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  Kennedy Simmonds
 


Sir Dr. The Honourable Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds KCMG JP

Born on 12th April, 1936 in Basseterre St.Kitts, the son of Ms. Brontie Clarke and Mr. Arthur Simmonds.

  After attending Private School for his primary education, he received his Elementary Education at the Basseterre Boy’s School.

   In 1945, by virtue of his outstanding performance in the entrance examination for the St. Kitts-Nevis Grammar School, he was awarded a Scholarship to enter that Institution.

  Those were not the days when education was either free or easily available, and the St. Kitts-Nevis Grammar School was looked upon as a sort of preserve for the offspring of the well off. Unless you were bright enough or lucky enough to win one of the few Scholarships that got you in to receive your Secondary Education, you were left out.

   Kennedy Simmonds won himself that opportunity, and it is said that he made full use of his Secondary School years.

    Indeed, he was one of the youngest pupils ever to be taken in. At the age of nine years and nine months, he was a good two years below the average of those accepted.

   At school, his conscientiousness and his popularity earned him wide recognition.

   He was a consistent student who came at or near the top of his class in most if not all of his subjects.

    He developed his keen interest in sports, and was noted for a spirit of competitiveness that was always tempered by an even greater spirit of sportsmanship.

    Most important of all, he developed a natural flair for leadership along with a sense of responsibility and idealism.

    Some of the positions he held in the school’s Establishment attest to the promise which he showed in those early years.

     He was captain of the school’s Under Fourteen Cricket Team. He captained the school’s Senior Cricket Team. He was captain of Blue House. He was a member of the school’s Football Team. He was the Head Prefect. He was President of the school’s Literary and Debating Society.

      In 1956 he crowned an already distinguished school career by topping the results of the CambridgeHigherSchool Certificate Examination in the Leeward Islands, and winning the coveted Leeward Islands Scholarship.

    Interestingly, his subjects in those  exams, were Chemistry, French, History, English, a blend of Sciences and Arts which is again testimony to his all-round academic ability.

     On leaving school, he continued to nurture his dramatic talent by becoming a member of the Basseterre Players Theatre Group.

    He worked for a year as Senior Bench Chemist at the Sugar Association Research Laboratory in 1955 here in St. Kitts.

    In due course, he decided to take up medicine as a career, and was duly accepted at the University of the West Indies.

    In 1955 also, he went into residence at Chancellor Hall and was elected Chairman of Block “C” in the Hall. In addition, he was a member of the Overall Chancellor Hall Committee.

   He remained active in sports, and gained selection on the University Cricket Team. He was also Secretary of the University’s Cricket Club.

   Having had a strong religious background, he took time to become Founding Member and Treasurer of the U.W.I Methodist Society.

   Graduating in 1962, he did his medical internship at the KingstonPublicHospital, Jamaica in 1963.

    He returned home to St. Kitts in 1964, a qualified Medical Doctor, and began what was to become a successful and highly regarded Professional Practice.

    His first appointment was in Anguilla in 1964.

    In 1965, he became a Founding Member of the People’s Action Movement, (P.A.M), which was formed as a Political Party in Opposition to the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party headed by Robert Bradshaw.

    In 1966 he contested a political seat in the general elections and lost.

    He then took a leave of absence in 1966 to pursue Post-graduate studies, first in the Bahamas, where he was Staff Doctor, Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, and Registrar in Internal Medicine at the Princess Margaret Hospital, under Consultant Dr. John Lunn, who was then Chief of the Medical Unit there.

    In 1968, he left the Bahamas and went to Pittsburgh, U.S.A., where he did further post-graduate work in Anesthesiology until 1969 when he returned to St. Kitts once more to his Medical Practice and Political Career.

    In 1970, he was honoured with the award off the Fellowship of the AmericanCollege of Anesthesiologists, having successfully completed the necessary examination requirements.

     The following year, in 1971, he again contested a seat in general elections, and again he lost.

   In October 1974 he was engaged in Food Crop cultivation at West Farm Estate in St. Kitts, on a small plot of land purchased by him, and of which he was registered owner.

   He employed up to seven labourers on a share-crop basis, and he was growing a variety of vegetables, when along with his colleagues in the P.A.M., he was given a directive by the Labour Government with impossibly short notice, to plant sugar on his land, purportedly in line with Government’s ongoing Sugar Industry Rescue Operation.

    When he demurred, he was arrested on his own land and put into a jail cell by Police Officers who told him that they were acting under orders from the Government.

    His imprisonment did not last more a few hours, after which he got bail.

    He was vindicated when himself and other land-owners successfully challenged the government’s right to enter their land in a forcible manner and convert it to its own use. Their successful legal action was brushed aside, however, by the immediate declaration of a State of Emergency in the one square mile of territory embracing their small-farming plots, which suspended the Constitution there and nullified the court’s decision.

    In 1975, he again contested a seat in the general elections and again he lost.

    He was elected President of the P.A.M. in 1976. In the previous eleven (11) years he had been First Vice President.

    In January 1979, following the death of Robert Bradshaw the previous May, he presented himself as the candidate in the by-election to fill the Central Basseterre seat made vacant by Bradshaw’s demise.

      At the count, he was the loser by thirteen votes, but there were ninety-nine rejected ballots, most of which he contested were good votes cast for him.

    He petitioned the High Court for a recount, and on that recount was declared winner by twenty-two votes.

    His opponent, Anthony Ribeiro, appealed against this decision and lost, confirming Kennedy Simmonds as the first person to be elected in a political election in the island of St. Kitts who was not a member of the Labour Party, which had been continuously in power from 1952.

    It is felt that this Victory of Kennedy Simmonds precipitated the fall from power of the Labour Party.

     Rather than acknowledge his election victory and swear him in as first Kittitian Member of the Opposition, the Labour Party decided to dissolve the House of Assembly and called General Elections ten months early.

     In so doing, they effectively and legally nullified the Court’s decision in favour, but they equally effectively put their own seats in jeopardy.

     Kennedy Simmonds won his seat again, more convincingly than in the by-election, and this time two of his P.A.M. colleagues won their seats as well.

    With three elected seats, P.A.M. prevented the Labour Party, with four seats, from regaining power.

   A Coalition Government was formed between P.A.M. and the Nevis Reformation Party (N.R.P), with one seat majority over the Labour Party, which has had to struggle to adjust to the unaccustomed role of Opposition.

    He is married {his second marriage} to Mary Simmonds, formerly Matthew. The wedding day was 5th June 1976. Mrs. Simmonds was a nurse at the JosephN.FranceGeneralHospital in St. Kitts where Dr. Simmonds was Consultant Anesthesiologist.

    He has five children – Alphonse, Kenrick and Keris by his present wife. Michael (an adopted son) and Pauline, his eldest child. 

 

(Independence Magazine   19th September, 1983)        

 
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