Trinidad and Tobago must remain diplomatically nimble

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Naparima Member of parliament and former ambassador to the United Nations, Rodney Charles

Dear Sir

COVID is not the only area that this government is failing our country. Simultaneously, it has masterminded our diminished presence in the global arena by not having, for the first time in two decades, one of the 21 eminent judges on the UNs acclaimed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Recognizing the distinguished pioneering work of the late Lennox Ballah in the formation of ITLOS our nominees have since 2002 been a “shoo in” at elections for judges on that body.

In 2002 Ballah received every single vote. When he died in 2003 he was seamlessly replaced by Justice Anthony Lucky. In 2011 Justice Lucky was re-elected on the first ballot – an exceptional accomplishment for a small country.

Trinidad and Tobago however, and for whatever reason, did not present a candidate at the elections held from the August 24-26, to replace our distinguished, retired Judge Anthony Lucky. Did we drop the ball?

Jamaica’s Dr Kathy Ann Brown was elected along with candidates from China, Chile, Italy and Cameroon.

The United National Congress (UNC) congratulates Dr Brown who is eminently qualified and well placed to represent the region.

ITLOS was established to create an international framework for law over “all ocean spaces, its uses and resources”.

ITLOS is uniquely important to us given the outsized significance of our blue economy especially fishing, recreation including yachting and the exploitation of our marine areas for oil and gas. There are also lurking boundary issues with our neighbours.

ITLOS and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are two bodies at the UN closely associated with Trinidad and Tobago.

We are now not represented at one. This must not happen at the other. The UNC is calling on this Dr Keith Rowley administration to ensure that we do not similarly lose representation on the ICC which resulted from the highly acclaimed pioneering work of ANR Robinson. Trinidad and Tobago’s Justice Geoffrey Henderson now sits as a judge on the ICC. He replaced Justice Anthony Carmona when he was elevated to the presidency.

When Justice Henderson’s term comes to an end in March 2021, we must do the necessary work to ensure his reelection or have in place an eminent replacement.

Now more than ever Trinidad and Tobago must remain diplomatically nimble in order to advance its national interests and secure the appointment of competent nationals in key international organizations.

Trinidad and Tobago must not be a passive bystander. It must be an active and fully engaged player on the world stage.

If Dr Rowley’s administration cannot advance Trinidad and Tobago’s global footprint it must not allow it to diminish through neglect.

Rodney Charles

Member of Parliament, Naparima

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