"If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started."
A short historical look at the Relationship between St. Kitts & Nevis
Written by Roy Herbert
Most reasonable observers would describe the present
relationship between St Kitts and Nevis as
acrimonious. This posting attempts to delve into the
history of this discord.
In 1952 General Elections were held in St Kitts, Nevis
and Anguilla. There were a total of eight seats
contested. Five in St Kitts, two in Nevis and one in
Anguilla. The St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party led by
Robert Bradshaw won all eight seats.
By the time elections rolled around again in 1957
there were signs of trouble in paradise. The Labour
Party once again won all five seats in St Kitts.
But the party was rejected in both Nevis and Anguilla
who voted for independents. The two independents in
Nevis were Eugene Walwyn, a young lawyer and Wilmoth
Nichols, a young teacher.
It is said Mr Bradshaw upon hearing he had been
rebuffed by Nevis stated he would give Nevisians,
"Bones in their rice and pepper in their soup".
The next General Elections were held in 1961. Nevis
now had its first political party the United National
Movement led by Eugene Walwyn.
Shortly before the elections, the Labour government in
St Kitts, imposed an additional 5 cents, to the
existing one cent, tax on exported cotton.
At the time cotton was the main export on the island
of Nevis. Both Mr Walwyn and Nichols stormed out of
the House Of Assembly in protest as Nevisians found a
500% increase on cotton export taxes unacceptable.
The secessionist movement in Nevis was born and Mr
Walwyn led Nevisians on a protest march through the
streets of Charlestown in Nevis.
They also boarded a boat and marched through the
streets of Basseterre in St Kitts. The march in St
Kitts occurrred around Easter time and it is said Mr
Bradshaw disdainfully remarked, "The Masqueraders have
come at Easter".
Mr Walwyn was able to galvanize Nevisians and his
United National Movement won both seats in Nevis in
the 1961 General Elections.
Nevisians entrusted the responsility of secession from
St Kitts to him. Indeed, he travelled to Britain where
his request for Nevis secession was denied by the
The next elections were held in 1966 and it was
becoming quite obvious that there was no love lost
between Mr Bradshaw and his Labour Party in St Kitts
and the people of Nevis.
Rumours had started to circulate that Mr Walwyn was
becoming too cosy with Labour in St Kitts. As a result
he barely held on to his seat in Charlestown by a mere
But his UNM party did not fare so well in rural Nevis
and lost that seat to a new St Kitts-based party
called the People's Action Movement or PAM.
After the elections, again won by Labour, Mr Walwyn
accepted the post of Attorney General. Nevisians
considered this an act of treason.
Consequently, neither Mr Walwyn nor his United
National Party ever won a seat again in General
Elections in Nevis.
Meanwhile, the secessionist movement in Nevis was
dead. But it would be resurrected.
On August 1, 1970 the ferry which operated between St
Kitts and Nevis sank. Chrestena, built to accomodate
155 passengers, had over 300. Two hundred passengers,
mainly Nevisians, drowned that day.
The Labour government in St Kitts who owned and
operated the ferry came in for some harsh criticism in
Nevis. There was so much anti-Labour sentiment that in
October, 1970 a new political party was formed.
It was called the Nevis Reformation Party or NRP and
its goal was secession for Nevis. An isssue that had
lay dormant for years was now active again.
NRP didn't have to wait long to do battle as General
Elections were held the following year in 1971. They
had immediate success when Ivor Stevens crushed Eugene
Walwyn in Charlestown. Meanwhile, the other seat in
Nevis was maintained by PAM and once again Labour won
all the seats in St Kitts.
In the elections of 1975 the juggernaut that was
Labour kept steamrolling. Incredibly, they won all
seven seats in St Kitts yet again.
Labour had been in power for over thirty years, had
won six consecutive elections and showed no signs of
slowing down. PAM had no answer on how to tame this
However, as popular as Labour was in St Kitts they
were absolutely despised in Nevis. In fact, any Nevis
political who dared speak favourably of Labour would
in essence be committing political suicide. NRP never
made that mistake and won both seats in Nevis.
It was obvious the chasm between St Kitts and Nevis
was getting wider and wider. Realizing this, in August
1977, NRP called a referendum on secession. The
results were as follows: 4,193 Nevisians voted yes, 14
voted no and there were 13 spoilt ballots.
