Dwyer Astaphan: “The whole of Basseterre would have been decimated and thousands of persons killed in PAM’s June 10, 1967 attempted coup

Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) — As the 47th Anniversary of the failed attempt by the People’s Action Movement (PAM) approaches, it must be noted that if the dynamites had exploded at Camp Springfield on June 10, 1967, everybody in Fry’s Village, half of the people in Greenlands would have been killed.

Mr. Dwyer Astaphan, then Minister of National Security in 2005, noted that La Guerite and St. Johnston Village would have disappeared “and if these people had gotten their way, not one police officer in Basseterre would have been alive that morning.”

He also stated that with the exploding of the Shell bulk tanks, the whole of Basseterre would have been decimated as most of the homes in 1967 were made of wood.

Speaking in the National Assembly on June 9th 2005, Mr. Astaphan called on the people of the Federation to be “on their guard” on the eve of the 38th anniversary of the armed invasion of St. Kitts and the failed attempt to overthrow the lawfully elected Labour Party Administration of Premier the Hon. Robert L. Bradshaw on June 10, 1967.

Mr. Astaphan pointed out that the People’s Action Movement, formed in 1965, was involved in the conspiracy to overthrow the Labour Government several months after its defeat in the General Election on July 25th 1966.

The Democrat newspaper official mouthpiece of the People’s Action Movement (PAM) in its June 10th 1967 edition in anticipation of the successful coup attempt had declared Monday 12th May 1967, “Freedom Day.”

Mr. Astaphan said then: “Madame Speaker, I want to issue a word of caution to the people of this country. Be on your guard. And I mean all the people of this country, St. Kitts and Nevis, because if St. Kitts sneezes, Nevis is going to catch a cold and if Nevis sneezes, St. Kitts is going to catch a cold. We are talking about a people, whose traditions are steeped in lawlessness and spoil bratishness and disrespect and take up what they want by not waiting for the time to get it,” Astaphan told the lawmaking body.

“Madame Speaker, I am cautioning all of us; the police officers, the Defense Force, all of the people of this country who are the observers of peace,” said the Minister of National Security, who noted that a General Election was held six months ago in October 2004.

“People want to challenge some of the results, that is their right. The CARICOM and Commonwealth observers who came to monitor the elections, said the results reflected the will of the people of the country,” said Astaphan, a third term Parliamentarian, who warned: “Anyone who is contemplating any kind of treasonous or distabilising type of activity will have to understand that the consequences will be grave.”

“I remember the fore day morning of the 10th June 1967 as if it happened this morning. I will never forget it. I was at the Factory Social Centre at a dance sitting down at a bar with Poesy Southwell, son of the late Paul Southwell, Elmo Osborne, Cardigan Dickenson and others,” recalled Astaphan, who said he was 19 years at the time.

Astaphan read selected paragraphs of a book, published by prominent Anguillian authors Colville Petty and Nat Hodge, a former Editor of The Democrat, the official organ of the People’s Action Movement, which implicated the People’s Action Movement in the failed coup attempt. He also referred to another book by the Anguilla rebel leader and former Chief Minister, Mr. Ronald Webster.

The book by Petty and Hodge is entitled: “Anguilla’s Battle for Freedom 1967 copyrighted by PetNat Publishing Company Limited and printed in 1987.

‘On Saturday the 10th of June 1967, a party of armed men from Anguilla landed in St. Kitts. They had two principle objectives which were inter related. Firstly, the defense of the Anguilla Revolution. Secondly, the overthrow of the Government of Premier Robert Bradshaw and the installation of a government sympathetic to the Anguillian cause,’ he quoted from the first paragraph.

The second paragraph read: ‘The notion of attacking St. Kitts was the brainchild of Ronald Webster and a prominent Kittitian. Atlin Harrigan, one of the leaders of the Anguilla Revolution advised Webster that he was making a mistake but Webster strongly believed that Bradshaw’s Government could have been toppled by armed force. He was misled by political personalities in St. Kitts into believing that a majority of Kittitians were prepared to take up arms the Government. This illusion compelled him to join forces with Bradshaw’s political enemy in St. Kitts in an effort to oust Bradshaw.’

