'Tek yuh meat outta mi rice'
After the recent Glamorgan "Feeling the Pain # 2" meeting, the PNM boasted about a packed hall and having in the audience over 100 persons who had never attended a PNM before.
What the PNM did not tell Tobagonians is that they are importing speakers from Trinidad and the speakers are moving with their Trinidad supporters. This means that most of the 100 new persons were persons that accompanied their Trinidadian speakers. And we all know since Mr. Jack got the government to agree to open the airport for 24 hours, travelling between the two islands has been easier.
However, this column will concentrate on the issue of the Green Paper, specifically the issue of Tobago's marine space. The PNM is putting forward an argument that Tobago should have two hundred (200) nautical miles to define Tobago's marine space.
The PNM is stating that the TOP is asking for 10 nautical miles and that will deprive Tobago from accessing all the marine natural resources belonging to Tobago.
The PNM's argument seems to be logical on the surface. Nevertheless, the Chief Secretary's adage of "Tek Yuh Meat Outta Mi Rice" can be where Tobago is heading if it goes along with the PNM's unworkable theory. Tobago may really lose the rice and if it is not careful, may lose its meat also. The TOP's position guided by the International Law of the Sea which holds that where two islands function as one nation, the full implementation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) cannot apply, a fact that is fully known by the PNM.
Also, one must also consider that assuming responsibility for the EEZ will come with other responsibilities which Tobago may not yet be ready for. The EEZ will come with the responsibility for border control (control of the importation of drugs, ammunitions and guns into Tobago); piracy and other sea crimes (our fisher folks in Tobago are presently complaining about sea crimes done against them and the THA is unable to intervene in any meaningful way), international marine travel (where foreign ships past through the waters of Tobago and if there is an accident the handling of the ship evacuation and other marine issues). There is also the issue of oil and gas exploration and the arrangements that are made with companies that involve huge financial commitments.
The THA depends on the Central Government for its income and may not be able to venture into these transactions. Tobago does not as yet have the capacity to handle oil spills, especially given our fragile ecosystems.
These statements are not to scare Tobagonians but to bring the facts into the discussion. The TOP is therefore of the view that any exploration of resources within Tobago's marine space must be done in collaboration with the people of Tobago and the government in Trinidad. The government in Trinidad cannot make a unilateral decision to do anything with Tobago's resources without the expressed consent of the Tobago's government. Let us as Tobagonians be very careful that we do not lose the meat along with some of our rice.
Presently, Centrica Energy is doing a seismic survey in Tobago waters within the six nautical miles that the THA controls. Tobagonians are not aware of what their preliminary findings are, the intentions of this company and if they are already extracting gas from Tobago waters, the agreements under which they so do. All this is happening under the watch of the Chief Secretary who is a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Committee. What is the estimated value of the gas fields in Tobago waters? What is the potential revenue from these fields?
How much has been earned by Centrica thus far? How much royalties are being paid to the government of Trinidad and Tobago and as such what will Tobago obtain from these royalties? These questions are crucial to the current discussion and should be easily answered by the Chief Secretary who has been sitting on the Energy Committee for the last 12 years.
During the time his father Patrick Manning was Chair of that Committee he did not make a sound about EEZ nor did he accept that Tobago has gas and oil resources.
This column is demanding that the information from the Centrica seismic survey be made public. Let Tobagonians know the benefits it will obtain from having exclusive rights of the EEZ. Inform Tobago and Tobagonians how you will secure our borders and not allow it to become a haven for drug barons.
Tell us how you will manage a disaster in Tobago waters if it occurs. Let us know how you will develop international treaties with countries that use our sea space, given that the International Law of the Sea does not recognise Tobago as a single entity but as part of Trinidad and Tobago.
This is not the time for political mischief, put Tobago first and let us have a serious public debate.
The TOP is well aware that we have suffered from the constitutional arrangements between Trinidad and Tobago as Tobago gets ready to redefine its destiny. The TOP is conscious that the PNM took serious advantage of Tobago over the years it ruled both islands.
The TOP understands the sentiments of Tobagonians as the TOP have carried out the struggle for greater autonomy for Tobago over the years. We are therefore suggesting that we allow the central government to continue dealing with security issues, international treaties, and manmade disasters in the EEZ. However, the THA must play an important role in all decision making as it affects Tobago.
Tobagonians let us support an organisation that has always been truthful to Tobago. Let us trust the wisdom of the TOP's position which is supported by international law.
We have seen how the Orville London led THA has misled Tobago and Tobagonians on many occasions.
You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all of the time. Therefore let us keep both the rice and the meat and do not allow the Chief Secretary and the PNM to take the meat out of our rice leaving Tobago under nourished. Happy Easter
THE TOBAGO ORGANISATION OF THE PEOPLE