A Four-Power Program in the Caribbean

Courtesy Reuters

"THE Chair recognizes the delegate from Barbados." Those words echoing through the large recreational building at the Marine Base in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands of the United States, during the Second Session of the West Indian Conference (February 21 to March 13, 1946) were of deep significance to "colonial peoples" everywhere. The Chairman, by accident of the English alphabet, was the writer, the United States Co-chairman of the Caribbean Commission. The delegate from Barbados, the second oldest colony in the British Empire, was an elected member of the Legislature. On behalf of France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Chairman had recognized for the first time in history the right of 15 overseas territories in the Caribbean area, gathered in an international conference, to speak for themselves.[i] That four Powers should be united in a common program on what are usually referred to as colonial matters is a new idea; and that the essence of the program is the encouragement of responsibility by the overseas peoples in "matters of common interest and especially of social and economic significance to Caribbean countries" is no less heartening.

Before discussing the Caribbean Commission and the West Indian Conference, it will be well to review briefly the situation out of which the Commission and this Conference grew.

Commencing in 1935 in St. Kitts in the Leeward Islands, a series of riots and disturbances accompanied by bloodshed spread throughout the non-self-governing territories of the Caribbean. These disturbances reached their peak in 1937 and 1938. They spread to Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana. Before the riots were ended some 40 to 50 persons had been killed and 479 injured in British territories. Political disturbances about the same time in Puerto Rico resulted in 26 deaths and scores of serious injuries. Both Great Britain and the United States sent commissions, committees and individuals to investigate. The most notable contribution to an analysis of the background of the trouble was made by the West India Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Moyne, which completed

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