Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Saint Lucia's civil liberties rating improved from 2 to 1 due to an enhanced rule of law.
In 2005, the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) achieved some success in reducing drug trafficking and curbing violent crime. Bucking the regional trend, Saint Lucia's murder rate fell slightly in 2005.
Saint Lucia, a member of the Commonwealth, achieved independence from Great Britain in 1979. In May 1997, Kenny Anthony led the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to victory in legislative elections. On taking office, Anthony began to address concerns of an electorate weary of economic distress and reports of official corruption. In 1999, his government faced a series of issues concerning the hotel and airline industries, both vital for the tourism industry. In 2000, Anthony and the SLP gave their approval for regulated casino gambling, brushing aside objections from religious groups and the United Workers Party (UWP), to seemingly focus even more of their energies on revitalizing the country's tourism trade.
In June 2001, Anthony announced a two-month crackdown on crime, including increased police patrols and heavy penalties for gun crimes. He maintained that these measures were necessary to combat a wave of murders and armed robberies that he blamed, in part, on a U.S. policy of deporting hardened criminals born in Saint Lucia back to the island.
The SLP swept to victory in the December 3, 2001, general elections, winning 14 of 17 seats in parliament, just short of the 16-1 majority it had achieved in 1997. However, in an election called six months ahead of schedule, constituencies dominated by banana farmers registered their discontent with Anthony's party, reflecting a measure of popular dissatisfaction with his efforts to keep the island's ailing banana industry afloat. The farmers were unhappy that the Anthony administration had not made efforts to reduce the high production costs that made Saint Lucian exports uncompetitive. Nevertheless, Anthony was the only party leader to survive the election. Although her UWP won the other three seats, Morella Joseph-the first woman to lead a party into a general election-lost her seat, and National Alliance leader George Odlum and former UWP prime minister Vaughan Lewis failed in their efforts to be elected.
In November 2003, the government and opposition announced the establishment of a Constitution Review Commission to examine Saint Lucia's constitution as it relates to issues of law and order. The level of violence had increased noticeably, with police blaming much of the violence on drug-related gangs. The United States named Saint Lucia as a principal transit point in the eastern Caribbean for South American cocaine. Local authorities are also troubled over the increasing number of travelers coming through the island with fraudulent passports. In early 2005, the government initiated a controversial gun amnesty program that pays criminals $925 to turn in their weapons. By October, 150 guns had been collected, but critics say the program is rewarding criminals and may actually be increasing the number of guns being brought into the country.
A revised version of the Criminal Code's Clause 166, passed by parliament in February 2004, allows for abortion in a number of restricted cases, including rape or incest. The country is 90 percent Roman Catholic, and there has been some backlash against this provision at home and abroad. In January 2004, Gender Relations Minister Sarah Flood-Beaubrun was dismissed after calling supporters of the measure "murderers." Groups abroad have called for the censure of major Saint Lucia government leaders by the Vatican and the recanting of honors bestowed on them, as well as the excommunication of the governor-general of the country, Calliopa Pearlette Louisy. Nonetheless, there is wide support for the measure among Saint Lucia's younger population.
Citizens of Saint Lucia can change their government democratically. The 2001 legislative elections were considered free and fair, although fewer than 50 percent of those eligible actually voted; 60 percent of registered voters had turned out in 1997. A governor-general represents the British monarchy. Under the 1979 constitution, a 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 appointed 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 eight regions; each with its own elected council and administrative services. Two parties-the SLP, in power since 1997, and the UWP, the official opposition-dominate politics; parties are free to organize.
There have been allegations of corrupt activities on the part of government officials. In October, Saint Lucia's Constitutional Reform Commission began to review steps toward electoral reform, with an emphasis on increasing the transparency and credibility of election supervision mechanisms. Saint Lucia was not surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which is respected in practice.
The media carry a wide spectrum of views and are largely independent of the government. There are five privately owned newspapers, two privately held radio stations, and one partially government-funded radio station, as well as two privately owned television stations. There is free access to the internet.
The constitution guarantees free exercise of religion, and that right is respected. Academic freedom is generally honored.
Constitutional guarantees regarding the right to organize civic groups and labor unions and to assembly freely are generally respected. 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 West Indies Supreme Court (based in Saint Lucia), with ultimate appeal under certain circumstances to the Privy Council in London. In July 2003, a treaty replacing the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), to be based in Trinidad and Tobago, was approved by Saint Lucia. In November of that year, the parliament passed the Caribbean Court of Justice 2003 agreement, with Saint Lucia pledging to contribute $2.5 million toward the establishment of the regional court. The CCJ is to have an appellate function and will also interpret the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Treaty.
Traditionally, citizens have enjoyed a high degree of personal security, although there are episodic reports of police misuse of force. In recent years, a rise in crime- including drug-related offenses, violent clashes during banana farmers' strikes, and increased violence in schools-has created concern among citizens, although the government achieved some success in reducing drug trafficking and curbing violent crime in 2005. The island's nineteenth-century prison, built to house a maximum of 80 inmates, now holds close to 500. In late 2002, the government finished construction of a new, $17 million prison facility on the eastern part of the island. In 2005, the Anthony government took steps to resume the implementation of hanging to help deter violent crime.
Though there are no official barriers to their participation, women are underrepresented in politics and the professions. Female enrollment in primary and secondary education is slightly higher than male enrollment. A growing awareness of the seriousness of violence against women has led the government and advocacy groups to take steps to offer better protection for victims of domestic violence. In November 2004, the Ministry of Health noted that 67 percent of women seeking treatment for HIV/AIDS at clinics reported physical and sexual abuse.