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St. Vincent Government - History

St. Vincent Government - History

ST. VINCENT & GRENADINES

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented on the island by a governor general, an office with mostly ceremonial functions. Control of the government rests with the prime minister and the cabinet.

The parliament is a unicameral body with a 15-member elected house of assembly and a six-member appointed senate. The governor general appoints senators, four on the advice of the prime minister and two on the advice of the leader of the opposition. The parliamentary term of office is five years, although the prime minister may call elections at any time.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT
Governor GeneralBallantyne, Frederick Nathaniel, Sir
Prime MinisterGonsalves, Ralph E.
Dep. Prime MinisterStraker, Louis
Min. of Agriculture, Lands, & FisheriesMiguel, Girlyn
Min. of Commerce & TradeStraker, Louis
Min. of Education, Youth, & SportsBrowne, Mike
Min. of FinanceGonsalves, Ralph E.
Min. of Foreign AffairsStraker, Louis
Min. of Grenadine Affairs & Legal AffairsGonsalves, Ralph E.
Min. of Health & the EnvironmentSlater, Douglas
Min. of InformationGonsalves, Ralph E.
Min. of LaborGonsalves, Ralph E.
Min. of National Security, the Public Service, & Airport DevelopmentBeache, Vincent
Min. of Planning & Economic DevelopmentGonsalves, Ralph E.
Min. of Social Development, Cooperatives, the Family, Gender Affairs, & Ecclesiastical AffairsWalters, Selmon
Min. of Telecommunications, Science, Technology, & IndustryThompson, Jerrol
Min. of Tourism & CultureBaptiste, Rene
Min. of Transport, Works, & HousingFrancis, Julian
Attorney GeneralJones Morgan, Judith
Ambassador to the USJohn, Ellsworth
Permanent Representative to the UN, New YorkHughes Ferrari, Margaret


St. Vincent Government - History

St. Vincent and the Grenadines comprises a cluster of islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. The total land area of the islands is 389 square kilometres and the population of the islands is approximately 106,000 persons. The economy of the islands is dependent on tourism (particularly to the Grenadines), agriculture (particularly banana production), and construction. There is also a small offshore banking industry and the economy is further supported by remittances from Vincentians living abroad. The islands are vulnerable to tropical Storms, which wiped out substantial portions of crops in 1994, 1995, 2002, and 2007. Due to the global recession, economic growth slowed in 2008, following a 10-year high of nearly 7 percent in 2006. The islands have a relatively high public debt to GDP ratio of about 70 percent and unemployment (around 22 percent) and under-employment prompt many to seek work abroad, whether temporarily or permanently. Recent infrastructure projects include an international airport, which is being built under the current administration and is due for completion in 2011.

St. Vincent was originally settled around 5,000 BC by the Ciboney people, then by the Arawaks and subsequently by the Caribs. The Caribs of St. Vincent, living in the densely forested mountainous interior, were able to resist European settlement for longer than the indigenous inhabitants of any other island in the Caribbean were. Granted by Charles I to the Earl of Carlisle in 1627, the islands were disputed between Britain and France but were finally ceded to Britain in 1783. The islands had a plantation economy based on slave labour, producing sugar, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. As in the rest of the British Caribbean, slavery was abolished in 1834. The islands have been subject to natural disasters caused by hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. The eruption of the volcano La Soufriere in 1902 devastated the north of St. Vincent killing 2,000 people.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines — History and Culture


St Vincent and the Grenadines has a typical Caribbean history, except that it was one of the last places to be settled by European colonizers due to the resistance of the natives, who remained extremely proud of their land. But even so, the riches of the ‘Spice Islands’ were too lucrative to be left alone, and eventually the country came into British hands by the 18th century. Since then St Vincent and the Grenadines has encountered steady growth until it finally claimed independence in 1979. Today, the country is reliant on banana exports and tourism to fuel its economy.

History

The island of St Vincent was one of the last countries to be settled in the Caribbean, since colonization was prevented by the native people who held onto their land. The indigenous peoples of St Vincent and the Grenadines were the Caribs, whom the region is now named after. They called St Vincent Hairouna, meaning the ‘Land of the Blessed’, which may still today be a fitting description for the wonderful tropical island. Today, the nation’s leading brand of beer is called Hairouna.

