Known by the Caribs as Hairoun ("Land of the Blessed"), St. Vincent was first inhabited by the Ciboney, a grouping of Meso-Indians. The economy of these hunter-gatherers depended heavily on marine resources as well as the land. They used basic tools and weapons and built rock shelters and semi permanent villages.
Another indigenous group, the Arawak, who entered the West Indies from Venezuela and moved gradually north and west along the islands, gradually displaced the Ciboney. They practiced a highly productive form of agriculture and had a more advanced social structure and material culture. The peace-loving Arawak fished and collectively formed plots of land. The bountiful harvests and abundant fish, combined with the compact and stable island population, permitted the development of an elaborate political and social structure.
The Caribs, arriving in St. Vincent perhaps no more than 100 years before the Europeans, conquered the Arawak and began a new chapter in Vincentian history. More warlike than their predecessors, the Caribs were extremely efficient at keeping unwanted settlers from their shores. While it is doubtful that Christopher Columbus ever set foot on the island, he may have sighted it on his third voyage to the New World (1498-1500). Heavy Carib resistance prevented St. Vincent from being colonized long after most other Caribbean islands had well-established European settlements. In 1627 Charles I of England granted the island to Lord Carlisle and then, in 1672 Charles II granted it to Lord Willoughby. While the British, French and Spanish disputed possession, the Caribs resisted all these claims.
The first permanent settlers arrived on the shores of St. Vincent in 1635. These new inhabitants were African slaves who survived the sinking of the Dutch slave ship on which they were being transported. The escaped Africans merged with the Caribs and gradually adopted their language. Referred to as Black Caribs," to differentiate them from the original. "Yellow Caribs," the progeny of this group became the foundation of the Garifuna (which means"cassava eating people") who today populate Belize and Honduras. After several skirmishes both groups had agreed in 1700 to subdivide the island between themselves, the Yellow Caribsoccupying the Leeward and the Black Caribs the Windward.
The British, who claimed Carib land by royal grants, were more despised by the Caribs than the French who were permitted to set up settlements in the early 1700’s. The 1748 TreatyofAix -la-Chapelle officially ended the War of the Austrian Succession. This treaty included the proviso that St. Vincent remain officially "neutral." The 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded St. Vincent to the British. During the period 1772-1773 (referred to as the First Carib War), the Caribs engaged in guerrilla warfare and destroyed plantations by setting them on fire. With Carib aid, the French forcibly seized the island in1779, but restored itto Britain in 1783, underthe Treaty of Versailles
In 1795, with the country under the governership of James Seton, the Caribs began the two years of attack known as the Second Carib War. With the aid of French rebels from Martinique, the Caribs plotted the removal of the British. Chatoyer and DuValle (the two main Carib chiefs) planned that Chatoyer would lead the rebellion on the Leeward side and DuValle would lead on the Windward side. News came to Kingstown on March 8th thatwar had broken out.
Chatoyer directed his fury at the settlers themselves rather than destroying their property. His belief was that the land would be extremely useful to the Caribs after the removal of the British. He worked his way along the Leeward, joined in battle by the French at Chateaublair, to unite with DuValle at Dorsetshire Hill. The amalgamated forces then set their sights on Kingstown.
A battalion of British soldiers from recently arrived warships marched towards Dorsetshire Hill on March 14th. On this night, Chatoyerwas killed by Major Alexander Leith. Considered a hero to the nation, a monument in Chatoyer’s honour is placed at Dorsetshire Hill. Battles raged throughout St. Vincent overthe nextyear with both sides bearing heavy losses. The final battle took place at Vigie on June 10th, 1796. After a night of arduous fighting the Caribs approach the British with a truce flag.
Submission terms were negotiatead and during the next four months over 5,000 Caribs surrendered. The Caribs were exiled to the neighbouring island of Balliceaux and in February 1797, the defeated Caribs were loaded onto a convoy of eight vessels and transported to the coast of Honduras. The few remaining Caribs scattered to the north of the island nearSandy Bay where their descendants can still be found.
The plantation economy, based on slave labour, flourished and St. Vincent produced sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa. In 1812 La Soufiiére erupted and devastated much of the island. After the emancipation of slaves in 1833, indentured labour from Portugal and the East Indies was brought in to rectify the Labour shortage. St. Vincent became a part of the British colony of the Windward Islands in 1871. In the latter half of the 19th century sugar slumped and a depression lasted until the end of the century. In 1902 La Soufrière erupted again, devastating the northern half of the island and killing 2,000 people.
In 1925 a Legislative Council was inaugurated but it was not until 1951 that universal adult suffrage was introduced. St.Vincent and the Grenadines belonged to the Windward Islands Federation until 1959 and the West Indies Federation between 1958 and 1962. Britain granted internal self-government to the isLand in 1969 and as a British Assodated State, Vincentians were responsible for their internal affairs while Great Britain handled foreign affairs and defense.
