Major Events in our Constitutional Development – Part 3
The "Representative Government Association" was formed, led by Alex Ramsay Lockhart. Its mission was to abolish Crown Colony government.
The Legislative Council was made up of 10 officials and 2 nominated unofficial members. In effect, officials had increased since 1898 and unofficial members had decreased.
Elected member, Alex Ramsey Lockhart, called for the island's removal from the Confederation of the Leeward Islands.
At a meeting of the Legislative Council, Trinidad-born, Cecil E.A. Rawle, a member, gave notice of his intention to move the following Resolution: "that the Constitution Act 1898 be amended so as to provide for the election, in lieu of nomination, of a portion of the unofficial members of this Council."
The Colonial Office appointed the Wood Commission to investigate the island's readiness for an elected component in the Legislature.
James Colin Mc,Intyre, former advocate of Crown Rule, became an advocate for representative government.
A petition with 2,300 signatures was delivered to Commissioner, Major E. Wood, calling for the island to be separated from the Leeward Islands Confederation.
A Petition to the "Home Government" called for a "greater measure of popular representation" in the Legislative Council. The Petition was strongly supported by the island's Acting Administrator, H.A.A. Nichols.
The Island's Constitution was unanimously amended to provide for the election of 4 of the 6 unofficial members to the Legislative Council.
The number of officials remained at 6.
At the instigation of Cecil Rawle the Town Board Ordinance of 1902 was amended to allow female householders the right to vote at municipal elections.
All 4 elected members of the Legislature were coloureds.
The Dominica Reform Association was formed. Cecil Rawle was among its prominent leaders. The island's Administrator described the grouping as "dangerous."
The number of elected members in the Legislative Council advanced from 4 to 6, thereby increasing the size of the unofficial element to 8. But the number of officials and nominated unofficials equalled 10, while elected unofficials equalled 6. Among the elected members were H. D. Shillingford, J.B. Charles, Lennox Napier, S.L.V. Green, and Robert Frederick Garraway.
A conference of leading West Indian politicians calling for a federation of all the islands was held in Dominica under the chairmanship of Cecil Rawle. Among the politicians were Albert Marryshow of Grenada and Captain Cipriani of Trinidad.
Unofficial members formed a majority in the Legislative Council.
Dominica was officially removed from the Leeward Islands.
The Colonial office appointed the Moyne Commission to inquire into the social, economic and political state of its West Indian colonies, including Dominica.
The island's Executive Council comprised the Administrator, 2 ex-officio members (the Federal Secretary and the Crown Attorney), 4 nominated officials, and 4 nominated unofficials.
The 1937 measure separating Dominica from the Leeward Islands Confederation went into effect. The island became part of an administrative union of the Windward Islands.
(July) A Colonial Development and Welfare Bill was passed. Assistance to the British colonies, including our island, would be no longer provided by the Old Colonial Fund. Instead, direct aid would be provided by annual votes in the British Parliament of up to a maximum of £5,000 sterling annually, for a period of 10 years. And, funding for Research would be provided up to a maximum of £500,000 sterling annually, with no set period.
H.D. Shillingford called for the "complete unification" of the Leeward and Windward Islands.
(December) - A Resolution in the Legislative Council to broaden the island's electorate by a drastic reduction of the "present financial qualifications" was moved by J.B. Charles and seconded by Phillip Rolle. The motion was opposed by H.D. Shillingford. It was then withdrawn.
The Dominican Trade Union was formed with Emmanuel Loblack as its President and Austin Winston as Treasurer. It was the first trade union in the island's history.
A rival group of workers called the Dominica Workers Union was led by a Reverend A.E. Belboda, as its President and Financial Secretary.
A planning conference on a Federation of the West Indies was held at Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The Teacher's Association was formally registered as a Trade Union; it was formed early in the 1940s.
Universal adult suffrage replaced ownership of property or payment of taxes as the qualification for voting. In effect, persons 21 years of age or older were entitled to vote unless they were specifically prohibited from doing so, say, if declared a lunatic.
Qualifications for election to the Legislative Council were also reduced.
Elected members constituted a clear majority in the Legislature, as follows: ex-officio members – 2 (the island's Treasurer and its Crown Attorney); nominated members – 3; elected members – 8. The Administrator had a casting vote in case of a tie, but he did not have an original vote.
The Executive Council was composed as follows: Chairman – the Governor or Administrator; 2 Ex-officio members; 1 nominated unofficial member selected from the Legislative Council; and 3 elected members of the Legislative Council elected by that body, any one of whom could be removed by a 2/3rds vote of the Legislative Council.
Party politics came to the island with the formation of the Dominica Labour Party (D.L.P) under the leadership of Phyllis Shand Alfrey. She had lived in England and had been a member of the British Labour Party.
The Ministerial System of government was introduced. One more elected member was added to the Executive Council to increase the total to 4. Three of the four (4) were elected by a majority vote of the whole Legislative Council, and appointed as "Ministers" by the Governor. The Executive Council now comprised 4 elected members, 2 ex-officio and 1 nominated unofficial. But, at the request of the Executive Council, the Governor was empowered to appoint 1 more ex-officio member.
The composition of the Legislative Council remained the same as it was in 1951.
To prevent the D.L.P from taking office, a majority of independent candidates elected in the elections of that year came together and called themselves the Dominica United People's Party (D.U.P.P). The group was led by Franklin Baron.
(Dr. William E. Riviere is an Historian & Attorney-at-Law)
Copyright © William Para Riviere, September 2014