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The British Virgin Islands had a highly stable two-party system
in the late 1980s. One observer has called the territory a haven of
political tranquillity with little apparent interest in political
activity, virtually immune to the political, social, and economic
pressures that beset the region.
H. Lavity Stoutt, leader of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP),
became the islands' first chief minister in April 1967. In a 1975
election, Stoutt's party and the rival United Party (UP) each won
three of the seven elective seats on the Legislative Council.
Willard Wheatley, then an independent, won the last seat and held
the balance of power. He served as chief minister, with Stoutt as
deputy chief minister.
In the first election held under the new Constitution (of June
1, 1977), in November 1979, independent candidates won five of the
nine (increased from seven) elective seats, and the VIP won the
other four. Stoutt became chief minister. In the November 1983
election, the VIP and the UP, the latter then headed by Wheatley,
each gained four seats. The one successful independent candidate,
Cyril Romney, became chief minister and formed a coalition
government with the UP. In September 1986, Stoutt again became
chief minister as the VIP captured a majority in the Legislative
These transfers of power did not result in great changes in
policy. There was real reluctance among the populace to discuss
independence or constitutional change. Most citizens apparently
preferred continued affiliation with Britain.
Since Anguilla's 1969 secession from St. Kitts and Nevis,
politics on the island has been a contest between Ronald Webster,
who led the secession, and his political rivals. In the mid-1980s,
the territory's two major parties--the Anguilla Democratic Party
and the rival Anguilla National Alliance--had no real policy
differences. Both supported continued affiliation with Britain.
In the March 1976 House of Assembly elections, Webster, then
head of the PPP, won and was appointed chief minister. In February
1977, Webster lost a motion of confidence, and Emile Gumbs replaced
him as chief minister and as leader of the PPP (renamed the
Anguilla National Alliance in 1980). Webster returned to power at
the head of the recently formed Anguilla United Party in a May 1980
general election. In 1981, after political friction within the
House of Assembly, Webster formed yet another party, the Anguilla
People's Party (APP), and won that June's election. An early
general election was held in March 1984, which resulted in the
ANA's capturing of four of the seven House of Assembly seats.
Evidently, Webster's plan to cut dependency on Britain by reducing
British aid and increasing internal taxes had proved highly
Gumbs became chief minister after the 1984 election and, under
great popular pressure, abandoned Webster's tax plan. He then
emphasized a policy of revitalizing the island's economy through
tourism and foreign investment. Webster resigned from the
leadership of the APP, since renamed the Anguilla Democratic Party
(ADP). New party leader Victor Black vowed to resist any attempt by
Webster to regain control of the ADP.
Although the majority of the population expressed no desire for
independence, in 1985 the new government did request and was
granted wider powers for the Executive Council. It also asked
Britain for more aid and investment.
Anguillians have traditionally had high economic expectations
and until the mid-1980s strongly favored economic development. At
that point, doubts arose over three issues. One was the
uncontrolled growth of foreign-owned villas, which caused soaring
beachside real estate prices. Anguilla responded with strict height
and size regulations and new restrictions on expatriate land sales.
Second, debate raged over whether or not to allow casino
operations. One minister resigned over the proposal, and it
appeared that casino development would not proceed in deeply
religious Anguilla. Finally, the island increased offshore
financial activity, only to find fee income low and both the
British Treasury and the United States Internal Revenue Service
concerned about suspect operations, particularly the "laundering"
of money from drug trafficking.
In September 1984, a United Nations (UN) decolonization mission
made one of its periodic visits to assess island attitudes toward
possible independence. Summarizing current sentiments on Anguilla,
the mission noted general dissatisfaction with economic conditions
and the limits of self-rule under the existing Constitution.
Nevertheless, the report concluded: "While independence remains an
ultimate aim for Anguilla, there was a genuine apprehension among
the people of the territory that independence without a substantial
measure of economic viability might, in fact, place Anguilla in a
new situation of external dependence on one land or another."
In the 1970s and 1980s, Montserratian politics were dominated
by Austin Bramble, leader of the Progressive Democratic Party
(PDP), and John Osborne, head of the People's Liberation Movement
(PLM). Bramble served as chief minister for eight years beginning
in 1970. In November 1978, however, he was replaced by Osborne as
the PLM captured all seven elective seats in the Legislative
Council. Osborne's control of the chief minister's post was
ratified on two subsequent occasions. The PLM won five seats in the
February 1983 election and four in the August 1987 election. The
latter ballot marked the first electoral effort of the National
Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP, which was headed by Bertrand
Osborne, won two seats on the Legislative Council.
Although personality issues appeared to dominate Montserratian
politics, some policy distinctions among the parties could be
identified. The PLM supported independence, a position rejected by
both the PDP and the NDP. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the only
party advocating independence was the United National Front, a
small movement headed by George Irish, leader of the Montserrat
Allied Workers Union. In 1984, however, John Osborne startled
Montserratians by suddenly calling for independence. Osborne's
proposal was rooted in his anger over the British veto of
Montserrat's participation in the Caribbean Peace Force dispatched
to Grenada. Although intervention in Grenada was popular with most
citizens on Montserrat, independence was not. As a consequence,
Osborne promised that no decision on independence would be made
until a referendum was held.
The PLM, PDP, and NDP also differed on economic development
strategies. In the early 1980s, the government unveiled a
multimillion-dollar casino and hotel development plan for the
northern side of the island. The plan was strongly criticized by
the PLM's opponents, who argued unsuccessfully that the measure
should be put to a referendum. The situation became quite
complicated in 1984 when two different Miami-based development
companies each claimed that they had been granted rights to the
casino and hotel project. In a strange twist, Bramble and his
brother were arrested by the Palm Beach, Florida, police on
burglary charges, while allegedly seeking a videotaped deposition
on the matter made by a government official. In mid-1987 the PDP
and the NDP were accusing the government of mismanaging the
development project and the overall economy.
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