By Lloyd Noel
Forward Ever, Backward Never -- that was the theme of all the statements coming from the revolutionary leaders in that notorious month of October 1983.
The end of the armed revolution that seized power from Eric Gairy in 1979 was very much in sight before the said month – but it all came to a head on the two historic dates of the 19th and the 25th October 1983.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
The Revo Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, was under house arrest at his home at Mount Wheldale in St George’s for a few weeks before the 19th – but on that date some of his supporters went to his home and took him away, and the intention I learnt afterwards was to take him to the Market Square in St George’s to address his supporters.
But instead of going to the Market, they took him to Fort Rupert (now Fort George), which was renamed in memory of his late father Rupert Bishop, who was killed by Gairy supporters during a demonstration against independence in 1974 when the NJM was just coming on the public scene.
A number of supporters followed the group that was taking him to the Fort, and even before the crowd got up there, the PRA soldiers followed the crowd and opened gunfire at the Fort. Many of those up there jumped over the walls towards the Carenage.
A number of persons died and others were injured in the chaos that followed; but Maurice and seven of his colleagues who had remained faithful to him were shot by the PRA soldiers and their bodies taken to Calivigny in the south of the island, placed in a grave and set on fire.
All the above details were given to me by one of the soldiers, after I was released from Richmond Hill Prison by the US rescue mission, or invaders as many prefer to describe them.
During all this chaos and confusion, over 150 persons were held in detention at Richmond Hill Prison, and the Hope Vale Camp where the Rastas were held.
We were all detained by the revolutionary government, headed by PM Maurice Bishop, who decreed that we were counter-revolutionaries or “counters” for short reference.
But over the four and a half years of the PRG from March 1979, over 400 Grenadians were detained and kept in custody without charge or trial – some for nearly three years, until we were all eventually rescued and released by the US and Caribbean forces on the 25th October 1983.
Fortunately for the detainees and Grenadians as a whole, the opening of St George’s University School of Medicine (SGU), which came on stream in 1976 in Grand Anse, under the administration of PM Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) that institution, with hundreds of Americans based in Grenada, was the main reason for the decision by US President Ronald Reagan to send his troops into Grenada to rescue and safe guard his nationals, and Grenadians in the whole process.
The good fortune of the SGU’s presence in Grenada from 1976 has continued up to the present time – and it has grown by leaps and bounds to be the second largest employer in Grenada, after the government of Grenada.
As a people we have to be always grateful for the school’s presence, and the president’s decision to send in his troops to rescue us all.
And in the process we cannot forget the loss of those 17 American soldiers who perished in that rescue mission exercise – may their souls continue to rest in peace.
So as we look back over those 30 years, and give thanks and praise to all those who were responsible for getting us out of the chaos and confusion we were embedded in, we also have to consider very seriously where we going from here onwards, and just as importantly how we getting wherever.
We have had a variety of leaders, and their party machinery in control of the nation’s affairs over the years – and here we are in the 30th year, with a leader and his team who had been in control for 13 of those years, and for the second time winning all the seats in Parliament, and therefore no one in opposition in the Lower House.
That record must be an indication, that the people of our tri-island state have some extra levels of confidence in the leader and his party to put them all back in control.
And his campaign promises and the many programs the leader was dishing out, while seeking the people’s approval to put him back in control, definitely had the required effects on the voters, and the results clearly confirmed that position.
We have now gone past eight months since that total victory and, except for the partial opening of the CCC roads maintenance project in one or two parishes, all the other promises have remained just that.
And instead of putting some of the thousands who were unemployed into wage-earning employment, a whole lot of folks have been sent home for one reason or another and the jobless list has increased.
The PM has just returned from an overseas trip to the US and UK, from which he was hoping to secure a loan guarantee of $300 million, which would increase our national debt to neatly three billion.
Whether he was successful or not, I have not heard thus far – but if he was, and that sum becomes available with the pending Budget due in December, our thousands of unemployed can look forward to a far more nourishing Christmas than it appeared before he went away.
And that sum would make some difference, it is hoped, to the loss of those tax-free Xmas barrels a whole lot of people are used to receiving from relatives overseas every year.
So as we celebrate our thanksgiving on the 25th October, after 30 years of the many efforts and prayers to help us get over that ordeal, and put our lives back on stream for more peaceful and satisfying years ahead, we have to keep on thanking the Almighty, and renewing our faith in His saving mercies, to see us through the rough times ahead.