Trinidad and Tobago Modern History

Trinidad and Tobago is a country located in North America. With the capital city of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago has a population of 1,399,499 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. The Middle Right Party PNM led Trinidad and Tobago to independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. Afrotrinidadier and PNM leader Eric Williams ruled for a quarter of a century, until 1981. Thereafter, power has shifted between PNM and the leftist party UNC. Oil has remained the country’s main source of income and development is largely driven by ups and downs in the world market price of oil.

Eric Williams and his center-right People’s National Movement (PNM) pursued a Western and investment-friendly policy. But a decline in oil and sugar prices led to financial problems with, among other things, rising unemployment. At the same time, William’s rule tended to become increasingly monotonous. In the early 1970s, black civil rights struggles in the United States inspired Trinidadians to widespread protest marches and strikes against the government and against the white minority’s dominance in business. The split left opposition boycotted the 1971 election.

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

Rising oil prices, however, led to the Williams party once again being able to strengthen its position, among other things by expanding the public sector. The population’s standard of living rose rapidly. In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago got a new constitution. The ties to the British monarchy were dissolved and the country became a republic (see Politics). Check best-medical-schools for more information about Trinidad and Tobago.

When Williams died in 1981, he had led the country since 1956. William’s successor, George Chambers, tried in vain to stem a new economic crisis caused by falling oil prices. But in the 1986 election, PNM lost power to the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), which was formed across political and ethnic borders. Its leader, ANR Robinson from Tobago, became the new prime minister. Tightening was carried out and the currency devalued. At the same time, unemployment rose. The government alliance lost support and was shattered by internal struggles, but still retained power. Leftists excluded from the alliance formed the 1989 United Nations Congress (UNC).


Hard budget cuts in July 1990 drove a Muslim sect (Jamaat al Muslimeen) to try to overthrow the government. Rebels occupied the state television station and parliament building. Prime Minister Robinson and other members of the government were taken hostage. The coup makers tried to get Robinson to sign a farewell application, but he refused. After five days, when 23 people were killed and about 500 injured, the coup makers gave up. About 100 people were arrested and charged with murder and treason, but all were pardoned and released.

The government’s reputation was badly damaged by the coup attempt and the 1991 election resulted in a return for PNM, whose leader Patrick Manning became new prime minister. Manning continued the economic restructuring and several state-owned companies were privatized. In 1995, parliamentary elections were held, a year earlier than planned. The election was a success for the relatively newly formed UNC, which, with the support of NAR, was able to form government with party leader Basdeo Panday as prime minister.

The economy flourished as a result of the strong rise in the energy sector and UNC initially had strong support among the people. However, towards the end of the term, the ruling party ended up in blustery weather as members were accused of corruption. Despite the problems, UNC managed to retain power in the elections in December 2000, but only a year later, Panday was forced to announce new elections. By then, three of his ministers had merged with the opposition in dissatisfaction that the prime minister had not tackled the corruption.

Political deadlock

The 2001 election ended in a deadlock, with PNM and UNC each receiving half of the mandate. President Robinson (the former prime minister) appointed PNM leader Patrick Manning as head of government but UNC refused to accept this and for several months the political situation was locked.

The deadlock led to yet another parliamentary election in September 2002, the third in two years. This time, PNM was given a slightly more mandate than UNC and Manning remained as prime minister.

In April 2006, Panday was sentenced to two years in prison and fines for failing to account for large sums of money in a bank account in London during his tenure as Prime Minister 1997-1999. He was later released on bail for health reasons, but was deprived of his seat in parliament and his post as opposition leader (according to the constitution, such should be appointed in parliament). New opposition leader became former state prosecutor Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

UNC was weakened by the repeated corruption allegations, but PNM was also affected by scandals. Two ministers were indicted for corruption and forced to resign, in May 2005 and January 2006 respectively.

High crime

Alongside the corruption deals, the widespread violent crime of murder and kidnapping, often linked to drug addiction, was a difficult problem. In the summer and autumn of 2005, explosive charges were triggered in Port of Spain and several people were injured.

The authorities realized that the control of drug transport was crucial in reducing crime and some measures were taken from 2005, including a new radar system and the coastguard force doubled. In addition, a legislative amendment was introduced which meant that members of dissolved kidnapper gangs were denied bail. The number of kidnappings fell sharply. From 2006, police from the United Kingdom also came to help and train Trinidadian police.

In the November 2007 parliamentary elections, PNM won a major victory over UNC. As a government party, PNM was favored by the country’s good economy, a consequence of the high world market prices of oil.

However, towards the end of the term of office, Prime Minister Manning’s and PNM’s opinion figures dropped. The government was criticized for not having managed to deal with the crime, as well as for corruption and waste of state resources. The opposition claimed that state funds would have gone to building a church for one of Manning’s advisers on spiritual issues. There was no evidence of the charges and Manning denied making any mistake.

Female Prime Minister

In April 2010, Manning decided to announce parliamentary elections in May. The election was won by a party coalition, the People’s Partnership (PP). The largest party in the coalition was UNC led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who at the beginning of the year defeated Panday in the election to the party leader post.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar now became the country’s first female prime minister. She made an attempt to broaden the party’s electoral base by taking Afrotrinidadians into the government. Among other things, she appointed Jack Warren, former Deputy Director of the Fifa International Football Federation, as Minister of Security. However, the collaboration lasted just under a year. Warner had been forced to leave Fifa even before he became a minister because of corruption prosecutors and these persecuted him while in government. In April 2013, Warner resigned and together with some other UNC parliamentarians formed a new party. Warner then won a parliamentary election as representative of the new party. In the 2015 election, however, Warner became out of place. He had then been requested to be extradited by the United States on charges of bribery and money laundering.

Prior to the 2015 election, Kamla Persad-Bissessar had high opinion figures in the back. But her talk that the government managed to stabilize the economy was postponed just days before the election when a report showed that growth was negative during the first quarter of the year and that 20,000 jobs were lost during the period.

The election led to victory for PNM, who returned to office after four years in opposition. PNM leader Keith Rowley became new prime minister.

Trinidad and Tobago Modern History