In a country as small as St. Kitts & Nevis, with only 48,000 people, there are always two sides to a story; no, not the truth and the untruth, but rather, the two distinctly different perspectives on the same story, from the eyes of each of the political parties, either on Nevis or St. Kitts.
There is no other example of this argument than that of the (so called) 1967 Revolution, as referred to by Anguillians, or the 1967 Attempted Coup, as styled by the Labour Party of St. Kitts.
To this day however, most Kittitians remain unsure about what to believe, regarding this incident that is said to have taken place, some 44 years ago.
The Anguillians have given their version, and at least two books have been written to give their account and their side of the story. In St. Kitts, the Labour Party maintains that elements within the People’s Action Movement, PAM, colluded with friends in Anguilla, to remove the government then, of Robert Bradshaw, just months after St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla were joined together by the British colonial government, in the new political structure known as Statehood.
PAM however has always rejected the charges of Labour and has placed its own claims that its leaders back then, were being harassed and persecuted by Premier Bradshaw.
One certainly that is on the records of the courts in St. Kitts and Nevis, is that no one, either in PAM or otherwise, was ever convicted of the attempted coup of 1967. However, it is a fact though that a number of members of PAM, some as teenagers, were arrested, while a few others were brought to court. All cases of the government though collapsed and all charges were dismissed.
Labour however, has counter-charged this, by arguing that the judicial system back then and the potential pool for the jury were not necessarily consistent with the requirements for justice to prevail. Labour claimed that PAM had too many friends in key positions of the judiciary and legal fraternity.
After years of court battles against the Labour Government for false arrest, some of these figures were eventually compensated in the 1980s.
The June 10th event has been documented by Anguillian authors Nat Hodge and Colville Petty. In their books and other written articles on the Anguilla Revolution they wrote that the attempt to overthrow Bradshaw on June 10th 1967 was the brainchild of Ronald Webster and a prominent Kittitian politician.
According to their publication: “It (June 10th 1967) had two principal objectives which were interrelated: Firstly, the defense of the Anguilla Revolution and secondly, the overthrow of Robert Bradshaw’s government and its replacement by one sympathetic to Anguilla’s cause.
According some in Anguilla, Ronald Webster, leader of the Anguilla Revolution, was fearful of an invasion from St. Kitts and reasoned that the best way of preventing it was to attack St. Kitts before St. Kitts attacked Anguilla.
The Anguillians have said that detailed plans for the attack were worked out in Anguilla, St. Kitts and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands but were fine tuned in Anguilla.
The June 10th 1967 event was mentioned by prominent Kittitian historian, Sir Probyn Inniss during his feature address at an annual Service of Thanksgiving to honour fallen Labour stalwarts in St. Kitts.
Sir Probyn said that despite the armed attack to overthrow the lawfully elected government of then Premier Robert Bradshaw, the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla leader remained strong and resolute.
“I was in awe of the physical and moral courage of this gentleman (Bradshaw). Both his moral and physical courage were tested sorely in the wake of 10th June, 1967. Because when details of the plot were revealed, it turned out that he (Bradshaw) was, to be humiliated, put on trial and eventually killed,” Sir Probyn told a packed congregation at the annual Requiem Mass held in the St. Paul’s Anglican Church to pay tribute to late stalwarts of the Labour Movement. He did not however, provide any evidence to substantiate his claims.
Sir Probyn, who in 1975 was appointed Governor by Bradshaw, proffered that a crisis of this magnitude would have destroyed a lesser man.
“Nevertheless, Mr. Bradshaw remained strong and resolute. It is the measure of the man that he was able to put all of these traumatic events behind him and chart a course towards Unity in the society,” said Sir Probyn, who also served as Permanent Secretary, Crown Counsel and Teacher.
When one however listens to or reads the account of Mr. Webster and other Anguillians, they speak about the unfair and disrespectful treatment of Bradshaw and his Labour Administration, to the people of Anguilla. He was a much hated enemy to the Anguillians, and in some quarters, even to this day.
Each year, 30th May is celebrated as Anguilla Day, when the people of the island commemorate the island’s independence from the Associated Statehood of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. May 30th is now a National Holiday in Anguilla.
It was on 30th May, 1967, the people of Anguilla launched an attack on the police station on the island causing the officers to flee and head back to St. Kitts. For Anguillians, that was the start of their revolution.
However, even though this resulted in some measure of independence, it was not until 19th December, 1980, exactly 3 months after political independence for St. Kitts & Nevis, that Anguilla was legally and formally disassociated from the two former sister islands.
The poor treatment of the people of Anguilla have been similar to the picture of neglect painted often today by Nevisians who struggle for their freedom too from St. Kitts, in the form of political agitation, for secession, as allowed for in the 1983 constitution. Like Anguilla and Anguillians, the names Bradshaw and Labour became persona non grata in Nevis, for most of the 1960s, up to 2011, when today, the federal Government is comprised of a loose coalition with a representative from the Nevis Reformation Party, serving in the Labour Party dominated Cabinet, as Attorney General. When NRP was established in 1970, its one line manifesto called for, “Secession at All Cost”.
This however, is not the first time that a Nevisian has served as Attorney General, because back in the 1960s, the late Eugene Walwyn, who was one of the strongest proponents of secession for Nevis, and even led a protest march to St. Kitts, changed course and joined the Cabinet of Robert Bradshaw.
Forty four years after, St. Kitts & Nevis celebrates 16th September, Bradshaw’s birthday, as a National Holiday, (Heroes Day), in honour of the former Premier. He was also declared the first national Hero of the country by the present Labour government.
In Anguilla, 2nd March, is also celebrated as a National Holiday, for Ronald Webster, and he too, by his people, is considered their National Hero.