History Opinion

On this day: Saint Lucia’s (partial) Independence Day, 1979

Photo credit: “Gambia Grunge Flag” by Nicolas Raymond is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The late Prime Minister John Compton marking Independence with young performers at Mindoo Phillip Park in 1987” The Star

On February 22nd, 1979, the time was right for Saint Lucia to gain partial independence, with Queen Elizabeth II remaining as head of state. The main event of partial independence was the signing of the 1979 Saint Lucia Constitution Order by the Queen, which ended its status as an association with the United Kingdom and established a new constitution, a new government, and provided for a prime minister and a House of Assembly. Saint Lucia’s first prime minister was the late Sir John Compton, who served until 1996, and Sir Allen Montgomery Lewis was its first governor-general.

In 1979, the partial independence of Saint Lucia was celebrated with a huge parade and a fireworks display in the capital city of Castries. The celebrations included a march-past of the country’s armed forces, as well as a parade of traditional Saint Lucian costumes, floats, and music.

Independence was a milestone in the history of the country, as it provided a greater degree of autonomy yet still maintained links to the Commonwealth. This gave Saint Lucia more control over its own affairs, however not without completely severing ties to the United Kingdom.

Prior to independence the island was a member of the Windward Islands Federation until 1959 and was the first of these islands to gain independence. Later that year, Saint Lucia joined the West Indies Federation, its vision was for all the Caribbean countries to come together and form one independent nation. However, the vision faded and one by one the countries dropped out, leading to the dissolution of the federation in 1962, and the larger members like Jamaica in ’62, Trinidad in ’62, and Barbados in ’66 going independent.

In the first election following independence, the left-leaning Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) beat the more conservative United Workers’ Party (UWP). The SLP governments leaned towards the socialist regimes of the Caribbean, establishing relations with Cuba and joining the Non-Aligned Movement, and helping create the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States in 1981.

Since 1979, Saint Lucia has continued to grow and develop in many areas, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. The country has also seen progress in its economy, with tourism being one of the biggest contributors. Saint Lucia’s partial independence was an important moment for the country, as it signaled the beginning of a move towards self-governance and autonomy. While the country still remains in the Commonwealth, Saint Lucia is gaining more control over its own destiny, with calls on the government in recent years, from the former prime minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, to become a republic.

Today, Saint Lucia’s head of state is Kind Charles III, represented by a governor-general, appointed by the King as his representative, whose current incumbent is Errol Charles. Saint Lucia is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy modeled on the Westminster system. Last year, Saint Lucia began the process of replacing the London-based Privy Council as its final court of appeal with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: