Saint Lucia’s Ministry of External Affairs was first established at Saint Lucia’s Independence on 22nd February 1979. Prior to this, there was an External Affairs Unit in the Office of the Premier, as Saint Lucia was then an Associated State of the United Kingdom which had responsibility for the island’s external relations and defence, while Saint Lucia ran its internal affairs. With Independence, Saint Lucia gained full control of its external affairs and defence and established a Ministry of External Affairs for the first time. The Ministry has undergone several name changes as well as changes of location since that time.
Minister John Compton became Saint Lucia’s first Minister of External Affairs while the then Cabinet Secretary and also Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr Graeham Louisy, continuing from his supervision of the External Affairs Unit of the Premier’s Office, was the administrative head of the Ministry (although not formally appointed as its Permanent Secretary) with Earl Huntley as his Assistant Secretary. The slim staff of that Unit transitioned to the new Ministry with a cadre of fresh personnel who had been undergoing training for the diplomatic service. This training had been conducted by Ambassador Barry Auguste, a Saint Lucian national from the Trinidad and Tobago diplomatic service. Ambassador Auguste had been seconded to the St Lucia Government to assist with the establishment of the new Ministry of External Affairs and the preparations for independence. The Ministry was then located in the Prime Minister’s Office in the old government headquarters on Laborie Street which now houses the staff of Parliament as the building is adjacent or joined to that of the Parliament.
Following a change of government in July 1979 the Ministry was renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with George Odlum as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. At that time, George Odlum also held the portfolios of Trade, Industry and Tourism. Earl Huntley acted as the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry from July 1979 until September 1981 when he was appointed as its first Permanent Secretary. The name Ministry of Foreign Affairs was kept until 1997 when a new Labour Party Government under Dr. Kenny Anthony effected another change. The Ministry then became the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This addition of the International Trade portfolio came as a result of Saint Lucia’s joining the World Trade Organisation, (WTO) which was then engaged in settling an international dispute over the export of bananas to the European Union. The Banana Wars, as the dispute came to be called, was over the rules governing access for bananas to the European market. It involved the European Union, some Latin American countries, the United States, representing its multinational banana corporations in Central America, and African and Caribbean countries like Saint Lucia which enjoyed preferential access to the market for their banana exports. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade therefore represented Saint Lucia in the negotiations to maintain this preferential access to the European Union banana market. The Ministry was also responsible for other international trade matters.
In 2001, during Dr.Kenny Anthony’s second Administration, the subject of civil aviation was added to that of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Ministry became for the first
time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation. It should be noted that although Civil Aviation had been added to Foreign Affairs, air services negotiations for St. Lucia had been under the purview of the Ministry from 1982 with the then Permanent Secretary, Earl Huntley serving as Saint Lucia’s Chief Air Services Negotiator. It should also be noted that during the period 1992 to 1996, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Mallet was also Minister for Caricom Affairs, Home Affairs, Trade and Industry. From 1996 to 1997, the then Prime Minister, Dr. Vaughan Lewis was Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Minister of Finance, Home Affairs, Information, Planning and Development. During that period, the Ministry continued to operate as a separate entity from the other portfolios of those Ministers.
It was in the third Administration of Dr Kenny Anthony, from 2011 -2016 that the nomenclature External Affairs was returned to the Ministry. It became External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation. The advent of the Allen Chastanet UWP Administration of 2016 – 2021 saw another change to the Ministry. This time, External Affairs was a Department of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service. Another electoral change on 26th July 2021 resulted in yet another alteration in nomenclature, this time a reverting to an old name but with the addition of a new portfolio. The Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade, Civil Aviation and Diaspora Affairs was created in August 2021.
The Ministry of External Affairs has been housed in as many locations as it has experienced changes of name. Sometime in 1980, it moved from its first home in the old Government Headquarters on Laborie Street to the Floissac Building (now the Ministry of Justice) on Brazil Street. At that time George Odlum was the Foreign Minister but he was also the Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism and that Ministry was on the second floor of the Floissac building which also housed the Saint Lucia Electricity Services- Lucelec- on the ground floor. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was therefore placed on the third and top floor of that building so that the Foreign Minister had easy access to his Ministry.
When the new government buildings at the Castries waterfront in Conway were completed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one of the government departments transferred to the Greaham Louisy building. It remained on the fifth floor of that building on the opposite end of the Prime Minister’s office until 2000 when it was moved to the fifth floor of the new Conway business Centre in premises which were designed for it. However the appearance of mould in the Ministry and its deleterious effect on staff, following an earthquake in Saint Lucia in November 2007 forced the Ministry to be shifted to the fourth floor of the Greaham Louisy building. It remained there for just over a year and went on another temporary stop to the top floor of the National Insurance Company building also on the Conway waterfront – occupying an area which had been arranged for the hosting of a meeting of Caricom Heads of Government at that venue in 1998. However that space was cramped and in 2010 new premises for the Ministry were found on the fifth floor of the Bay Walk Mall in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet, where it is today.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs
|Start Date||End Date||Name|
|February 1979||July 1979||Sir John Compton|
|July 1979||May 1981||George Odlum|
|May 1981||January 1982||Peter Josie|
|1982||1987||Sir John Compton|
|1992||1996||Sir George Mallet|
|1996||1997||Dr. Vaugh Lewis|
|1997||April 2001||George Odlum|
|2001||2004||Sir Julian Hunte|