When the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meet in Singapore on 14 January 1971, four independent countries of the Caribbean will be represented by their Prime Ministers.
When the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meet in Singapore on 14 January 1971, four independent countries of the Caribbean will be represented by their Prime Ministers. They are Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Prime Minister of Barbados in Mr. Errol Walton Barrow. He has guided the first four years of his island's independence and now seeks to establish Barbados as a fully viable independent nation. To do so he follows a policy of national re-orientation - away from Britain and towards Canada and the United States. Barbados is relatively prosperous, has well developed communications together with almost universal literacy and an exceptionally high standard of education. But there are less than a quarter of a million people in Barbados and continuous emigration.
Mr. Barrow is 50. He is a founder member and leader of the Barbados Democratic Labour Party and became Prime Minister in 1961. When Barbados became independent in 1966 he pointed out that every fourth person on the island was an American visitor. The development of the tourist industry and of ties with north America is still his principal concern.
Jamaica, with a population of nearly two million, is the largest Commonwealth country in the Caribbean. The Prime Minister is Mr. Hugh Lawson Shearer, a former journalist, and the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party. He became Prime Minister in 1967, as the protege and nominee of Sir Alexander Bustamente. Mr. Shearer is 47. He faces a general election in 1972 at the latest, and the Jamaican opposition, the People's National Party, is gaining in strength.
Last year Mr. Shearer went on a tour of Africa and had talks with the African Commonwealth leader, mainly on Jamaica's attitude to Rhodesia. When the Prime Ministers meet on the 14th of January, Mr. Shearer is expected to side with the hard-liners.
Guyana on the mainland of South America and a hundred miles south west of Trinidad, is strictly speaking not in the Caribbean at all. But it shares in the West Indies' Commonwealth background. Representing Guyana in Singapore will be the Prime Minister Mr. Forbes Burnham.
Lindon Forbes Sampson Burnham is a 47-year-old lawyer who founded the People's National Congress in 1955 and has led it ever since. He became Prime Minister of British Guiana in 1964 and of independent Guyana in 1966. He was confirmed in office in a general election in 1968. In Singapore Mr. Burnham is expected to align himself with the countries who refuse any concessions in southern Africa. In September 1970 he attacked Britain and France over the sale of arms. At the non-aligned nations conference in Lusaka he delivered a fiery speech in which he offered a cash contribution to a fund for guerrilla fighters in southern Africa.
At home Mr. Burnham has followed a policy of increasing control over industry. He has announced that from 1 January 1971, the Government of Guyana will take a controlling interest in the Canadian Demerara Bauxite Company which has investments of more than a hundred million dollars in Guyana.
The Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago is Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, a former professor of social and political science. Dr. Williams is 59. He was Chief Minister of Trinidad from 1956 onwards and became Prime Minister of the independent state of Trinidad and Tobago in 1962.
Dr. Williams' People's National Movement is very firmly in control of the twin islands. The strength of his hold on the country is exemplified in his Industrial Stabilisation Act and the government run Industrial Court to which disputes must be referred if employers and unions cannon agree. Although the tourist industry is considerable, the state's economy is based on the oil and sugar industries. Dr. Williams has followed a policy of diversification of industry, mainly to cope with unemployment which expands as the population expands.
Dr. Williams is not expected to take any strong line at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Singapore.