36. British Trinidad & Tobago

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (November 22, 1924-June 18, 1937):  Sir Horace Archer Byatt was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on November 22, 1924.  Elections for the Legislative Council were held on January 17, 1925.  Elections for the Legislative Council were held in 1928.  Sir Alfred Claud Hollis was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on March 22, 1930.  Elections for the Legislative Council were held in 1933.  Members of the National Unemployment Movement (NUM) organized a “hunger march” in the capital Port-of-Spain on June 19, 1933.  Adrian Cola Rienzi (formerly Krishna Deonarine), an East Indian lawyer, established the Trinidad Citizens League (TCL) in December 1935.  Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, an oil worker and labor leader originally from Grenada, established the British Empire Workers’ and Citizens’ Home Rule Party (BEW + CHRP) or “Butler Party” on July 27, 1936.  Sir Arthur Murchison Fletcher was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on September 17, 1936.

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Crisis Phase (June 19, 1937-December 16, 1937):  Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler organized an oil workers strike at Trinidad Leaseholds in Forest Reserve in southern Trinidad beginning on June 18, 1937.  Two government policemen were killed attempting to arrest Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler while he was speaking at a public meeting in Fizabad in the evening of June 19, 1937.  After riots broke out, Governor Arthur Fletcher declared a state of emergency, and two British warships – the H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Exeter – were sent to the island on June 22-23, 1937.  Some 2,200 British government troops and policemen suppressed the workers’ riots by July 6, 1937, resulting in the deaths of at least fourteen workers.  The Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) was established by Adrian Cola Rienzi (formerly Krishna Deonarine) in July 1937.  Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler surrendered himself to government policemen on September 9, 1937.  Following a trial lasting from November 25 to December 16, 1937, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler was convicted of the charge of inciting to riot and sentenced to two years in prison.

Post-Crisis Phase (December 17, 1937-August 31, 1962):  Elections for the Legislative Council were held in 1938.  Sir Hubert Winthrop Young was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on July 8, 1938.  After his release from prison in May 1939, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler organized an unauthorized strike at Trinidad Lake Asphalt beginning on July 26, 1939.  The OWTU expelled Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler from the organization on August 4, 1939.  At the start of the Second World War, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler was detained by the colonial government under the Defense Regulations on Caledonia Island from November 1939 to April 1945.  Sir Bede Clifford was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on June 8, 1942.  Legislative elections were held on October 28, 1946, and the United Front (UF) and the British Empire Citizens’ and Workers’ Home Rule Party (BEC + WHRP) each won three out of nine elected seats in  the Legislative Council.  Governor Bede Clifford banned public demonstrations on public roads in St. Patrick County on December 30, 1946.  After an oil well was set on fire in Port Fortin, Governor Bede Clifford declared a state of emergency in St. Patrick County in January 1947.  Governor Bede Clifford ordered Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler to leave the country by January 19, 1947.  Government policemen arrested more than 70 workers in Port-of-Spain on January 21, 1947.  Supporters of Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler stormed the Red House (Legislative Council building) in Port-of-Spain on January 22, 1947.  Sir John Shaw was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on March 7, 1947.  A new constitution for Trinidad & Tobago went into effect in 1950.  Sir Hubert Elvin Rance was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on April 19, 1950.  Legislative elections were held on September 18, 1950, and the BEC + WHRP won six out of 18 elected seats in the Legislative Council.  The Trinidad Labour Party (TLP) won two seats in the Legislative Council.  The People’s National Movement (PNM) was established by Dr. Eric Williams on June 22, 1955.  Sir Edward Betham Beetham was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on June 23, 1955.  On February 23, 1956, representatives of the British government and Britain’s West Indies colonies (including Trinidad & Tobago) reached an agreement in London, which provided for the establishment of a West Indies federation within the British Commonwealth.  Legislative elections were held on September 24, 1956, and the PNM won 13 out of 24 seats in the Legislative Council.  The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won five seats in the Legislative Council.  Dr. Eric Williams of the PNM formed a cabinet as prime minister.  The Federation of the West Indies, including Trinidad & Tobago, was formally established on January 3, 1958.  Federal elections were held on March 25, 1958, and the West Indies Federal Labour Party (WIFLP) won 26 out of 45 seats in the House of Representatives.  Sir Solomon Hochoy was appointed as Governor of British Trinidad & Tobago on July 4, 1960.  Legislative elections were held in Trinidad & Tobago on December 4, 1961, and the PNM won 20 out of 30 seats in the Legislative Council.  The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won ten seats in the Legislative Council.  On February 6, 1962, British Colonial Secretary Reginald Maudling announced the dissolution of the Federation of the West Indies, and the federation was formally dissolved on May 31, 1962.  Trinidad & Tobago formally achieved its independence from Britain on August 31, 1962.

[Sources:  New York Times (NYT), February 23, 1933, January 19, 1953, February 24, 1956, September 27, 1956, February 12, 1957, December 21, 1957, May 6, 1960, January 14, 1962, February 7 1962, August 31, 1962; Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, June 19, 2008.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Jacobs, W. Richard. 1977. “The Politics of Protest in Trinidad: The Strikes and Disturbances of 1937,” Caribbean Studies, vol. 17 (1/2), pp. 5-54.

La Guerre, John Gaffar and Cherita Girvan. 1972. “The General Elections of 1946 in Trinidad and Tobago,” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 21 (2), pp. 184-204.

Lewis, Gordon K. 1962. “The Trinidad and Tobago General Election of 1961,” Caribbean Studies, vol. 2 (2), pp. 2-30.

Spackman, Ann. 1965. “Constitutional Development in Trinidad & Tobago,” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 14 (4), pp. 283-320.

Teelucksingh, Jerome. 2012. “Political Ambitions and Contributions to Trade Unionism: Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler During the 1930s and 1940s,” Caribbean Journal of Labour and Cooperative Studies,” vol. 1 (1), pp. 1-15.