Another paragraph read: ‘The plan for toppling the Government included the destruction of the Defense Force Camp, the capture of Police Headquarters and the destruction of the Power Station, all located in the St. Kitts capital of Basseterre. In addition, the Revenue Cutter (Customs Launch) was to be captured and the men taken prisoner. A crucial aspect of the plan called for the destruction of the island’s fuel depot situated in Eastern Basseterre. The intention was to set the gasoline tanks on fire and cause the police, the Fire Brigade and the people of Basseterre to concentrate all their efforts and resources on preventing a major catastrophe. The situation it was felt would have left Basseterre unprotected thus making it easier for the Anguillians to occupy and control it. Premier Bradshaw was to be captured alive and brought to Anguilla and Reuben Gumbs, better know as Rubie was to go on the government owned Radio Station ZIZ in St. Kitts and announce that a prominent Kittitian was the new Premier.’

Dwyer Astaphan read another excerpt from the book which indicated that the boat which left Anguilla for St. Kitts on June 9th 1967 had on board ‘two machine guns, two submachine guns, four M1 rifles, four carbines, six .25 pistols, three .32 pistols, thirty .6 rifles and six 303 rifles, teargas, teargas guns, masks, a pretty fair amount of dynamite and detonators and the Anguillians took along extra guns and ammunition to give to their Kittitian counterparts.’

Another paragraph said that the People’s Action Movement collaborators in St. Kitts gave the impression, ‘we were going to meet half of St. Kitts there waiting on us to help them fight, but nothing like that took place. That’s the impression that we left Anguilla with, but when we got to St. Kitts, there was no evidence of local support.’

‘The attackers at the Defense Force camp hurriedly make for its destruction when one of the leaders of the coup, a Kittitian, who transported the men to the camp, on loading the battery for igniting the dynamite, exclaimed, ‘Lord too many innocent souls going dead. This angered one of the American mercenaries who wanted to shoot him for waiting until the plan attack had been underway to express such sentiments.’

‘Exploding gun shots tripped out four electrical circuits and plunged the whole of western Basseterre into darkness. The explosives had awakened Neville Hancock, the assistant Engineer, who lived in a house next to the power station. Hancock became alarmed when he noticed that the light on his verandah was off. Then he discovered that the power station was in darkness and took up a flash light and went to investigate. Once he reached inside the building, he headed towards the switch board, where a shot was fired at him. Thinking that was it was a Defense Force guard, he shouted, ‘don’t shoot. It’s me Hancock.’ A second shot caused Hancock to take to heel and on the dash to his house, he met the Defense Force guard, Smeye, who ran with him. One of Smeye’s arms was bleeding.’

Dwyer Astaphan told the nation that the plot which involved the People’s Action Movement was to shoot down the country, not just Bradshaw’s Government.

“The explosives at Camp Springfield would have killed everybody in Fry’s Village, half of the people in Greenlands including the home where the present leader of PAM in laws live; Government House would have been blown up, half of Springfield would have been desecrated, La Guerite and St. Johnston Village would have disappeared and if these people had gotten their way, not one police officer in Basseterre would have been alive that morning,” said Astaphan, who added that by exploding the Shell bulk the whole of Basseterre would have been decimated as most of the home in 1967 were made of wood.

“Pond’s Pasture, Pond’s Extension, New Town, Irish Town, Mc Knight, all of Basseterre would have been flattened and 90 percent of the people killed,” pointed out Minister Astaphan.

“They decided that if the people are not going to give him power by the ballot, he will take power by the bullet. Madam Speaker, I am speaking about people and an organisation, who and which have utter contempt and disregard for law and propriety, utter disregard and contempt for democracy and for people and humanity and for God,” said Mr. Astaphan.

He asked the National Assembly to “remember and never forget the 10th of June 1967.” Coincidently the Democrat, mouthpiece of the People’s Action Movement is also asking its readers not to forget that date.

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