By 1719, French settlers of nearby Martinique encroached on the island to begin growing coffee, tobacco, sugar, and other crops to export back to Europe for the then lucrative market. The British Empire had a stronghold in the region by that time, and in 1763 the French officially ceded the island to them. The French recaptured St Vincent in 1779, but then four years later the British regained control.

All was not well though, since between 1783 and 1796 the native Caribs resisted British control until the uprising was quashed. In 1797 more than 5,000 black Caribs were deported to the island of Roatan, now part of the nation of Honduras. Today, these English speaking descendants are known as the ‘Garifuna’. Many black Caribs still exist in St Vincent and the Grenadines today, dating back to when the indigenous population intermarried with slaves of African descent.

Slavery was abolished in 1834, resulting in labor shortages on the plantations. Declining prices and a fragile commodity market at the time also saw problems for St Vincent. From the 1840s until the 1890s many Portuguese and Indian workers were transported to the island to increase productivity although history and a changing global economy would result in the crop export market failing. Agricultural exports are still important for St Vincent and the Grenadines, today dominated by banana production.

Tourism is extremely important for St Vincent and the Grenadines, and is the country’s second main industry but unemployment still remains high in the country, with between 15-20 percent of the population jobless. Since the country is still reliant on the growth and export of a single crop, the banana, it is vulnerable to natural catastrophes which occasionally occur in the island, severely limiting the economy. Hurricanes in 1980 and 1987 virtually wiped out the entire banana and coconut plantations. Storms in 1998 and 1999 also severely damaged crop outputs. In general, though, citizens here enjoy a good standard of living, and it is considered a lower-middle income world economy. St Vincent and the Grenadines gained independence from British rule in 1979.

Culture

The alluring sounds of Caribbean music awake you like a distant dream come true in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Steel pan bands are the major traditional output here, pumping out there upbeat tunes that enlightens the dancing crowd. Also popular in St Vincent and the Grenadines is calypso, reggae, and soca. You can hear the music at many resort entertainments held nightly in the high season, or head to the annual carnival for the biggest party.

Cricket and soccer are also close to the hearts of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a heritage left behind by the British. The country is part of the regional West Indian Cricket (known colloquially as the ‘Windies’), and they are proud of their successes on the international stage. You can go to the cricket ground in Kingstown to watch the sport in action.


This eruption is one of the worst in St. Vincent's history.

While no fatalities or injuries have yet been reported, experts are comparing the magnitude of this event's destruction to La Soufrière's eruption in 1902, which was the country's most catastrophic and killed more than 1,000 people.

Forests, farms, homes, and livestock have been destroyed. Water and food supplies have been cut off in some areas, forcing the government to drill for water and set up distribution points. There has been a massive power outage. Transportation remains treacherous because the smoke is so thick. Emergency personnel have likened the landscape to a "battle zone." White ash has covered homes across the island. Residents of Barbados, 124 miles away, have been told to stay indoors, while those living on St. Lucia, 47 miles away, have been warned of poor air quality and harmful gases. It goes without saying that scores of flights to and from the region, including Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Antigua, have been canceled.


U.S. Department of State

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister, a cabinet, and a unicameral legislative assembly compose the Government. The Governor General, appointed by the British monarch, is the titular head of state, with largely ceremonial powers. During the spring, divisive general strikes were settled only because Prime Minister Sir James F. Mitchell, whose New Democratic Party (NDP) had won an unprecedented fourth term in June 1998 by a slim margin, agreed to resign, with elections to be held by March 31, 2001. On October 27, Mitchell resigned, and Arnhim Eustace, an NDP parliamentarian, replaced him. The judiciary is independent.

The Royal St. Vincent Police, the only security force in the country, includes a coast guard and a small Special Services Unit (SSU) with some paramilitary training, that is often accused of using excessive force. The force is controlled by and responsive to the Government, but police continued to commit some human rights abuses.

St. Vincent has a market-based economy. Much of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. Bananas are the leading export and a major source of foreign exchange earnings. However, the banana industry is declining, and the growing tourism sector is becoming the leading earner of foreign exchange. Unemployment is estimated to be 35 percent, and the 1999 per capita gross domestic product was approximately $2,550.

The Government generally respected citizens' human rights however, there were problems in a few areas. The police SSU was accused of an extrajudicial killing. Other principal human rights problems continued to include occasional instances of excessive use of force by police, the Government's failure to punish adequately those responsible for such abuses, poor prison conditions, and an overburdened court system. Violence against women and abuse of children also were problems.