In 1972 james Mitchell (an independent) formed a coalition government with the People’s Political Party (PPP) which collapsed in 1974. Followingthe 1974 elections MiLton Cato formed a coalition government with the PPP and the St. Vincent LabourParty (SVLP). On Oct. 27, 1979 St. Vincent gained full independence within the Commonwealth from Britain. The New Democratic Party (NDP) formed a majority government with Mitchell as Prime Minister in1984.
Politically, the island remained under the leadership of Sir james Mitchell until March 2001 when the Unity Labour Party (ULP), led by Dr. RalpGonsalves, won 12 of the 15 parliamentary seats. St. Vincent and the Grenadines continue to be a stable democratic society welcoming visitors from around the world.
The population is estimated to be 109,022 with about a quarter of the people living in the capital, Kingstown and its suburbs and 8% on the Grenadines. The ethnic mix consists of 66% percent of African descent, 19% of mixed race, 2% Amerindian/black, 6% East Indian and 4% European. The labour force is estimated at 41,000. Recent data indicates an unemployment rate of 22%.
Agriculture, dominated by banana production, is the most important sector of this economy. The services sector, based mostly on a growing tourist industry, is also important. Recent growth has been stimulated by strong activity in the construction sector and an improvement in tourism. The continuing dependence on a single crop represents the biggest obstacle to the islands' development; tropical storms wiped out substantial portions of crops in both 1994 and 1995. There is a small manufacturing sector and a small offshore financial sector. The GDP is growing at an annual rate of approximately 4%.
The currency of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). Notes are issued in denominations of $100, 50, 20,10, 5 and 2. Coins are issued in denominations of $1 and 25,10, 5 and 1 cents. The exchange rate is tied to the US dollar at a rate of $2.68.
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.
Members of the Rastafarian community have complained that law enforcement officials unfairly targeted them. However, it was not clear whether such complaints reflect discrimination on the basis of religious belief by authorities or simply enforcement of laws against marijuana, which is used as part of Rastafarian religious practice.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is high compared to developed countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). The most recent and only data available for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are those submitted to INTERPOL for year 1995. According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1995 was 10.00 per 100,000 population for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 1.02 for Japan, and 8.22 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1995 was 111.4 for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, compared with 1.19 for Japan and 37.09 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1995 was 24.55 for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 1.81 for Japan, and 220.95 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1995 was 1,322.73 for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 13.92 for Japan, and 418.33 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1995 was 1,680.91 for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 186.82 for Japan, and 987.61 for USA. No data was given for larceny or vehicle theft. The rate for all index offenses combined was 3149.61 for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. Data for rape are for 1994 and from United Nations data.
The Royal St. Vincent Police, the only security force in the country, includes a coast guard and a small Special Services Unit with some paramilitary training. The security force was controlled by and responsive to the Government, but some members of the security force committed human rights abuses.
The Royal St. Vincent Police has an overall force of 691, including 57 in the fire service, 74 in the coast guard, and 20 cadets. There is also a small Special Services Unit with some paramilitary training, which occasionally was accused of using excessive force. The Government established an Oversight Committee to monitor police activity and hear public complaints about police misconduct. The committee reported to the Minister of National Security and to the Minister of Legal Affairs and actively participated in investigations during the year. In September, the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA) conducted a seminar on human rights for police cadets.
The Constitution provides that persons detained for criminal offenses must receive a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an impartial court, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice; however, complaints continued regarding police practices in bringing cases to court.
Although there were only three official magistrates, the registrar of the High Court and the presiding judge of the family court effectively served as magistrates when called upon to do so. Some defense attorneys claimed that there were 6- to 12-month delays in preliminary inquiries for serious crimes.
The Constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision 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 were three official magistrates, including the Chief Magistrate, a senior magistrate, and one other magistrate. In addition, the Registrar of the High Court had the authority to sit as a magistrate if called upon. The Chief Magistrate was also president of the family court.
The Constitution provides for public trials. The court appointed attorneys for indigent defendants only when the defendant was charged with a capital offense. Defendants were presumed innocent until proven guilty and could appeal verdicts and penalties. The backlog of pending cases was reduced, even though the magistrate's court in Kingstown lacked a full complement of magistrates.
The amended Child Support Law allows for payments ordered by the courts, even when notice of an appeal has been filed. There was a family court in the capital city of Kingstown with one magistrate. According to the SVGHRA, because there were only a few bailiffs to service the country, summonses often were not served in time for cases scheduled to be heard in court.
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.
Prison conditions were poor. Prison buildings were antiquated and overcrowded, with Her Majesty's Prison in Kingstown holding more than 351 inmates in a building designed for 75. These conditions resulted in serious health and safety problems. Pretrial detainees and young offenders (16 to 21 years of age) were held with convicted prisoners, although the Government was building a new facility for them and hiring new prison officers at year's end.
