Constitutional Development in the Caribbean: Fact Sheet — Updated
Compiled by Dr. Kwame Nantambu
October 16, 2005
Updated: February 17, 2012
- Measure of representation introduced in 1884 after Morant Bay uprising in 1865 and slave revolt on 25 December 1831 when Baptist Minister Sam Sharpe led 50,000 slaves. Twenty whites were killed.
- Legislative Council in colony consisted of 4 elected officials and 5
nominated, that is, 9 total members.
- In 1895, elected members increased to 14 and nominated to 10.
- In 1944, adult suffrage granted to Jamaicans after 1937-38 riots.
- A bicameral legislature replaced the Council consisting of an elected
House of Representatives and a Legislative Council. Governor was advised by a Privy
- In 1953, Executive Council was set up with the leader of the majority
party called the Chief Minister. Ministerial government emerged.
- In 1957, Council of Ministers replaced the Executive Council.
- Jamaica withdrew from the West Indies Federation after 19 September 1961 national referendum; independent on 6 August 1962.
- Bruce Golding resigns as Prime Minister in September 2011.
- 28 October 2011, Andrew Michael Holmess sworn in as Jamaica's youngest Prime Minister.
- Prime Minister elect - Portia Simpson Miller won a landslide general election victory on 29 December 2011. The PNP won 41 seats and the JLP won 22 seats. Mrs. Miller served as Prime Minister from 2006 - 2007.
Post 1937-1938 Riots:
- Jamaican Progressive League became the forerunner of PNP led by Norman
- Jamaican Union of Teachers and Jamaican Agricultural Society became
organs of the "Little man."
- Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) became the JLP.
- Marcus Mosiah Garvey's People's Political Party formed.
- 1938-1962: period of working class consciousness nationalism.
Trinidad and Tobago (Tobago became a ward of Trinidad by Britain in 1889).
- Demand for constitutional reform after WWI.
- In 1922, Legislative Council consisted of 12 officials: 6 nominated and
- Qualifications for elections included property ownership and language
ability. This meant that only 6 per cent of the population could vote.
- Working class was convinced that government was the instrument of the rich to
exploit and suppress them; political agitation, disturbances and riots
erupted 19 June 1937-348.
- Constitutional reform introduced in 1941 which increased the number of
- Executive Council consisted: Governor, 3 official and 5
- Universal adult suffrage granted in 1946 without any property
or language qualifications.
- Elected members controlled government policy in 1950.
- Legislative Council introduced with 3 elected officials, 5 unofficially nominated, 18 elected members, presided over by a non-voting Speaker.
- In 1956, more elected members were added; Chief Minister served as Government leader; Ministerial governance emerged.
- PNM won 13 out of 24 elected seats in 1956---- majority in Legislative Council under Dr. Eric Williams.
- Legislative Council gave way to cabinet system in 1959.
- Trinidad and Tobago withdrew from the Federation in January 1962 and became independent on 31 August 1962.
- Trinidad and Tobago became a Republic on 24 September 1976.
- On 24 May 2010, the People's Partnership (PP) government won general elections and Kamala Persad-Bissessar became T&T's first female Prime Minister. The PP government won 19 out of the 41 seats contested; the PNM won 12 seats. Dr. Keith Rowley became leader of the Opposition.
- On 21 August 2011, the PP government declared a State of Emergency that lasted until 5 December 2011.
Post 1937-38 Riots:
- Captain Andrew Cipriani: " Champion of the barefoot man", formed Trinidad Workingmen's Association which became Trinidad Labour Party. Cipriani later became Mayor of Port-of-Spain. His political slogan was: "Agitate, Educate, Confederate."
- Uriah "Buzz" Butler formed the Political Progress Group. Butler was known as the "Chief Servant of the Lord"; he precipitated the raise of trade union movement and engineered the direct entry of the working class into colonial politics.
- Esequibo, Demerara and Berbice (Dutch colonies) were united as British Guiana in 1831.
- In 1928, an Act of the British Parliament appointed a Legislative consisting of Governor as president, 10 officials, 5 nominated unofficially and 14 elected members.
- In 1945, voting qualifications were lowered and adult suffrage extended to adults literate in English and who owned land worth $150 or had an annual income of $120.
- In 1950, bicameral legislature introduced: a State Council of 9 nominated members and House of Assembly with 3 elected officials, 24 elected members -----Ministerial governance introduced.
- In 1953, constitution was suspended on the grounds that the (People's Progressive Party (PPP) was trying to subvert it. Guyana was governed by a modified Crown Colony system: entirely nominated single chamber legislature and an Executive Council consisting of Governor, 3 officials, 7 unofficially nominated.
- In 1950, Dr. Cheddi Jagan founded the People's Progressive Party (PPP) with Forbes Burnham; they were perceived as "Champions of the oppressed." PPP won the general elections in 1953---- 51 per cent of the popular vote and 18 out of 24 seats in Parliament.
During the height of the Cold War and Joseph Mc Carthy era, Jagan was seen as pro-Soviet Union and pro-communist by Britain and United States; the United States in collusion with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill led to the suspension of the Guyanese constitution for 135 days after the elections; by 1955, tension arose between Jagan and Burnham. Burnham formed the People's National Congress (PNC).
Burnham presented himself as a more moderate leader than Jagan and insisted that Guyana would never be used as a satellite of the Soviet Union; although he claimed to be socialist; in reality, Burnham was pro-capitalist and pro-United States.
- In 1956, unicameral legislature introduced.
- In 1961, new constitution providing for self-government introduced.
- Independent on 26 May 1966.
- East Indian Association became the PPP; League of Coloured Peoples formed the PNC.
- The only colony in Eastern Caribbean to retain old representative system of Government consisting of a Governor, nominated Legislative Council and elected Assembly.
- Never brought under Crown Colony system of government but established instead "a (national) spirit of Blackstonian conservatism" or "Little England."
- In 1891, an Executive Committee consisting of a Governor, 2 senior officials, 5 nominated members exercised power until 1954.
- Cabinet system introduced in 1954; Premier appointed; ministerial governance introduced with internal self-government.
- Independent in November 1966.
Post 1937-1938 Riots
- Barbados Progressive League became Barbados Labour Party under Sir. Grantley Adams.
Shem Hotep ("I go in Peace").
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College and University of the West Indies.
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