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

In March the police SSU shot and killed David Browne as they were taking him into custody for building a shack on the grounds of a secondary school. The police said he sustained an accidental but fatal shot to the temple when he resisted arrest. Human rights activists called for an inquiry and claimed that the police SSU used excessive and injudicious force leading to the death.

On December 14, 1999, a police antidrug patrol shot and killed Junior Harry, who they said was fleeing while the patrol conducted a search for narcotics in buildings near the town of Barrouallie. A police spokesman said that Harry was armed with a shotgun. Although the authorities planned to hold an inquest to establish whether police used excessive force, there was no information as to the results of any such inquiry.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. However, regional human rights groups have noted that a high percentage of convictions are based on confessions. One human rights group believes that some of these confessions resulted from unwarranted police practices, including the use of physical force during detention, illegal search and seizure, and failure to inform properly those arrested of their rights.

There is no independent review board to monitor police activity and to hear public complaints about police misconduct. Human rights advocates recommend such a board to protect the rights of citizens who complain about police misconduct.

Prison conditions are poor. Prison buildings are antiquated and overcrowded, with one holding an average of 300 inmates in a building designed for 75, which results in serious health and safety problems. An inmate who wishes to speak with his lawyer must do so by written correspondence, and the authorities sometimes monitor and censor such correspondence.

In July 1999, prisoners rioted and seized control of the prison, protesting poor conditions and treatment. The Government acceded to a number of the prisoners' demands however, conditions did not change significantly. In the spring, prisoners again demonstrated, and the Government appointed a former SSU commander as the new Superintendent of Prisons. Local human rights activists have acknowledged that he has tried to improve internal communications and training for prison personnel. However, the Government has not implemented any of the recommendations made by a Commission of Inquiry following the July-August 1999 disturbances.

In August identified prisoners whipped another prisoner, burned him with acid, and cut a piece of his ear off with a knife. The assaulted inmate asserted that this action was carried out as punishment when he had not supplied them with drugs after he had been released earlier from jail. Prison officials asserted that police failed to respond to arrest the inmates who had tortured and mutilated this prisoner.

Prison officials expressed frustration with the lack of resources, proper training, personnel, and progress in securing a new facility. The jail is in the center of the capital city with low walls that are accessible to passers-by. Prison guards are known at times to collaborate with prisoners in corrupt and illegal practices. Some guards have been disciplined for engaging in sexual acts with inmates. Reportedly, guards also supply drugs and other contraband or stand by while rough, abusive, or inhuman prison punishment is meted out either by fellow prisoners or other guards.

There is a separate section for female inmates in the prison.

Conditions are inadequate for juvenile offenders. There is a small facility for delinquent boys however, it is not financed by the Government and depends upon donations. As a result, it is in disrepair and only houses a small number of boys. Youngsters may be charged and convicted as criminals from the age of 8. In such cases, youngsters may then be jailed with older criminals. Although separate legal statutes exist for youthful offenders, there are no separate magistrates, prosecutors, or procedures to handle such cases.

The Government permits prison visits by independent human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that persons detained for criminal offenses must receive a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an impartial court. Although there are only two official magistrates, the registrar of the High Court and the presiding judge of the family court effectively serve as magistrates when called upon to do so. While this practice reduced the backlog, complaints continue regarding police practices in bringing cases to court. Some defense attorneys claim that this has caused 6-to 12-month delays in preliminary inquiries for serious crimes.

The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent and impartial court, and the judiciary is independent in practice.

The judiciary consists of lower courts and a High Court, with appeal to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and final appeal to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. There are three magistrates, as well as one magistrate who serves only the family court.

The Constitution provides for public trials. The court appoints attorneys for indigent defendants only when the defendant is charged with a capital offense. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and may appeal verdicts and penalties. There is a large backlog of pending cases. In January a fire destroyed offices with records in the magistrates' court. The family court handled some cases, but the backlog increased. The court reopened in September with 1 day per week set aside to handle an increasing workload of drug-related cases. The court docket may average 55-60 cases a day, when reasonably only 5 to 7 may be heard, adjudicated, or disposed.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary search and seizure or other government intrusions into the private life of individual citizens, and there were no reports of such abuses.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There are two major newspapers and numerous smaller, partisan publications all are privately owned, and most are openly critical of the Government's policies. There were no reports of government censorship or interference with the operation of the press. However, individual journalists believe that government advertising, a significant source of revenue, sometimes is withheld from newspapers that publish articles that are less than favorable to the Government.

