Oil exploration bids may be awarded in disputed areas
- Mia Mottley
February 22, 2004
(Barbados Nation) A new twist to the ongoing maritime dispute between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago has surfaced.
Attorney-General Mia Mottley revealed the process for the commercial exploration of wells in some areas of water under dispute between the territories may well have started.
She said bids for ten offshore blocks opened on January 14 and are due to be awarded on March 10. She called for reassurance from Trinidad that Barbados' rights would be protected.
"I would like the reassurance for every Barbadian citizen that none of the bids for the ten offshore blocks to be awarded for oil and gas exploration to big multinational companies on March 10, is in the area of dispute that now stands to be delimited by an ad hoc tribunal.
"I can't make any allegations in the absence of information, but I would like you to reassure every citizen of Barbados that there is no attempt to take away what is the patrimony of Barbadian people," she said, as she addressed Trinidad journalist Jhuel
Browne of the Trinidad Guardian.
Mottley, Barbados' appointed agent in this matter, was participating in Friday's radio link-up among VOB 92.9 FM, Radio Trinidad's 730 AM and Sangeet 106 FM. when she made the disclosure.
"If Gabby said de beach belong to we, all the more so the water belong to all o we," Mottley said, adding that it seemed Barbados had to do its own independent research. "Even though one of the same persons who was involved in the MOU between Trinidad and Venezuela was part of the team that came to Barbados and was present in five maritime discussions and four fishing discussions, it was never revealed that the treaty line was going to be the basis for commercial exploitation between the governments of Trinidad and Venezuela," she said.
Here she was referring to Gerald Thompson, director of legal and marine affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Trinidad.
"The reason we have reached this place is that it is clear to Barbados that with continued diplomatic discussions at a time when Trinidad has signed an MOU to form a unitisation agreement so that companies can go and exploit those areas, we need to protect the Barbados territory and assure the Barbadian public that Trinidad will not be seeking to exploit any territory that belongs to Barbados," Mottley said.
But, despite all this, she said Prime Minister Owen Arthur was still ready to meet with Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago and his team on this matter.
"All we ask is for them to share with us the relevant information
that allows us
to defend Barbados' interests properly. "In these circumstances, we feel if all of the cards were put on the table we should not have to speak to the public to put pressure on the government of Trinidad to give information on the MOU," she said.
The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated that Barbados would be trying for a provisional arrangement for
"We are still prepared to meet with the Trinidad government to discuss a provisional arrangement without prejudice to a final decision of a tribunal.
"If they refuse to meet, or we can't agree with them, our first item of business before a tribunal in four months time is to seek to get a provisional arrangement for Barbadian fishermen,"
she said, noting there
was no guarantee it would be awarded.
She said it would be on the basis that Government had contended that Barbadian fishermen did not fish in Trinidad's territorial waters and, therefore, there was no question of that country doing its duty in relation to arresting fishermen in territorial waters.