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West Indies Federation 1958 – 1961

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EDITOR: Discussions about forming a political Federation among all the English speaking Caribbean Islands was held in 1947 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was agreed to proceed with a Federation of the Islands and a conference was held in London in 1956 to work out all the details.

The Federal capital was in Chagauramas Bay, Trinidad and the opening ceremony was in April 1958. The Governor-General was an Englishman, Lord Hailes. Each island sent two senators and elected representatives based on the size of the island population. {{more}} St. Vincent voted to send Leroy Adams and Alick ‘Son’ Allen as our two representatives. The Prime Minister was Grantley Adams of Barbados.

The Federation was a partnership of unequal players, and some islands were not fully in support of the concept. It was supported fully by Eric Williams of Trinidad, but less so by Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante of Jamaica. Disagreements about the powers of the Central Government, about taxation powers etc. lead to disagreements between Trinidad and Jamaica, the two largest units. Mr. Manley of Jamaica did not want to share the wealth of his economy with the smaller islands and feared that residents of those islands would swamp Jamaica looking for employment.

Disunity and disagreements followed and Jamaica called a Referendum in 1961 to decide if Jamaica would remain in the Federation. By a vote of 54%, No, to 46%, Yes, Jamaica voted herself out of the Federation.

After the results of the Referendum were official, Premier Eric Williams of Trinidad declared that “one from 10 leaves nought” and he pulled Trinidad out of the nine-member unit. Both Trinidad and Jamaica gained their respective independence in 1962 and the other eight islands went through Statehood and eventually Independence at a later date. St. Vincent gained Statehood in 1969 and Independence on October 27, 1979 with Milton Cato as the Prime Minister.

Dr Errol King

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