The West Indies Federation
Established in 1958, the West Indies
Federation comprised the ten territories of: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados,
Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, the then St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla,
Saint Lucia, St Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. The Federation was
established by the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 with the
aim of establishing a political union among its members.
The Federal government was headed by an Executive Governor-General, appointed by Britain and
The Governor General was Lord Hailes
of Britain and the Prime Minister was Sir Grantley Adams, (Premier
of Barbados). The Federal capital was located in Trinidad and Tobago.
- A Prime Minister, elected from among and by the members of the
House of Representatives
- A Cabinet, comprising the Prime Minister and ten
other elected Members chosen by him
- A Council of State presided over by the Governor General. The Council
included the Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet as well as three senators
and three civil servants. The senators and civil servants were chosen by the
Governor General. (The Council of State was the principal policy (decision)-making
body at the start of the Federation. In 1960 Britain agreed to abolish this Council
and allow the Cabinet to take over the powers of the Council)
- A forty five-member House of Representatives, with Members elected from
among the Territories; and
- A nineteen-member Senate, nominated by the Governor General following
consultation with the Prime Minister
During its brief existence (1958-62),
a number of fundamental issues were debated with a view to strengthening
the Federation. Among these were direct taxation by the Federal Government,
Central planning for development, Establishment of a Regional Customs
Union and Reform of the Federal Constitution. The issue of direct taxation
was particularly controversial. The Federation was not permitted to
levy (impose) income tax for at least the first five years of its life.
Added to this, were the greatly differing positions among the Territories
with respect to how other federal taxes should be levied.
In addition, the Federation began
quickly to seek to establish federal institutions and supporting structures.
It created a federal civil service; established the West Indies Shipping
Service (in 1962) to operate two multipurpose ships - the Federal Maple
and the Federal Palm - donated to it by the Government of Canada. It
had embarked also on negotiations to acquire the subsidiary of the
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), namely British West Indies
Cooperation in tertiary education
was consolidated and expanded during this period. The then University
College of the West Indies (UCWI), which was established in 1948 with
one campus at Mona, Jamaica, opened its second campus at St Augustine,
Trinidad and Tobago, in 1960.
The Federation however faced several
problems. These included: the governance and administrative structures
imposed by the British; disagreements among the territories over policies,
particularly with respect to taxation and central planning; an unwillingness
on the part of most Territorial Governments to give up power to the
Federal Government; and the location of the Federal Capital.
The decisive development, which led to the
demise of the Federation was the withdrawal of Jamaica - the largest
member - after conducting a national referendum in 1961 on its continued
participation in the arrangement. The results of the referendum showed
majority support in favour of withdrawing from the Federation. This
was to lead to a movement within Jamaica for national independence
from Britain. It also led to the now famous statement of Dr Eric
Williams, the then Premier of Trinidad and Tobago that, one from
ten leaves nought, referring to the withdrawal of Jamaica and signifying
and justifying his decision to withdraw Trinidad and Tobago from
the Federal arrangement a short while later.
The Federation collapsed
in January 1962.