By Lloyd Noel
Forty years ago in 1974, we were the smallest West Indian colony – after Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago -- to gain our Independence from Great Britain and remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations of the British Empire – headed by England and the British Isles.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
Forty years thereafter, are we any better off? Or would we have been better off under some other foreign rulers, e.g. Cuba?
Or should we have remained a colony of England and Great Britain – because from about 1954 or thereabout, many thousands of Grenadians had migrated to England, found steady employment and attended colleges in various disciplines – so that by 1974, our sons and daughters were very well settled and established as British citizens in the mother country, and families and relatives in Grenada benefitted tremendously.
In fact, as we look around the tri-island state these days, a whole lot of the development – in the villages and parishes generally – came about from the Grenadians who had migrated to England in the 20 years before 1974.
But that is now all history – and the question posed in the headline is very relevant, even though we cannot do very much about the pros and cons at this stage.
The facts remain, however, that our political parties and leaders, and the policies they initiated, or imitated, or failed to follow when it was the right course of action to adopt at the point in time, all these and some others have some part to play in the whereabouts we are today; and even more importantly where we going as a people, in today’s ever-changing and becoming so much more difficult economic conditions, which we as a people have very little opportunity, or relevant authority and ability to turn around.
There can be no doubting, however, that the actions and omissions, and very narrow-minded policies of many of those who held positions of power in those 40 years, had a whole lot to do with our limited achievements, and the absence of concrete policies being put in place, to guide us through those years and the years to come as an independent state.
It is very strange to recall in hindsight how many of those who were vying for power to take over the leadership of our nation-state before independence, and even after we achieved that goal, how so very genuine and sincere they sounded on the political platforms in those days of struggle.
And no sooner after they achieved their ambitions as national leaders and had control of the reins of power, the change of attitude and behaviour patterns they displayed were so different and disloyal that many of the supporters who struggled with them on the road to the top soon withdrew their support.
It would be fair to say, however, that in the case of the first prime minister – the late Eric Matthew Gairy, who led the martch towards independence in 1973 to the goal on the 7th February 1974 -- his supporters remained loyal to him and his Labour Party a whole lot longer than all the others who came after him as leaders of the independent state.
That fact was clearly demonstrated in the 1976 first general elections, after independence was granted in 1974 to Gairy and his Labour Party.
The GULP headed by Gairy won nine of the fifteen seats in the Parliament, and the NJM under Maurice Bishop won only three seats, and the NNP won the other three seats.
And it was the revolution by armed forces in March 1979, under the NJM headed by Maurice Bishop and his leftist political group – and fully supported with arms and ammunition from Fidel Castro of Cuba -- that deposed Gairy from power and installed Bishop and his political bureau in government.
That very first mode of operation in the English-speaking Caribbean did not last very long – and even while it existed, with Bishop as prime minister and his People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) in full control island-wide – the people of Grenada were living in constant fear.
And those who dared to express a contrary opinion on the existing state of affairs, hundreds ended up in political detention at Richmond Hill Prison and Hope Vale Camp for Rastas.
The climax came about when some of PM Bishop’s colleague ministers in government rebelled against him, shot and killed him and six or seven of his supporters at Fort Rupert, and assumed control of the nation state.
Very fortunately for Grenadians as a whole – but more so for those of us who were in political detention on the Hill – President Ronald Reagan sent in his troops to Grenada to rescue Grenadians, and safeguard his nationals at St George’s University Medical School in October 1983, and restore freedom.
The rest is now all history – as the constitution of our independent state was restored and elections were resumed from 1984 and continued up to-date.
So here we are, 40 years since 7th February 1974, and more political history than many much bigger states than we are – and still more to come in the years ahead as the unfolding picture is revealing.
And as we look forward to the “Seventh of February” and the months and years ahead, we can only hope and pray that some better days lie ahead for the thousands of our younger folks who have nowhere else to turn to for escape or release.
As for us older ones, we can only do what best we can to assist wherever we see the need, because whatever good or bad deeds come our way in these small isles, we will all be affected.
And just as importantly, in my humble opinion, is how the leaders in charge of the nation’s affairs, go about putting systems in place and managing our public affairs in the interest of all the people.
Our party political history has been our biggest headache since independence.
So many of our people go about their attachment to, or involvement with the party and its leaders, far too personally rather than deal with principles and respond accordingly.
I can only hope and say a silent prayer – that this 40th milestone can lead us to a new beginning.