LOOK BACK TO 1979

On This Day in History: St. Vincent and the Grenadines Independence

 

On this day in history, October 27, 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines claimed their independence.

From 1763 until its independence in 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a legislative council was created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage was granted in 1951.

During the period of its control of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate the island with the other Windward Islands. This would have simplified Britain’s control over the region through a unified administration. In the 1960s, several regional islands under British control, including Saint Vincent, also made an independent attempt to unify. The unification was to be called the West Indies Federation and was driven by a desire to gain freedom from British rule. The attempt collapsed in 1962.

Saint Vincent was granted “associate statehood” status by Britain on 27 October 1969. This gave Saint Vincent complete control over its internal affairs but was short of full independence. On 27 October 1979, following a referendum under Milton Cato, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. Independence came on the 10th anniversary of Saint Vincent’s associate statehood status.

In April 1979, La Soufrière erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands were evacuated, and again there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes damaged many banana and coconut plantations. Hurricane seasons were also very active in 1998 and 1999, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.

On 25 November 2009, voters were asked to approve a new constitution in a referendum. The new constitution proposed to make the country a republic and replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a non-executive President. A two-thirds majority was required, and it was defeated by 29,019 votes to 22,493.

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