial sea is subject to our territorial sovereignty, this marine area contrary to our Constitution, is not normally included to form part of our territory (1980 square miles). The seaward extent and definition of our territorial sea as well as of our continental shelf is determined by Acts No. 22, 23 and 24 of 1986 and not Acts No 38 and 43 of 1969 as mentioned in the letter of Mr.Narine as well as in Section 1(2) of the Constitution. Acts No 38 and 43 have been repealed by Acts 22 -24.

By no stretch of the imagination of the framers of the Constitution can the seabed and subsoil (the continental shelf and EEZ) located seawards of the 12-mile territorial sea be assimilated into the territorial sovereignty (ownership and control) of the Gov't of T&T. In this submarine off-shore (called the EEZ) area T&T exercises exclusive rights over living (fish) and non-living resources (oil and gas) and neither ownership nor sovereignty. If T&T owned its territorial sea and its extended (beyond 200 nautical miles up to 350 miles) continental shelf its official area should be given as over 40,000 square nautical miles. But this is not so.

So that although Acts No. 22.23 and 24 of 1986 that established in law our maritime zones are inconsistent with Preliminary Section 1 (2) of the Constitution they are not void. What is void is the careless and incorrect definition of T&T as set out in our Constitution. The definition of T&T in the constitution is inconsistent with our international obligations (international law) entered into in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and therefore void.

Newsday readers must be apprised of this definitional faux pas (nonsensical provision) of which there are so many others in our Constitution including the politically contaminated, constitutionally prescribed procedures leading to the potential removal of the Chief Justice appointed by non-political The President.

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