A 2001 report on prison conditions concluded that the main prison was "a university for crime" due to endemic violence, understaffing, underpaid guards, uncontrolled weapons and drugs, an increase in HIV/AIDS, and prevalence of unhygienic conditions such as missing toilets. The report also noted that police and guards conducted sporadic, infrequent, and inefficient searches of the prison. In September, the Prison Superintendent acknowledged these problems but claimed that the drug smuggling and violence were dramatically reduced after a series of reforms, which included random searches, an order for the public to stay 100 yards away from the prison wall, and the addition of a social worker and psychologist to work with the prisoners.
The Superintendent of Prisons reportedly ended the practice of inmates seeking protection from prison gangs. He also began in-house training of guards and arranged for guards to be trained in Barbados. There were 92 guards for 348 male inmates. A rehabilitation program allowed inmates to received contracts and jobs with local entrepreneurs. A school program offered courses in carpentry, tailoring, baking, and mechanical engineering.
Inmates were allowed to speak freely with their lawyers, but a human rights lawyer asserted that there was a rule that a prison officer must stand not only within sight, but also within hearing of the inmate and his lawyer. Prison officials countered that the officer must be within sight of the inmate, and space constraints prevented the officer from standing beyond earshot.
Plans announced in 2002 to build a new $4.8 million (EC$13 million) prison in Bellisle were still in the negotiation stage.
There were 13 female inmates held in a separate section in the Fort Charlotte prison. A family court handled criminal cases for minors up to age 16. Children may be charged and convicted as criminals from the age of 16. In such cases, children then may be jailed with older criminals. Conditions were inadequate for juvenile offenders. Plans to place 40 to 50 first-time offenders in Fort Charlotte foundered because the prison system did not have the financial resources to transfer the prisoners.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remained a serious problem. The Domestic Violence/Matrimonial Proceedings Act and the more accessible Domestic Violence Summary Proceedings Act 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. As part of a human rights education program, the SVGHRA conducted numerous seminars and workshops throughout the country to familiarize citizens with their rights. During the year, women made over 1,000 reports of physical, sexual, emotional, and other domestic violence. Development banks provided funding through the Caribbean Association for Family Research and Action for a program of Domestic Violence Prevention, Training, and Intervention. Police received training on domestic abuse, emphasizing the need to file reports and, if there was sufficient evidence, to initiate court proceedings. To counter the social pressure on victims to drop charges, some courts imposed fines against people who brought charges but did not testify. Depending on the magnitude of the offense and the age of the victim, the sentence for rape generally was 10 years to life in prison.
The Office of Gender Affairs was under the Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs, and Culture. This office assisted 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.
Education is not compulsory, but the Government investigated cases in which children were withdrawn from school before the age of 16. The Government planned to phase in compulsory education with the construction of adequate facilities; it build two new schools during the year. As a supplement to secondary school, the Government sponsored the Youth Empowerment Program, which was an apprenticeship program for young adults interested in learning a trade. Approximately 500 youths were enrolled in this program, earning a stipend of about $148 (EC$400) a month, to which private sectors employers contributed additional amounts in some instances. The teachers' union estimated that between 8 and 10 percent of secondary school-age children did not attend school during the year. Despite the Government's efforts to support health and welfare standards, the infant mortality rate still was very high at 21 deaths per 1,000 live births, in part due to 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. The Family Services Department, Ministry of Social Development, was the government agency responsible for monitoring and protecting the welfare of children. The Department reported 51 cases of sexual abuse, 55 cases of physical abuse, 112 cases of neglect, and 22 cases of abandonment during 2002. The Department planned to initiate a National Child Abuse Register in 2004 to provide information to all agencies dealing with child abuse. The police were the enforcement arm; the Family Services Department referred all reports of child abuse to the police for action
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
No laws specifically address trafficking in persons. There were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country during the year.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the largest producer of marijuana in the Eastern Caribbean and the source for much of the marijuana used in the region. Extensive tracts are under intensive marijuana cultivation in the inaccessible northern half of St. Vincent. The illegal drug trade has infiltrated the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and made some segments of the population dependent on marijuana production, trafficking and money laundering.
However, cultivation does not reach the minimum of 5,000 hectares that the FAA requires for a country to be designated as a major drug-producer, nor does it significantly affect the U.S. As such, despite the pervasive influence of the drug trade, the President has not designated St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a major illicit drug producing or a major drug transit country under the FAA. Compressed marijuana is sent from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to neighboring islands via private vessels. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has also become a storage and transshipment point for narcotics, mostly cocaine, transferred from Trinidad and Tobago and South America on go-fast and inter-island cargo boats.