Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SAINT LUCIASt. Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Government comprises a prime minister, a cabinet, and a bicameral legislative assembly. A Governor General, appointed by the British monarch, is the titular head of state, with largely ceremonial powers. In general elections in May, the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) defeated the incumbent United Workers Party (UWP), gaining 16 of 17 seats in the House of Assembly. Dr. Kenny Anthony of the SLP assumed the prime ministership from the UWP's Dr. Vaughan Lewis, who had taken over from long-serving UWP Prime Minister John Compton in March 1996. The judiciary is independent. The Royal Saint Lucia Police is the only security force and includes a small unit called the Special Services Unit (which has some paramilitary training) and a coast guard unit. Although the police have traditionally demonstrated a high degree of respect for human rights, there were allegations of abuse by police and prison officials. The economy is based on tourism and on the export of bananas, which represent the principal sources of foreign exchange earnings. Saint Lucia is diversifying its economy into other types of agriculture, light manufacturing, and construction. Unemployment, estimated at 20 percent, remains a source of potential instability. The authorities generally respected human rights. Government criticism of the media and pressure on antigovernment radio stations under the UWP, occasional credible allegations of physical abuse of suspects or prisoners, very poor prison conditions, domestic violence against women, and child abuse represented the major problems.