People's National Movement / Our Party / History / Pre 1956 Political Landscape

Pre 1956 Political Landscape

There is a price to pay for everything, for while T&T has always enjoyed peace and stability, with the exception of international trends regarding labour, in its many facets of proper wages, proper working conditions, and opportunities for every creed and race to be recognised and promoted based on their merit and performance.

“If Trinidad had remained attached to Spain, there is little doubt that she would have suffered the same fate as the adjacent continent, and she would have been plunged into civil war and anarchy.  With England, she found herself under the guidance of a strong and free nation.  She was saved from revolutions which took place in the French islands, and she has developed in such a manner that she has become one of the most flourishing colonies in the sea of the Antilles,” writes Pierre Gustave-Louis Borde in ‘The History of the Island of Trinidad under the Spanish Government.’

However, that price was Trinidad being the first Crown Colony with full powers invested in one person – the Governor.

The People of Trinidad and Tobago voted for the first time in what could be designated a general election on Saturday 7th February, 1925.  Their pride in taking this first tentative step on the high road to parliamentary democracy would have been tempered by the knowledge that the people of nearby Grenada, later to become literally a satellite to the north, had had their own ‘general elections’ four years before.

Over the decades, Trinidad & Tobago was to go through several constitutional (political) developments, until the P.N.M’s coming into office in 1956. Between 1925 and 1956, there were several General Elections held: 1928, 1933, 1938, 1946 and 1950. There was supposed to have been General Elections in 1943, but it was suspended until after the War, which resulted in the General Elections of 1946.

During this period (1925 to 1950), adult franchise was granted for the 1946 General Elections, with the age of majority then being 21 years of age in order to vote. This was to be further reduced to 18 years of age with the Republican Constitution of 1976. In 1950, further constitutional development took place, with the coming into being of the Windsor Constitution, whereby the Governor, as President of the Legislative Council, was no longer the presiding officer of the Legislative Council – a unicameral legislature – having both official (elected representatives) and unofficial members (appointed members) – the precursor to both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Instead, the Legislative Council was now to be presided over by a Speaker, in the name of John Lewis Henry William Savary, who was appointed by an Instrument under the Public Seal of the Colony, becoming the first Speaker on the 20th October, 1950. Also with the 1950 Constitution came the introduction of Ministerial Government, not to be confused with Cabinet Government that was introduced nine years later on the 10th July 1959, when Internal Self-Government for Trinidad & Tobago was granted by another (new) Constitution.

In the meantime, the General Elections for 1955 were constitutionally due by September, 1955. However, the Constitution Reform Committee, had by Majority Report, recommended postponement.  This postponement, with an election date to be set, had to be set officially by the Colonial Office, in London, which subsequently directed the Governor that the term of the Legislative Council be extended to for an eight-month period, operating up to the 26th May, 1956.  This meant that with the minimum four-month period for holding elections after the dissolution of the Legislative Council, would mean that elections would be held on the 26th of September, 1956.  However, because that date would occur on a mid-week day, Wednesday, and since Monday is always more convenient for elections, the date for Election Day shifted to the start of the working week of Monday the 24th of September, 1956.