The lone television station in St. Vincent is privately owned and operates without government interference. Satellite dishes are popular among those who can afford them. There is also a cable system with mainly North American programming that has over 300 subscribers. The Government controls programming for the government-owned radio station.

The Government does not restrict academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

No formal government policy toward refugee or asylum requests exists. The issue of the provision of first asylum did not arise. There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone having a valid claim to refugee status however, government practice remains undefined.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government through regularly scheduled free and fair elections. St. Vincent has a long history of multiparty parliamentary democracy. During the June 1998 election, the ruling New Democratic Party won a slim 1-seat majority (8 of 15) in Parliament, despite losing the popular vote by a 55 to 45 percent margin to the opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP). Calling this outcome an "overt manifestation of rejection by the public" of Prime Minister Mitchell's Government, the ULP made claims of election fraud and demanded new elections.

The Prime Minister refused the ULP demand and instead proposed a constitutional review to consider possible amendments, such as a provision for proportional representation. Lingering dissatisfaction led to thousands of persons participating in rallies and strikes in April and May calling for the Prime Minister's resignation. A rally by the Organization in Defense of Democracy, comprised of leading private and public sector unions, said new elections should be held immediately and threatened "a total shutdown of the country" on May 3. After mediation by regional figures, the Prime Minister and his ruling NDP signed a six-point agreement known as the Grand Beach Accord, which confirmed that the Prime Minister would resign by January 2001 and call early elections before March 31, 2001. On October 27, Mitchell resigned and was replaced by Arnhim Eustace, an NDP parliamentarian. In November leaders of the three political parties signed a "Code of Conduct" intended to govern the campaign period. It includes a pledge of equal time on local radio and other electronic media and an agreement not to incite or encourage violence.

There are no legal impediments to women's full participation in politics or government however, they are underrepresented. There is only one woman in Parliament, as a member of the opposition.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Opposition political groups and the Vincentian press often comment on human rights matters of local concern. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA) monitors government and police activities, especially with respect to treatment of prisoners, publicizing any cases of abuse. The Government generally is responsive to public and private inquiries about its human rights practices.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal treatment under the law regardless of race, sex, or religion, and the Government adheres to this provision.

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a major problem. The Government took legislative steps to address this problem through the Domestic Violence/Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1994) and the more accessible Domestic Violence Summary Proceedings Act (1995). Both laws provide for protective orders, as well as occupation and tenancy orders the former only is accessible through the High Court, but the latter can be obtained without the services of a lawyer in family court. Since passage of the laws, the SVGHRA has conducted numerous seminars and workshops throughout the country to familiarize citizens with their rights under these acts. Increasing numbers of women are coming forward with domestic violence complaints.

Depending on the magnitude of the offense and the age of the victim, the punishment for rape is generally 10 or more years in prison.

A 1995 amendment to the Child Support Law allows for payments ordered by the courts, even when notice of an appeal has been filed. Previously, fathers who had been ordered to pay child support could appeal decisions and not pay while the appeal was being heard. This resulted in a huge backlog of appeal cases and effectively reduced the number of mothers and children receiving support payments. There is a family court in the capital city of Kingstown with one magistrate. According to the SVGHRA, because there is only one bailiff to service all the country, summonses often are not served on time for cases to be heard as scheduled in court.

The Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs, and Culture has a women's desk that assists the National Council of Women with seminars, training programs, and public relations. The minimum wage law specifies that women should receive equal pay for equal work.

Marion House, a social services agency established by the Catholic Church in 1989 and staffed by four trained counselors and three foreign volunteers, provides counseling and therapy services.

Education is not compulsory, but the Government states that it investigates cases in which children are withdrawn from school before the age of 16. Although the Government has played a more prominent role in legislating health and welfare standards since independence, the infant mortality rate is still very high. One underlying cause is the large number of children born to teenage mothers.

The Domestic Violence Summary Proceedings Act provides a limited legal framework for the protection of children. Nevertheless, reports of child abuse remain high and are on the increase. The Social Welfare Office is the government agency responsible for monitoring and protecting the welfare of children. The police are the enforcement arm the Social Welfare Office refers all reports of child abuse to the police for action.

