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St. Kitts Modern History

The road to independence became long for the British colony of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Since the 1870s, the two islands, together with Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, form part of the Leeward Islands Federation. When this union was dissolved in 1957 and succeeded by the Caribbean Federation, Saint Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla became a member there as well, while the British Virgin Islands chose to stand outside.

The Caribbean Federation became short-lived. After several unsuccessful attempts to form a new association, the colony and a number of neighbors in 1967 gained a new administrative status. They became so-called associated states within the Commonwealth (Britain and the former British colonies). This meant that Saint Kitts gained full self-control while Britain continued to pursue foreign policy and defense. At the same time, Anguilla took the opportunity to disengage from Saint Kitts and Nevis, a process that was formally completed in 1980.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing St. Kitts and Nevis. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The same year, it was intended that Saint Kitts and Nevis would gain their independence, but the process was delayed by disagreement between the ruling Labor Party and Nevis about the status of the smaller island. In the election that year, the Labor Party lost its majority in Parliament and a coalition government was formed between the right-wing People's Action Movement (abbreviated in English to PAM) and Nevi's Reform Party (NRP). Negotiations on Nevi's status continued and when Saint Kitts and Nevis became an independent state in 1983, Nevis gained extensive autonomy and the right to withdraw from the federation on certain conditions (see below).

Contemporary History of St. KittsPolitical violence and drug-related crime

The coalition between PAM and NRP retained government power until the 1993 elections, when PAM and the Labor Party received an equal number of seats. When the British Governor-General commissioned PAM to form a minority government, the Labor Party boycotted Parliament for a time. At the end of the year, riots broke out in the capital. The government announced emergency permits and troops from the regional security force Regional Security Systems were called. The parties then agreed to hold new elections within one year.

At the same time, the government was shaken by revelations that the Deputy Prime Minister's sons had engaged in criminal acts. Two of the sons were arrested for illegal weapons possession while a third son was killed in what was believed to be a drug deal. The police who led the murder investigation were murdered and for a time the British police took command of the local police force.

In the summer of 1995, new elections were held. During the election movement, supporters of PAM and the Labor Party rallied in violent quarrels. The Labor Party won a convincing victory, and Party leader Denzil Douglas was named prime minister. PAM lost all mandates except one.

In the mid-1990s, drug-related crime increased, and parties, churches and interest groups formed a pact to try to curb violence. The government created a special intervention force to combat the drug trade and reintroduced the death penalty. In 1998, the first execution in 13 years was carried out, which brought great criticism in the outside world.

Demand for independence for Nevis

During the 1990s, dissatisfaction with Nevis increased with the dominance of the main island. The demands of a state of its own were strengthened. In the fall of 1997, Nevi's parliament voted unanimously for the island to leave the federation with Saint Kitts. However, in a referendum in 1998, separatists failed to get their proposal for exit approved. Almost 62 percent of Nevis residents voted in favor of the proposal, but it required a two-thirds majority for it to go through.

At the beginning of 2000, a British-led commission presented a report criticizing PAM's board of directors in a number of points from 1980 to 1995. Among other things, the Commission was critical that the government, without debating the matter publicly, gave a foreign company a loan that corresponded to one-third of the state's expenditure. Shortly after the Commission presented its report, Prime Minister Douglas took the opportunity to announce new elections. The election was held in March 2000 and the Labor Party won all seats (except those reserved for Nevis representatives) while PAM was put out of Parliament. Of Nevi's three terms, one went to the NRP and two to the other Nevis-based Party of Citizens' Movement (CCM).

A few years after the turn of the millennium, the question of independence for Nevis was revived. Prime Minister Douglas tried to rally in the creek by promising reforms that would give Nevis increased self-government, but local parties on Nevis rejected the government's proposal. In the summer of 2003, Nevi's parliament decided to organize a new referendum on independence despite the defeat five years earlier. After that, however, nothing happened and a few years later the question of independence seemed to have come to an end.

The sugar industry is shut down

In October 2004, Prime Minister Douglas announced that parliamentary elections would be held at the end of the same month, six months before the scheduled date. Douglas asked the Caribbean cooperation organization Caricom and the Commonwealth to send observers to guarantee that the election would go right.

In the election, the Labor Party returned somewhat and lost one of its eight mandates to PAM, which thus withdrew into parliament. The distribution of the three mandates accruing to Nevis representatives was from the previous election: CCM received two mandates and NRP one.

After the election, PAM accused the government of electoral fraud. The foreign election observers admitted that the election was fraught with some shortcomings, including ambiguities in voting lengths, but nevertheless approved the election.

In the spring of 2005, the government made a historic decision: to close the state-owned and unprofitable sugar industry that has been a burden to the economy for many years. The decision was a tough blow for many poor families who depended on the sugar industry for their livelihood. To alleviate the effects of the closure, the EU contributed $ 10 million to the country. The money would be used to provide unemployed IT training.

Record high murder rate

The problems of the widespread drug-related violent crime came especially into focus in 2008 when 23 people were murdered. At the end of the year, the state responded by breaking a ten-year delay in the death penalty and leaving a convicted prisoner in prison. The execution brought criticism in the outside world. Douglas defended the decision by saying that residents support the death penalty and that he felt it could have a deterrent effect on other criminals. However, the following years the murder rate went up.

During the first three months of 2009, seven murders took place. Douglas called for a crisis meeting with all social groups, including the opposition. Police were promised increased resources and rewards pledged for information that could help solve homicides or find weapons used in crime.

At the same time, the government struggled to try to dampen the effects of the global financial crisis. Even before the financial crisis became a fact in the autumn of 2008, food and fuel prices had risen. As the crisis grew, the income from tourism, as well as the contributions from foreign-working citizens, decreased. To alleviate the problems somewhat, the government raised the minimum wage and started selling state land for half the price to those earning the least, a measure that the opposition dismissed as election pork for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In the 2010 election, the Labor Party became the largest party but lost a mandate and received a total of six of the eleven electoral seats. PAM received two mandates, while the Nevis-based CCM and NRP received two and one mandate respectively.

 
 

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