The people of Nevis had spoken and they wanted to have
no association with St Kitts who had been pursuing
independence from Britain.
General Elections were next held in 1980 and for the
first time PAM found success in St Kitts winning three
seats. But Labour was a tough nut to crack and won
four. The NRP now firmly entrenched in Nevis again won
both seats on the island.
In a move that shocked Labour, PAM and NRP joined
forces to form the new government. Then in 1983
history was made when the PAM/NRP coalition led St
Kitts and Nevis into independence.
Some felt the PAM/NRP union heralded a new chapter in
St Kitts and Nevis relations. Gone was the hostility
between the two islands. For the first time Kittitians
and Nevisians were co-operating in running the
government. This they argued could only bode well for
Others scoffed at the notion and said this was merely
a marriage of convenience predicated on both parties
hatred of the Labour.
One thing was certain, the PAM/NRP team was very
efffective in keeping Labour out in the cold. PAM was
able to defeat Labour in St Kitts for the first time
in 1984. However, in 1989 PAM and Labour each won four
seats and NRP joined with PAM once again to thwart
It was clear as long as PAM was able to win outright,
or join with NRP to form the government there was a
level of stability in St Kitts and Nevis. In other
words, there were no loud calls for secession in
Federal Elections were held in St Kitts and Nevis in
1993. PAM and Labour each won four seats in St Kitts
while CCM won two in Nevis and NRP one.
The CCM party in Nevis was in a good position because
they controlled the balance of power. Labour, who had
been out in the cold for thirteen years, approached
CCM to form a coalition government. But CCM refused.
The move was applauded by many in Nevis. They felt how
dare the repressive, mean spirited and anti-Nevis
Labour Party come running to Nevis in a desperate
attempt to regain power. They also reminded everyone
what had happened to the last Nevis party that had
joined with Labour.
However, many in St Kitts were of a different view.
They felt CCM was holding a grudge against Labour
unfairly. This was the "new" Labour, many of whom
hadn't been born, or were in diapers, when the "old"
Labour ruled the roost. They had tried to reach out to
Nevis in friendship and put all the bitterness of the
past behind but were rebuked by CCM.
In the end, PAM and NRP came together and formed what
amounted to a lame duck minority government. This
caused confusion, chaos and then violence erupted in
the streets of Basseterre. A State of Emergency had to
be called to restore order.
To regain some semblance of stability new elections
were called in 1995. This time Labour would not be
denied and swept to power taking seven of the eight
seats in St Kitts.
Almost immediately there were rumblings of secession
in Nevis again. Labour and Nevis were like oil and
water. The two just didn't mix. It did not take long
for the fireworks to start.
Labour angered Nevisians by initiating legislation
that would give the federal government control of the
off shore banking sector which was based in Nevis. The
NIA fought fiercely against this. Also an office was
opened in Nevis from which the federal government
sought to conduct Nevis Affairs. Within days of its
opening the office was vandalized.
In 1996, just one year after Labour took office, local
elections were held in Nevis. CCM won on a secession
platform. Then two years later in 1998 a referendum on
secession was put to the people of Nevis. Leading up
to the vote the differences in opinion between
Nevisians and Kittitians were obvious.
Secessionists in Nevis referred to themselves as
freedom fighters. Many Kittitians referred to them as
renegades. The Premier of Nevis stated secession was
the only answer. The Prime Minister in St Kitts stated
constitutional reform was the answer.
A majority of Nevisians were in favour of secession. A
majority of Kittitians were against secession. While
the Nevis Island Administration campaigned for
secession the Federal government in St Kitts
campaigned against secession.
On August 10, 1998 a referendum was put to the people
of Nevis. Sixty-two percent voted yes while
thirty-eight percent voted no. Sixty-seven percent was
required so the referendum was defeated.
Since 1998 there have been two elections in the
Federation of St Kitts and Nevis. In 2000 Federal
Elections, Labour retained power by defeating PAM
eight seats to none. A year later in 2001, CCM
retained power in Nevis Local Elections by defeating
NRP four seats to one.
The two governments do not see eye to eye and each
commands the support of its respective electorate.
Therefore, neither will feel compelled to budge. So
the federal Labour government can be expected to
continue to call for constitutional reform. Meanwhile,
the local Nevis CCM government can be expected to
continue to call for secession.