There is no specific legislation addressing persons with disabilities, and the circumstances for disabled individuals are generally difficult. Most severely disabled persons rarely leave their homes because of the poor road system and lack of affordable wheelchairs. The Government partially supports a school for the disabled which has two branches. A separate, small rehabilitation center treats about five persons daily.

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides citizens the right to form unions and to organize employees, and the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act allows the right to strike. Employers often ignore the constitutional provisions that provide for union rights, and claim that they have a constitutional right not to recognize a trade union. However, some employers seek a good industrial relations environment and cooperate with trade unions.

In April and May, thousands of persons, including members of leading private and public sector unions, participated in rallies and strikes calling for the Prime Minister's resignation (see Section 3). Other than these, there were no major strikes during the year.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined the International Labor Organization in 1997 and assumed all its obligations for enforcement of labor standards.

Unions have the right to affiliate with international bodies.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There are no legal obstacles to organizing unions however, no law requires employers to recognize a particular union as an exclusive bargaining agent. Some companies offer packages of benefits with terms of employment better than, or comparable to, what a union normally can obtain through negotiations. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers. Generally effective mechanisms exist for resolving complaints. The authorities may order employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination for firing workers without cause (including for participation in union activities) to reinstate the workers or give them severance pay.

According to press reports in August and September, seven workers at the East Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC--an agricultural manufacturing concern)--six of whom were executive members of a newly formed, government-registered ECGC Workers Union--were fired for "undisclosed reasons" following a 2-day sick-out. Shortly thereafter, Labor Minister Jerry Scott intervened in an attempt to resolve the matter, but the ECGC board refused to reinstate the workers. Instead, they provided fired workers with a severance package that included a statement that these workers had conspired to close down the company.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Government prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known to occur. The Government does not prohibit specifically forced or bonded labor by children, but there were no reports that it occurred.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum working age at 16 years of age, although a worker must be 18 years of age to receive a national insurance card. The labor inspection office of the Ministry of Labor monitors and enforces this provision, and employers generally respect it in practice. The age of leaving school at the primary level is 15 years when these pupils leave school, they usually are absorbed into the labor market disguised as apprentices. There is no known child labor except for children working on family-owned banana plantations, particularly during harvest time, or in family-owned cottage industries. The Government does not prohibit specifically forced or bonded labor by children, but there were no reports that it occurred (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law sets minimum wages, which were last promulgated in 1989. They vary by sector and type of work and are specified for several skilled categories, including attendants, packers, cleaners, porters, watchmen, and clerks. In agriculture the wage for workers provided shelter is .82 (EC$2.25) per hour skilled industrial workers earn $7.36 (EC$20) per day, and unskilled workers earn $3.68 (EC$10) per day. In many sectors the minimum wage is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, but most workers earn more than the minimum. The Wages Council, according to law, should meet every 2 years to review the minimum wage, but it has not met since 1989.

There is no legislation concerning the length of the workweek however, the general practice is to work 40 hours in 5 days. The law provides workers a minimum annual vacation of 2 weeks.

According to the Ministry of Labor, legislation concerning occupational safety and health is outdated. The most recent legislation, the Factories Act of 1955, has some regulations concerning only factories, but enforcement of these regulations is ineffective. Workers enjoy a reasonably safe working environment however, the trade unions have dealt with some violations relating to safety gear, long overtime hours, and the safety of machinery. There were some reports of significant visual deficiency by visual display unit workers, and some reports of hearing impairment by power station and stone crushing employees. It was not clear under present legislation whether workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment.

There are no laws specifically addressing trafficking in persons. There were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, within, or through the country.


Report: St. Vincent’s Devastating Eruption May Cut Nation’s Economy In Half

The United Nations launched an appeal on April 20, 2021 for donations of more than $29 million to . [+] help Saint. Vincent and the Grenadines following several devastating volcanic eruptions that have turned the landscape of the Caribbean nation "apocalyptic." (Photo by Kingsley Roberts / AFP) (Photo by KINGSLEY ROBERTS/AFP via Getty Images)

The volcanic eruption of La Soufrière on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent has not robbed anyone of their lives, despite its explosive nature and its propensity toward sending hot avalanches of superheated noxious gases and debris down its slopes. But even if the eruption ends and no deaths are ultimately recorded, it’s abundantly clear that a profound amount of harm has already been done.

