Current leader, Shawn Richards, said it has been 49 years of helping to push the democratic agenda in St. Kitts and Nevis; thereby helping to make the country a more democratic entity. He said they will be celebrating their achievements, not just as a party, but also their accomplishments in terms of nation-building. Among the activities planned for the weekend is a special church service on the actual anniversary date, and Richards promised that more details regarding this event will be provided shortly.
One official, who assisted in its formation, said the party was created at a time when the local population was at odds with the government over new electricity charges and other issues affecting the people of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla in the 1960s. Among the founding members were William Valentine Herbert, (Leader), Dr. Kennedy A Simmonds, (Secretary), Michael Powell and Richard Caines.
After its formation on 19th January, 1965, the party remained in the political wilderness for 15 years, until 1980 when it got the opportunity to establish a coalition government with the Nevis Reformation Party, (NRP). Three years after coming to government, PAM and NRP took St. Kitts and Nevis into independence on 19th September, 1983. They would remain in office for 15 years, until losing to the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in 1995.
According to official records of the People’s Action Movement, the party is said to have operated on the basis of putting people first. A spokesman said “They have always been committed to the advancement of all of their people. PAM created the environment which enabled the people to develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance, leading to an improved quality of life and standard of living. PAM firmly believes in empowering the people.”
The party said that since its formation it has placed great emphasis on:
- Uniting the entire population of St. Kitts & Nevis and the integration of all classes.
- Action and work instead of apathy.
- The organization of a multiple party system so as to produce an efficient government.
When PAM contested its first elections in 1966, one year after its formation, it won two seats and gained 35% of the vote, but by the next election in 1971, they were reduced to one seat, and by 1975, they were again able to secure two seats, though none in St. Kitts. It would take another four years, in 1979, for PAM to pick up its first St. Kitts victory when Kennedy Simmonds defeated Antonio Ribeiro in a by-election for the Central Basseterre seat left vacant due to the death of Premier Robert Bradshaw earlier in May 1979.
In 1980, PAM won three seats, East Basseterre (Michael Powell), Central Basseterre, (Simmonds) and Cayon/St. Peters/Conaree, (Sydney Morris). They joined with the NRP that had picked up the two seats in Nevis and established a coalition government, with Simmonds becoming Premier and later in 1983 becoming the country’s first Prime Minister.
PAM went on to dominate the political life in St. Kitts and Nevis from 1980-1995; winning six seats in both 1984 and 1989, four in 1993 and falling to only 1 seat in the turbulent elections of 1995. By 2000 the party was further reduced to no seats but under the leadership of Lindsay Grant PAM again improved its fortunes, not only gaining the highest percentage of votes in its history but first winning back one seat in 2004 and two in 2010.
The People’s Action Movement is now led by Shawn Richards, who is the current two term parliamentary representative for Sandy Point. He replaced lawyer Lindsay Grant who served as Political Leader, from 2000 to 2012. Before them, Herbert carried the reigns of the party for 10 years, from 1965-1975 when he was succeeded by Simmonds, whose tenure ran from 1975-2000.
PAM, along with the Concerned Citizens Movement in Nevis, and the newly formed People’s Labour Party, PLP, in St. Kitts, have joined forces to mount a united opposition front going into the next general elections, due by 2015, but expected in 2014.