Only time will tell which one of the two solutions
will be employed to restore peace between the two
Nevis 1st Premier - Simeon Daniel
Excerpt taken from the 2003 White paper (The Way Forward)
Written by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA)
The aspiration of the people of Nevis to be free to
govern their own affairs has a long and deep-rooted history that dates
back to the year 1882. Prior to that
date, the people of Nevis were free to
determine the policies and programmes that governed the island albeit
within the framework of a colony of England.
freedom enjoyed prior to 1882 ended with an unwilling union with St.
Kitts that was enforced by virtue of our colonial relationship. Almost immediately, the people of Nevis
began to advocate for a separation from St. Kitts.
The large majority of the
instances in which we pressed our case for a return to self-governance
are well documented, some of which are detailed below to illustrate the
unwavering aspiration of the people of Nevis to
be masters of their own destiny:
1. In 1921, the people
of Nevis wrote to the Secretary of State for
the colonies in London
requesting that His Majesty’s Government sanction the separation of Nevis
from St. Kitts.
2. In 1961,
approximately four thousand persons assembled at Grove
in a demonstration sponsored by the United National Movement urging
that Nevis secede from the union with St. Kitts. At that demonstration, a resolution was
moved by the people for Nevis to be separated
from St. Kitts.
3. In 1975, the
manifesto of the Nevis Reformation Party was in the following terms:
“The Nevis Reformation Party will strive at all costs to gain secession
for Nevis from St. Kitts – a privilege enjoyed
by the island of Nevis
prior to 1882.”
4. On August 18, 1977, an
unofficial referendum for secession was organized by the Nevis
Reformation Party. Of the 4,220
persons who voted, 4,193 voted ‘yes’ for secession, 14 persons voted
‘no’ and there were 13 spoilt ballots.
5. Approximately 21
years after the unofficial referendum of August 1998, the people of
Nevis once again voted in a referendum, this time in accordance with
Section 113 of the St. Christopher and Nevis Constitutional Order 1983. Of the 3,935 persons who voted, 2,427 voted
‘yes’, 1,498 voted ‘no’ and there were 11 rejected ballots.
Approximately 62% of the electorate voted in favour of the separation
of Nevis from the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
to Independence (1983)
the general elections of 1980, the Peoples Action Movement and the
Nevis Reformation Party formed a coalition government for St.
Kitts and Nevis. Not
long after, the government initiated discussions to move St.
Kitts and Nevis into political
new government presented a White Paper and proposals for a new
Constitution. Included amongst these
proposals were provisions for:
the creation of a Nevis Island
Assembly, with increased powers to make
laws with exclusive control over 21 specified matters which are
enshrined in Schedule 5 of the Constitution;
the creation of the Nevis Island
the right of Nevis
to secede from the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis
as enshrined in Section 113 of the Constitution.
These provisions were undoubtedly included to
signify the right of the people of Nevis to
move our island into independence at the appropriate time.
the other hand, the Labour Party, which until 1980 represented the
dominant political force in St. Kitts, outlined its own vision for an
independent St. Kitts and an independent Nevis. The Labour Party’s philosophy was expressed in
its Green Paper of 1982 and its manifestos of 1993, 1995 and 2000. The Green Paper in particular, stated in part that:
“nothing short of full and
complete responsibility for their own affairs will satisfy the people
“the Labour Party interprets the
results of the last General Elections in Nevis
as an expression by the vast majority of the people of Nevis
of a firm desire for the secession of Nevis
from St. Kitts”
“each island should have its own
separate constitution, legislature, government and political system”
“the people of each island should
strengthen the bonds of friendship and family between the islands”
“there should be a Treaty of
Friendship between the islands which should provide for the free
movement of people, trade and access to records with a joint committee
to review relations between the islands on an ongoing basis”.
19, 1983, the islands of St.
Kitts and Nevis became an independent
nation known as the “Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis”.
The Federation is governed by a constitution that is unique.
The new constitution contained a provision for the
separation of Nevis from the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis -
Section 113, which gives Nevis the
right, whenever it desires, to cease to be federated with the island of
St. Kitts on a successful referendum held on Nevis only!
It was the expressed intention of the Nevis Reformation Party to allow
the people of Nevis a sufficient period within which to enjoy some semblance of
self-governance, under the new constitution, before proceeding to full