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Caribbean Islands

 
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Caribbean Islands

National Security

The focus of security concerns on the islands has changed over the years. During the Labour administration, which ended in 1980, the possible secession of Nevis and Anguilla was considered the primary threat to security. British paratroopers had to be dispatched to Anguilla in 1969 to keep order during a period of secessionist unrest; nevertheless, Anguilla did secede that year (see British Dependencies: British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat, this ch.). Kittitian forces were more successful at discouraging such activity on Nevis because of its geographical proximity. According to some members of the PAM, personnel of the regular Defence Force and police were routinely employed by the Labour government to intimidate political opponents on Nevis.

After the advent of the PAM/NRP government and the movement toward independence as a two-island federation, secession became regarded as less of a threat to security. Accordingly, the regular Defence Force maintained by the Labour government was abolished in 1981. The Volunteer Defence Force was retained, but it did not appear to be active because of the lack of any serious external threat to the islands. Some former Defence Force personnel were absorbed into the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force (RSCNPF); Defence Force weaponry and other equipment was transferred to the RSCNPF. Weaponry unsuited to day-to-day police work, such as semiautomatic small arms, was adopted for use mainly by the RSCNPF's Tactical Unit and, later, the Special Service Unit (SSU).

In the late 1980s, the RSCNPF appeared to number about 300, including the 80-member SSU. The RSCNPF was headed by the commissioner of police, whose subordinates included a deputy commissioner and a superintendent of police. The appointment, discipline, and removal of police officers was regulated by the Police Service Commission, a five-member board appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Initial recruit training was conducted at the Police Training Complex at Pond's Pasture, Basseterre. The mission of the RSCNPF was varied and included immigration and firefighting duties in addition to standard police work. The coast guard, administered by the harbor police, was organizationally integrated into the RSCNPF. The sole coast guard vessel was donated by the United States in October 1985. In addition, coast guard personnel received some training in the United States. SSU personnel received on-island instruction from a United States Army military training team. The United States was also reported to have supplied small arms, ammunition, and trucks to the SSU. Other sources of equipment donations to the RSCNPF were Britain, which provided radio equipment, and South Korea, which donated automobiles and pickup trucks.

St. Kitts and Nevis was not an original signatory to the 1982 Memorandum of Understanding, which laid the groundwork for the RSS. Nonetheless, membership in the system was extended to St. Kitts and Nevis in early 1984 after it achieved full independence. As an RSS member, St. Kitts and Nevis--or, more specifically, its SSU--has participated in a number of regional military exercises with Caribbean, British, and United States forces. The Simmonds government has been a strong supporter of the RSS, particularly since the Grenada intervention (although technically that was not an RSS operation). Although the opposition Labour Party has not criticized the RSS publicly or advocated withdrawal from the system, it has tried to portray Simmonds's support as an effort to shore up his rule through the threat of military action against his opponents. The PAM has responded to these allegations by comparing Labour leader Moore and his followers to that faction of the Grenadian People's Revolutionary Government that murdered Maurice Bishop and several of his ministers on October 19, 1983, and plunged Grenada into chaos.

From the government's perspective, the most likely source of social and political unrest appeared to be agitation by the Labour Party. PAM leaders and publications have quoted Moore as threatening the prime minister and calling for the extralegal assumption of power by his own followers. Even if true, however, these statements would appear to have been more in the nature of rhetorical excesses than genuine calls to revolution. There was no indication in the late 1980s of significant popular support in St. Kitts and Nevis for politically motivated violence against the PAM/NRP government.

Generally speaking, the society of St. Kitts and Nevis was quite open and free in terms of political and civil rights. According to the ratings assigned various countries in an article by Raymond A. Gastil in the periodical Freedom at Issue, published by the research and monitoring group Freedom House in New York, St. Kitts and Nevis in 1985 and 1986 was a free society with a fully competitive electoral process, freedom of the press, an impartial judiciary, and a general lack of politically motivated repression. Representatives of the PAM/NRP government have cited these ratings frequently as a riposte to charges of abuse of power leveled by the opposition.

* * *

Although there are few comprehensive sources on St. Kitts and Nevis, background information on its social development may be found in Bonham C. Richardson's Caribbean Migrants and Edward L. Cox's Free Coloreds in the Slave Societies of St. Kitts and Grenada, 1763-1833. Health, education, and population data are available in the Pan American Health Organization's Health Conditions in the Americas 1981-1984. Major works dealing with economic background and development include Carleen O'Loughlin's Economic and Political Change in the Leeward and Windward Islands, Peter D. Fraser and Paul Hackett's Caribbean Economic Handbook, and the World Bank's St. Christopher and Nevis Economic Report. Current economic data are presented in annual reports prepared by the CDB and the ECCB. Political studies on St. Kitts and Nevis are equally scarce, perhaps as a result of the nation's brief history as an independent state. The St. Christopher and Nevis Independence Magazine, 19th September 1983, and 1986 Year in Review, official publications, present good snapshots of the country. Current political issues and concerns on the islands are reflected in the newspapers published by PAM (Democrat) and the opposition Labour Party (Labour Spokesman), as well as in reporting by the Caribbean News Agency and periodicals with a regional focus, such as Latin America Regional Reports: Caribbean. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of November 1987

Caribbean Islands - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • ST. CHRISTOPHER AND NEVIS


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