BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 31ST 2014 (CUOPM) – A call has been made for the establishment of a committee with the responsibility to erect a monument honouring those who lost their lives, were injured or participated in the Buckley’s Riot of 1935.
“A monument which signifies the generational impact that this single riot had on the development of St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the Caribbean,” said Mr. Konris Maynard, former Calypso monarch of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Leeward Islands.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 79th anniversary of the incident, which triggered similar uprisings throughout the Caribbean, Mr. Maynard suggested that the committee must have representation from key groups in the Federation including but not limited to “well respected historians, The St. Christopher National Trust, The St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union, The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, The Rastafari Nyabinghi Theocracy Order and the West Basseterre Community.
“I further envision that a nationwide competition should be initiated for the design of this monument and that the committee in their wisdom should identify the ideal location for this monument so as to create the most significant exposure of the struggles that have brought us where we are today,” said Mr. Maynard.
“So let us value their Sacrifice by ensuring that this history is forever told through events like these and a Buckley’s Riot Monument that can tell the story for centuries to come,” said Mr. Maynard, the West Basseterre Labour candidate for the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party.
He related that 79 years ago, The Union Messenger, for Thursday January 31, 1935 featured an article, ‘Development of Labour Unrest’ which chronicled the series of events which led to the deaths of John Allen, James Archibald, and Joseph Samuel.
Three days earlier, on Monday morning January 28th, 1935, a strike was commenced by the labourer’s on Buckley’s estate for higher wages. The word got out and other estate workers joined in the strike against the low rate of 8 pence per ton of sugar cane cut.
On Tuesday the strike continued. As the crowds grew larger and encroached further on the estate grounds, the strikers were ordered out by the Manager Mr. E. D. D. Dobridge and an overseer Mr. Edmund Pood. Shortly thereafter shots were fired causing minor injury to four individuals. This did not help the situation and tensions grew tighter.
The Workers League through the likes of Thomas Manchester, Mr. W. A. H Seaton, Sir Joseph Nathaniel France and others, who had a basic tenet of non-violence got involved to quell the rising tensions as best as they could. Although difficult at first, they were eventually successful in splitting up the crowds and drawing the greater part towards Basseterre.
Meanwhile the Defence Force was called in and took charge of the situation. The unjust continued through stone throwing by the unarmed workers. As night was approaching the Riot Act was read. As soon after the act was read, the Armed forces unleashed their weapons seemingly hitting almost anything in sight. Consequently, the following patriots were injured: Alfred Rogers, Cyrill Tyson, William Fowler, Samuel Woodley, Ellsworth Selkridge, Charles Moving, Olive Allen, Virginia Greaux, and Joseph Williams.
“This Riot came about from the severe oppression of our forefathers to accept menial wages for gigantic loads of work. The frustration had spilt over from the self-depressing housing situation. The inequities in the society had far outnumbered the equalities,” said Mr. Maynard.
“Where our country sits today, 79 years later, it can become easy to forget and easy to take for granted the Value of the Sacrifice of these men and women. Although there is still much work to be done and still many hard working Kittitians and Nevisians to assist, because of the fight that these bold and courageous compatriots started, our federation now conducts its own business. In 1975, right here, Sir Robert L Bradshaw was able to announce that we as a people had taken over by law absolute ownership and control of all the really productive land in this isle of our birth,” said Maynard.
He lauded the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party for ensuring that the twin-island Federation can now boast of being a high income state, have an enviable housing programme and several others achievements.