Its residents have been near-continuously showered with ash since the blasts began on April 9. According to a report by Bloomberg, that ashfall may cost the archipelagic country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines half of its entire gross domestic product.

Thanks to the grim sight of the sun disappearing behind veils of darkness, the volcanic snow has caused plenty of psychological distress. But it’s also triggered roof collapses, power outages and widespread water pollution. It’s been estimated that it has caused $150 million of infrastructural damage.

Another $150 million of damage comes from agricultural failure. Many of the crop fields around the volcano’s flanks have been entirely destroyed, with 80 percent of their root crops, 90 percent of their tree crops and 100 percent of their vegetable crops having been smothered beyond rescue.

A farmer wears masks to protect himself from ashes coming from La Soufriere volcano at Rose Hall in . [+] Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on April 21, 2021. (Photo by Kingsley Roberts / AFP) (Photo by KINGSLEY ROBERTS/AFP via Getty Images)

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An additional $30 million will be needed to remove all that ash when the eruption ends, and $15 million will be needed each month to feed and shelter the thousands of people who fled the eruption. The country was already suffering acute economic pain as a result of the pandemic a violent eruption taking place at the same time only serves to exacerbate matters.

As of today, the eruption appears to be quietening down a little after several weeks of major explosive activity. If it stays that way—a big if, as it’s entirely possible that explosions will resume at any moment— it will certainly be a welcome moment for the island’s 110,000 residents.

Thanks to tell-tale seismic grumblings, ground deformation and gas venting at the summit, scientists were able to warn the government on April 8 (a day before the explosions began) with concrete confidence than something wicked was on its way: specifically, a gas-rich batch of magma capable of turning what had been a prolonged, effusive, lava dome-forming eruption into a series of explosions. About 20,000 people, those living in the shadow of the volcano in the island’s north, began evacuating to the island’s south or by boat to nearby islands.

That evacuation no doubt saved lives. But the prolific production of ash has proven to be a persistent problem—for the entire island, but particularly in the north, where most of the ash has been settling.

“The damage on the north of the island is bordering on apocalyptic,” the country’s Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves said in a telephone interview. “The country is not recognisable as a Caribbean island in the north of the country.”

Countries both nearby and those further afield, as well as members of the Caribbean diaspora scattered across the globe, have been offering financial and logistical support, and a United Nations fundraising drive has recently started. But the overlapping economic wounds caused by the coronavirus and the La Soufrière eruption are deep, and it will likely take considerable time for them to begin to heal.

People standing on the roof of a house, remove ashes coming from La Soufriere volcano at Rose Hall . [+] in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on April 21, 2021. (Photo by Kingsley Roberts / AFP) (Photo by KINGSLEY ROBERTS/AFP via Getty Images)


The 1902–3 eruptions of the Soufrière, St Vincent: Impacts, relief and response

Retrospective analysis of the contemporary colonial and scientific records of a major explosive eruption of the Soufrière of St Vincent from 1902 to 1903 reveals how this significant and prolonged event presented challenges to the authorities charged with managing the crisis and its aftermath. In a small-island setting vulnerable to multiple hazards, the spatial footprint of the volcanic hazard and the nature and intensity of the hazard effects were rather different to those of other recurrent hazards such as hurricanes. The eruption affected the same parts of the island that had been impacted by prior explosive eruptions in 1718 and 1812, and hurricanes in 1831 and 1898, with consequences that disproportionately affected those working in and around the large sugar estates. The official response to the eruption, both in terms of short-term relief and remediation, was significantly accelerated by the existence of mature plans for land-reform following the collapse of the sugar market, and ongoing plans for rebuilding in the aftermath of the destructive hurricane of 1898. The picture that this analysis helps to illuminate provides insights both into the nature of the particular eruptive episode, and the human and social response to that episode. This not only informs discussion and planning for future explosive eruptions on St Vincent, but provides important empirical evidence for building effective responses in similar multihazard contexts.


The La Soufrière volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted early Friday, sending nearly a six-mile high plume of ash into the air hours after residents were ordered to evacuate the area, officials said.

Photos and videos captured clouds of smoke coming out of the volcano about 8:40 a.m. as a thin layer of gray ash appeared to cover the surrounding area.

Emergency management officials said the ash column was about 32,000 feet high and that the ash was headed east into the Atlantic Ocean.

However, heavy ashfall also was reported in communities around the volcano, said Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.

