By Stephen Kangal
March 27, 2018
Current proposals that are now in the public domain by way of the Bill No 5 0f 2018 geared to accord a higher level of self -governance to Tobagonians will create another façade Legislature like that of its predecessor exercising political and administrative autonomy merely to achieve peace, order and good governance. Tobago must be treated with dignity and their ownership or sovereign rights over adjacent maritime resources (living and non-living) to be exploited for the welfare of its people must be recognized and legitimized. This is the age of Nationalism.
Tobago must accordingly be granted an adequate measure of maritime resource jurisdiction and effective and shared control over its rich maritime patrimony to be exploited as Tobagonians see fit to increase their self-reliance, economic independence and incrementally reduce their traditional dependency syndrome on Trinidad. These hydrocarbons deposits lie on the natural physical prolongation of Tobago (its geological and geomorphological continental shelf) into and under the sea. That is the legal basis for claims to the resources of the sea beginning in 1942 and 1945 on the basis of the Gulf of Paria Treaty and the Truman Proclamation and followed universally.
They are nearer to Tobago and installations are clearly visible from shore.
The Bill to endow the new Tobago Legislature and Executive Council to extend its law-creating capacity exclusively to the island of Tobago and its dependencies and eleven miles of Archipelagic Waters falls short of what is just and equitable and politically correct Rowley or no Rowley in charge now. That is a deprivation of the physical natural endowment bequeathed to Tobago by Nature for the benefit of those who dwell therein and to secure its economic well-being as an island developing entity exercising unitary statehood with Trinidad.
The strategic location and value of Tobago as the raison d’etre for the 1986 declaration of the archipelagic state of T&T cannot be over-emphasised. The entire boundary between T&T and Barbados on the one-hand and with Grenada is measured from and derived from Little Tobago. (See Map below) It stands to reason that Tobagonians must now be accorded a type of functional exclusive economic jurisdiction over the living and non-living resources of a sizeable part of the adjoining Exclusive Economic Zone located seawards of the limits of the 12-mile Territorial Sea over and beyond what is being proposed using as a determining factor the critical factor of adjacency. Tobagonians cannot be encircled as they are in fact encircled by maritime oil/gas blocks on all sides and yet are blocked by an imperialistic statute from exploiting and deriving direct benefits from these oil and gas fields.
This is a denial of their solemn and inalienable maritime patrimony to be harvested equitably for the benefits of its people that is the essence and foundation of the new public order for the oceans of 1986.
Accordingly the proposed Tobago Legislature, House of Assembly and Executive Council should be invested in the Bill with the law-creating capacity to apply and extend to the main island, the off-shore islands, the archipelagic waters, parts of the territorial sea of 12 miles, their superjacent air-spaces and the exclusive economic zone located North, East and West of Tobago. That would constitute real empowerment of the people of Tobago.
That is the real test of meaningful internal self-governance of Tobago and the strategic road-map to achieving self-reliance and true economic independence of Tobago that is the equal counterpart of Trinidad as the Bill recognizes. If not Tobago remains and continues to be a glorified ward of dependence and injustice.
Based on the afore-mentioned considerations a new definition of Tobago as opposed to that in the Bill may be:
“Tobago shall comprise the island of Tobago, Little Tobago, St. Giles Island, Marble Is, Goat Island, Sisters Island and other off-shore islands, the archipelagic waters and parts of the Territorial Sea, the air-space above these two aforementioned maritime areas as well as over the land-space and shall exercise sovereign and other rights over parts the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zone on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago as set out in the Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, Act No 24 of 1986.