Freedom in the World 2012 - St. Lucia
|Publication Date||2 August 2012|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2012 - St. Lucia, 2 August 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/501fcc0719.html [accessed 20 June 2013]|
Freedom Rating: 1.0
Civil Liberties: 1
Political Rights: 1
In November 2011 legislative elections, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) captured 11 of 17 seats, while the United Worker's Party took the remaining 6 seats. Former prime minister Kenny Anthony of the SLP was returned to power.
Saint Lucia, a member of the Commonwealth, achieved independence from Britain in 1979. Kenny Anthony led the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to victory in the 1997 legislative elections, defeating the United Workers' Party (UWP). As prime minister, Anthony began to address the concerns of an electorate that was weary of economic distress and reports of official corruption. In the 2001 general elections, the SLP retained a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, and Anthony returned to the premiership.
John Compton, Saint Lucia's first prime minister after independence, came out of retirement to lead the UWP to an unexpected victory in the December 2006 elections by winning 11 seats in the House of Assembly. He was sworn in again as prime minister at the age of 81. Compton was soon sidelined by illness and died in September 2007. He was replaced by Stephenson King, a UWP cabinet member who had served as acting prime minister for several months before Compton's death.
During 2008, the opposition SLP repeatedly threatened to mount public demonstrations and called for King's resignation. The SLP was particularly critical of the government's intention to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, while opting out of a drug interdiction agreement with Britain. The Rome Statute was eventually ratified in August 2010.
In 2009, King reshuffled his cabinet for the second time since taking office in an effort to regain political momentum in the face of a deteriorating economic situation. Damage inflicted by Hurricane Tomas in 2010 adversely affected revenues in agriculture and tourism and contributed to Saint Lucia's budget deficit. Weak economic growth, an unemployment rate of 20 percent, and a substantial rise in violent crime emboldened opposition leaders as the country prepared for the 2011 general elections.
In elections held on November 28, 2011, the SLP unseated the UWP, giving it an 11 to 6 seat majority in the House of Assembly. As a result of the elections, Kenny Anthony was returned to the position of prime minister in late November.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties
Saint Lucia is an electoral democracy. The 2011 legislative elections were deemed free and fair by observers. A governor-general represents the British monarch as head of state. Under the 1979 constitution, the bicameral Parliament consists of the 17-member House of Assembly, elected for five years, and an 11-member Senate. The prime minister is chosen by the majority party in the House of Assembly. Six members of the Senate are chosen by the prime minister, three by the leader of the parliamentary opposition, and two in consultation with civic and religious organizations. The island is divided into 11 regions, each with its own elected council and administrative services. Political parties are free to organize, but two parties – the UWP and the SLP – dominate politics.
Saint Lucia is generally said to have low levels of corruption and was ranked 25 out of 183 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. Government officials are required by law to present their financial assets annually.
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which is respected in practice. Libel offenses were removed from the criminal code in 2006. The media carry a wide spectrum of views and are largely independent of the government. There are five privately-owned newspapers, three privately held radio stations, and one government-funded radio station. Three privately-owned television stations and one government-owned television station also operate. Internet access is not restricted.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and that right is respected in practice. Academic freedom is generally honored.
Constitutional guarantees regarding freedoms of assembly and association are largely upheld. Civic groups are well organized and politically active, as are labor unions, which represent the majority of wage earners.
The judicial system is independent and includes a high court under the Saint Lucia-based Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. In recent years, the record of Saint Lucia's police and judicial system has been blemished by a series of high-profile incidents, including severe beatings of inmates by police and cases of police assault. Amid other high-profile crimes in 2011, the gang-rape of two British women in May was still under investigation as the six men originally arrested for the crime were released after not being charged due to lack of evidence.
Citizens have traditionally enjoyed a high degree of personal security, though rising levels of crime have caused widespread concern. Saint Lucia has become a transit point for drugs destined for Britain. In 2011, the island experienced 50 murders, making it the bloodiest year on record. The violence was largely the result of gang-related crimes such as drug-trafficking, drive-by shootings, and armed robbery. Prison overcrowding remains a problem, with major backlogs in the judicial system leading to prolonged pretrial detentions.
Women are underrepresented in politics and other professions; there are currently three women serving in Parliament. Domestic violence is a serious concern, especially among women from low-income groups. Homosexuals are occasionally the target of hate crimes.