“More explosions could occur,” she said, adding that it was impossible to predict whether any potential upcoming explosions would be bigger or smaller than the first one.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or injuries.

The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people. La Soufrière, standing at 3,864 feet above sea level, also erupted in 1718, 1812 and 1814, according to the Seismic Research Centre.

At 8:41 am this morning 9-4-21 an explosive eruption began at La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent. This is a culmination of the seismic activity that began on April 8. The eruption is ongoing and more information will be shared as things progress. #lasoufriere #uwi #volcano #svg pic.twitter.com/C2zWrjPcpP

— UWISeismic Research (@uwiseismic) April 9, 2021

The latest one followed mandatory evacuation orders issued Thursday for people who live near the volcano. Officials planned to place them aboard cruise ships, send them to nearby islands or take them to shelters elsewhere in St. Vincent that are outside the danger zone.

Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated, Joseph said.

"Evacuation of people in the red and orange zones to safe areas continues in earnest," St. Vincent's National Emergency Management Organization said in a tweet. "Heavy ash fall has halted the process somewhat since visibility is extremely poor. NEMO continues to respond to the many challenges of the process #lasoufrierevolcanoeruption2021"

Evacuation of people in the red and orange zones to safe areas continues in earnest. Heavy ash fall has halted the process somewhat since visibility is extremely poor. NEMO continues to respond to the many challenges of the process #lasoufrierevolcanoeruption2021 #

— NEMO SVG (@NEMOSVG) April 9, 2021

The pandemic could also hamper evacuation efforts.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a press conference that people have to be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in another island. He said two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are expected to arrive by Friday and a third one in the coming days, as well as two Carnival cruise ships by Friday. Islands that have said they would accept evacuees include St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua.

“Not everything is going to go perfect, but if we all cooperate . we will come through this stronger than ever,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that he was talking to Caribbean governments to accept people’s ID cards if they don’t have a passport.

“This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,” he said.

Gonsalves added that he highly recommends those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.

Emergency management teams have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged shelters, according to Joseph.

“They know who doesn’t have transportation because all of this has been canvassed before,” she said, adding that those who board the cruise ship would not be taken elsewhere but would remain there for an unspecified period of time.

By late Thursday evening, shelters were filling up as a string of car lights making their way to safer ground twinkled through the darkened mountains.

John Renton, a school principal who was in charge of one shelter, said in a phone interview that they had plenty of masks and other personal protective equipment but needed more cots. While talking, he was interrupted by a phone call from a government official asking about the state of things. “We’re over capacity,” he responded, noting that the shelter could hold 75 people and was already filled up.

Government officials tweeted that the dome of the volcano located on the island’s northern region could be seen glowing by nightfall. The alert issued Wednesday follows days of seismic activity around La Soufriere.

Gonsalves urged people to remain calm and orderly.

“I don’t want you panicked,” he said. “That is the worst thing to do.”

Photos from the explosive eruption that occurred at La Soufriere, SVG at 8:41 am local time. Ash has begun to fall on the flanks of the volcano and surrounding communities including Chateaubelair and Petite Bordel. Some has gone offshore and has even reached the Observatory. #svg pic.twitter.com/geoG4nOyrK

— UWISeismic Research (@uwiseismic) April 9, 2021

Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. on Thursday that indicated “magma was on the move close to the surface,” Joseph said.

“Things are escalating pretty quickly,” she said of the volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an exact forecast of what might happen in the next hours or days.

A team from the seismic center arrived in St. Vincent in late December after the volcano had an effusive eruption. They have been analyzing the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes to its crater lake, seismic activity and gas emissions, among other things.

The eastern Caribbean is home to other active volcanoes. Seventeen of the region’s 19 live volcanoes are located on 11 islands, with the remaining two underwater near the island of Grenada, including one called Kick ’Em Jenny that has been active in recent years.

The region’s most active volcano in recent years has been Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, which has erupted continuously since 1995, destroying the capital of Plymouth and killing at least 19 people in 1997.


St. Vincent Government - History

The Head of State

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as the nominal head of state represented in the country by the Governor-General, Sir Fredrick Ballantyne (since 2 September 2002).

