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Foreign Policy Challenges Confronting Minister Gopee-Scoon
Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2008

By Stephen Kangal
August 06, 2008

There are two major foreign policy challenges that are confronting our relatively new and untested Foreign Minister Gopee-Scoon during the next six months the eventual outcome of which can either boost or bust her hitherto short internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She must take judicious note of the wisdom inherent in the following Latin proverb and act accordingly on recent British undertakings given to her in London. Visa requirements were preceded by negative travel advisories issued by the British.

Timeo Britannicos et Dona Ferentes (I do not trust the British even when they come bearing gifts)

These are firstly the threat of visa requirements being imposed by the British and secondly, the piloting of a successful proposal to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to authorise T&T to extend its extended continental shelf located beyond 200 miles to the edge of the continental margin or 350 miles into the Atlantic.

Readers will recall that I wrote that we did not have a chance with respect to the latter. But innate and irresistible upwelling generated by the patriotic tide of the territorial imperative has propelled me after months of intensive research and soul searching to identify some convincing grounds on which our case can be underpinned albeit of a legal nature.

The threat/advance notice issued by the British to impose visa requirements on T&T unless the crime pandemic/drug-mules/terrorist cells can be arrested and contained within our domestic jurisdiction must be approached in a very holistic and sensitive manner. I know for a fact that our T&T disaporic community in the UK has developed very strong and influential lobbying links within the Labour Party Administration of PM Gordon Browne. These must be discreetly mobilized by High Commissioner John Jeremie to avert any punitive British visa decision being undertaken. This same community played a pivotal role in getting the NAR Government to grant and allow dual nationality to Trinbagonians especially those domiciled in Britain.

Once visa requirements are imposed they become permanent as in the case of the Canadians.

The British needs to be reminded that they own, exploit, commandeer and are diminishing at a frenetic rate the commanding heights of our non-renewable off-shore energy economy (BP and British Gas) and that one hand does not clap.

As Head of the Commonwealth HM The Queen, PM Gordon Brown et al. will be visiting T&T in November 2009 at enormous expense to the Government of T&T. I do not think that the British will want to do anything that can be interpreted locally as being "neemakharam". They will not want the whole tenor of the multilateral discussions at the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be blemished and side-tracked by rising local discontent that can spontaneously erupt and culminate into popular picketing of the Hyatt Hotel. The timing of the British on the proposed visa issue is wrong.

With respect to the bilateral contest before the UN Commission for counter-claiming the same maritime areas of the extended continental shelf being claimed by Barbados I wish to suggest that her Ministry must now also tap into, as it should have done during the litigation, the retired, neglected but valuable institutional memory and expertise that have been developed at great expense by the tax-payers of this country to prepare and prosecute our case before the UN Commission.

I now believe that we can find a way out into the Atlantic and avoid being shelf-locked by suggesting, inter alia, to the Commission that the prior need to resolve and determine fundamental legal issues relative to the legal status of the regimes EEZ and the C/S renders this matter out of their hands; that these must and can only be resolved outside of the ambit of the Commission by third party adjudication.

In the delimitation case before the 2004-06 Arbitral Tribunal, T&T disbursed millions to foreign legal expertise who sold out us hook, line and sinker to the Bajans big time in one grand conspiracy.

Good luck to Madame Minister for success!

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