U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Trinidad and Tobago
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Trinidad and Tobago, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1e32.html [accessed 24 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGOTrinidad and Tobago, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a parliamentary democracy in which there have been free and fair general elections since independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. A bicameral parliament and a prime minister govern the country. Parliament elects a president, whose office is largely ceremonial. A 12-member elected House of Assembly handles local matters on the island of Tobago. The judiciary is independent. The Ministry of National Security controls the police service and the defense force, which are responsive to civilian authority. An independent body, the Police Service Commission, makes all personnel decisions in the police service, and the Ministry has little direct influence over changes in senior positions. Oil and natural gas production and related downstream petrochemical industries form the basis of the market-based economy. The service sector is the largest employer, although continued industrialization has created many jobs in the construction industry. Agriculture, while contributing only 2 percent to gross domestic product, remains an important employer, both at the subsistence and commercial level. Although per capita income is over $4,200 annually, 16 percent unemployment contributes to a skewed income distribution, which has not improved in spite of economic growth of 3.1 percent. Government efforts to address this problem by further diversification into manufacturing and tourism have been only partially successful. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. Nonetheless, poor prison conditions, long delays in trials, and violence against women remain problems.