In the table below, we provide a listing of the Administrators, Governors, and Governors-General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Queen's Representative Title Term of Office Notes
Start of Term End of Term
COUTTS, Walter F. Administrator 1948 1955 First Administrator
GILES, Alexander Falconer Administrator 1955 1961 Second Administrator
GRAHAM, Samuel Horatio Administrator 1961 1966 Third Administrator
CHAPMAN, John Lionel Administrator 1966 1967 Fourth Administrator
GEORGE, Hywel Administrator 1967 27-Oct-1969 Fifth Administrator
Governor 27-Oct-1969 27-Oct-1970 First Governor
JOHN, Rupert Godfrey Governor 27-Oct-1970 1976 Second Governor
First native-born Governor
GUN-MUNRO, Sir Sydney Douglas Governor 1976 27-Oct-1979 Third Governor
Governor-General 27-Oct-1979 28-Feb-1985 First Governor-General
EUSTACE, Sir Joseph Lambert Governor-General 28-Feb-1985 29-Feb-1988 Second Governor-General
WILLIAMS, Henry Harvey Governor-General (Acting) 29-Feb-1988 20-Sep-1989 Acting appointment
JACK, Sir David Emmanuel Governor-General 20-Sep-1989 1-Jun-1996 Third Governor-General
ANTROBUS, Sir Charles Governor-General 1-Jun-1996 3-Jun-2002 Fourth Governor-General
Died in office
DACON, Monica Governor-General (Acting) 3-Jun-2002 2-Sep-2002 Acting appointment
BALLANTYNE, Sir Frederick Governor-General 2-Sep-2002 present Fifth Governor General

The Prime Minister and Head of Government

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General as the Representative who appears likely to command the support of the majority of the Representatives in the House of Assembly. With the granting of the new Constitution in 1960, the Head of Government was referred to as the Chief Minister. After attaining Associated Statehood in 1969, the Head of Government was referred to as the Premier. Upon attainment of the independence in 1979, the Head of Government was referred to as the Prime Minister. There have been four Prime Ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines since independence. The fourth and current Prime Minister is Dr. the Hon Ralph E. Gonsalves (since 29 March 2001).

In the table below, we provide a list of all Head of Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Head of Government Title Term of Office Political Party
Start of Term End of Term
JOSHUA, Ebenezer Theodore Chief Minister 9-Jan-1960 19-May-1967 People's Political Party
CATO, Robert Milton Chief Minister 19-May-1967 27-Oct-1969 St. Vincent Labour Party
CATO, Robert Milton Premier 27-Oct-1969 14-Apr-1972 St. Vincent Labour Party
MITCHELL, James Fitz-Allen Premier 14-Apr-1972 8-Dec-1974 New Democratic Party
CATO, Robert Milton Premier 8-Dec-1974 27-Oct-1979 St. Vincent Labour Party
CATO, Robert Milton Prime Minister 27-Oct-1979 30-Jul-1984 St. Vincent Labour Party
MITCHELL, James Fitz-Allen Prime Minister 30-Jul-1984 27-Oct-2000 New Democratic Party
EUSTACE, Arnhim Ulric Prime Minister 27-Oct-2000 29-Mar-2001 New Democratic Party
GONSALVES, Ralph Everard Prime Minister 29-Mar-2001 Present Unity Labour Party

The Cabinet

The Cabinet is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Assembly, with no more than two members being drawn from the appointed senators. The main function of the Cabinet is to advice the Governor-General and is collectively responsible to the House for any advice given to the Governor-General by or under the general authority of the Cabinet and for all things done by or under the authority of any Minister in the execution of his office.

The parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a unicameral body, the House of Assembly, with 21 seats consisting of 15 elected members and 6 appointed senators. There are fifteen constituencies and these fifteen seats in the House of Assembly are contested in General Elections: members are elected by popular vote on a &ldquofirst-past-the-post&rdquo basis. The Leader of the party securing the majority of seats in Parliament is named Prime Minister by the Governor-General. The Leader of the party winning the next largest bloc of seats is named Leader of the Opposition. The Governor-General appoints senators, four on the advice of the Prime Minister and two on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. The parliamentary term of office is five years from the date of the first sitting of the House after dissolution, although the Prime Minister may call elections at any time.

There is no local government in St. Vincent, and all six parishes are administered by the central government.

As in other English-speaking Caribbean countries, the judiciary in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is rooted in British common law. There are 11 courts in three magisterial districts. The Lower Judiciary includes the Magistracy and the Family Court, with the High Judiciary comprising of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Appeals can be made through the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. The court of last resort is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.


Watch the video: road trip to owia saltpond st Vincent2016 (January 2022).