Ebenezer Theodore Joshua
Former Chief Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Ebenezer Theodore Joshua was the Chief Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from 1956 to 1967.
Early life and education
Ebenezer Theodore Joshua was born in Kingstown, St. Vincent, on 23 May 1908 to Jonathan Ebenezer Joshua and Adeline Letitia Joshua. The young Joshua after leaving pre-school, attended the Kingstown Anglican School. This is the same school situated on Higginson Street in Kingstown. After leaving primary school, he attended the Intermediate High School. On graduating from high school, Joshua became a teacher and taught at several schools throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Like many young Vincentians, Joshua left St. Vincent and travelled first to Trinidad in 1941 then to Guyana in 1943. In those days, Guyana was known as British Guiana. He returned to Trinidad from Guyana in 1945 and found employment in the teaching profession. In Trinidad he also became interested in trade unionism, believing that the exploitation and bad working conditions of workers on sugar plantations and other places should be stopped. While in Trinidad, Joshua entered politics. This was about the time of the introduction of Universal Adult Suffrage. He joined the British Empire Workers and Citizens Home Rule Party. In a short time, he became one of the party’s best speakers and mounted the platform side by side with Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, being in excellent company with a sound start for his political career.
Joshua entered the 1950 elections, contesting a seat in San Fernando, South Trinidad. He did not win but came very close to taking the seat from the incumbent.
Joshua returned to St. Vincent in 1951 and immediately joined a trade union and political party. He entered the 1951 general elections winning his seat for the Eight Army of Liberation in North Windward. In 1952 he formed the People’s Political Party (PPP), the first political party in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and the Federated Industrial and Agricultural Workers Union (FIAWU). He and his party had a socialist agenda, focusing on gaining independence from the United Kingdom and getting better working conditions and wages for poor workers.
In 1956, when Saint Vincent and the Grenadines gained more autonomy, Joshua became the first Chief Minister. As Chief Minister, he defended the rights of Vincentians and spoke out against outside and colonial rule. Many of the rights and benefits we enjoy, were brought about while Joshua was Chief Minister. Some of the rights and benefits include:
- Holidays with pay
- Increase in wages
- Protection against eviction by insensitive land owners
Freedom to practice religion
Protection against child labour
The People's Political Party continued to win elections, and Joshua was said to be much loved by the poor workers. He supported the unsuccessful Federation of the West Indies. In 1964 he decided to discontinue support for the sugar growers and close the St. Vincent Sugar Mill as a result of steady losses which had happened for several years. He attended an initial conference of the The Caribbean Food Crop Society held in Barbados at the islands fanciest hotel to discuss alternate crops and techniques for better productivity for bananas and arrowroot.
Joshua remained a member of parliament for twenty-eight years. This extended period of service as a parliamentarian lasted from 1951 to 1979.
In 1967, his party lost the elections, and he was forced to give up the position of chief minister. He was succeeded by Milton Cato, leader of the more moderate St.Vincent Labour Party, which succeeded in gaining independence for the nation. Joshua remained in Parliament, but the PPP began a slow decline, as the conservative New Democratic Party emerged to compete with the PPP and the St.Vincent Labour Party for the government of the country. In 1979, Joshua and all other PPP members of Parliament lost their seats, and the party dissolved itself in 1984.
Death and legacy
Joshua died on 14 March 1991 in Kingstown, aged 82. Almost 2002 years before, in 1795, on the same day, Paramount Carib Chief, Joseph Chatoyer was killed in battle. March 14th is now National Heroes Day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The main airport in St. Vincent is named after Joshua, using his initials: E.T. Joshua Airport.