Courtesy Reuters

Crisis in the British West Indies

AT a time when so many of the colored peoples of the world are demanding and gaining their independence from colonial rule, it is something of an anomaly to find a people who, having taken a second look, are not sure they want it so quickly or in the way it was planned. This is what has happened on the island of Jamaica, one of the principal units in the Federation of the West Indies. For several decades the British Colonial Office has encouraged the trend toward a Caribbean federation which would ultimately achieve dominion status within the Commonwealth. But following a pattern known elsewhere in the less developed regions of the world, the movement among the colonial peoples themselves was confined to a small group of educated, politically minded men in each dependency. A generation of them has been attending conferences with each other, with leaders in other parts of the British Empire, and even with leaders of other nations--always on the assumption that federation and dominion status were their goal.

A federation of ten island dependencies, with severe limitations on the powers of the central government, was formally inaugurated in 1958. But when it seemed ready to take the big step toward full growth with dominion status, the Jamaicans--or rather the politically conscious and economically prosperous quarter of them--decided that they were getting along very well as they were. They questioned whether they should go so far so fast in the direction previously indicated by their leaders--Norman Manley, Premier, and his predecessor in office, Sir Alexander Bustamante, now leader of the Opposition--who were also disposed to take a second look.

But this feeling of doubt and hesitancy was not shared by the dominant voice in the island of Trinidad, which has less than half the area and population of Jamaica but because of its location and resources plays an equally important role in the federation movement. The government of Trinidad and Tobago is under the one-man rule of Dr. Eric

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