Maurice Bishop was born on May 29, 1944, attended St George’s Roman Catholic Primary School, and won a scholarship to Grenada’s Roman Catholic Presentation Brothers College. After working in the Grenada civil service for a few months, he left for England, where he entered Gray’s Inn. He gained a degree in law at London University and was called to the Bar in 1969.
Politically he was both a Caribbean nationalist and a socialist. Though the New Jewel Movement (NJM) embraced broad Marxist-Leninist beliefs, its policy was much in line with current pragmatic Caribbean interpretations.
On the night of November 18, 1973, Bishop and his companions were severely beaten by the Mongoose Gang in full view of the police and were held without medical attention in appalling conditions. Subsequently, he had to seek specialized medical attention in Barbados.
Two months later, while trying to defend women and children from the police and Mongoose Gang, his father Rupert Bishop, a well known and well-liked businessman, was murdered. From that point on Maurice Bishop swore to bring down Gairy’s administration.
That was attempted through a coalition of the Movement for Assemblies of the People and the New Jewel Movement. In 1976, a coalition of the New Jewel Movement and the long established Grenada National Party (GNP) and the United People’s Party won six seats, reducing Gairy’s majority from 13 seats to three.
As a result of suspicions that Gairy had decided to move against the NJM, a successful coup was mounted early in the morning of March 13, 1979. Bishop emerged as leader and subsequently prime minister.
His willingness to take risks, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today. One of his most significant efforts was what he stood for, what he spoke to, for and about, the Grenadian people’s human condition. Bishop had no misconceptions about his ability to do anything. Grenadians are among the many that acknowledge the man’s influence and identify him as a hero. Maurice Bishop could infiltrate anybody’s mind, he was that brilliant.
The transformation of the lives of the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique that took place in the four and a half years that he was prime minister says that his influence cannot be overstated, having revolutionized the country, the economy, the culture, education, agriculture, our people, country and attitudes. Maurice Bishop was a visionary. One of his favorite quotes was: “A conscious educated, organized and vigilant people can never be defeated.”
Bishop continues to be mourned throughout the world, and has been the subject of numerous tributes and memorials. The Grenada International Airport was renamed “The Maurice Bishop International Airport” by former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas government.
Maurice Bishop had the ability to paint a picture with words. He embraced equality and ambition. He is widely credited with transforming Grenada.
Caribbean people assert that he was something of a genius for his reforms and innovations. This gifted and enterprising individual eventually became Grenada’s most powerful and loved man. Bishop attained prestige and power through success with the people; he was astute in business and politics.
His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion before his assassination. He laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of poverty. Bishop pushed for greater reforms. His vision for Grenada extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society. He envisioned equality, he urged us to build a great Grenada, a country where the meaning of our lives matches the marvels of our labour. One of his best accomplishments was leading people to earn a living and having the satisfaction of a job well done. Something Keith C. Mitchell NNP government can’t match. Mitchell is too soft on economic issues.
Those programs became Bishop’s agenda for Grenadians. A wide-scale fight against poverty, education, development of depressed sectors. His influence and desire to bring Grenada into the 20th century cannot be underestimated, nor the damage done to his plans, at least in the short, or long term.
Maurice Bishop was a famous political celebrity, usually in cases of assassinations there is a clear motive -- jealousy. The revolution went downhill after Bernard Coard took an envious position. Maurice Bishop was loved and respected throughout Grenada, but the people had no use for Coard, and he was rattled by that. He organized the murders of Bishop and his Cabinet. This was secretly done. The 1970s and 80s were a time of tension and transition in Grenada.
Bishop was a targeted killing of a public figure that we knew and loved. He was an icon for the battle of democracy, education, to end poverty and in the history of modern Grenadian liberalism; he has a reputation to be honest and fair. Bishop has consistently been ranked by scholars as the greatest of all Grenadian prime ministers.
In terms of economics, he promoted modernization, calling for extensive economic development. He played a vital role in the agro-industry in Grenada. Under his watch, Grenadians were the most united, respected and honoured all around the globe; we were somebody that people looked up to. Maurice Bishop was the person who former president Fidel Castro referred to as “a vertical revolutionary, upright, honest and steadfast for his people.” Under Bishop, Grenadians were able to walk with their heads raised high.
Some of the accomplishments under Bishop include: the airport, state owned bank, the NIS – the same institution that Mitchell continues to borrow money from -- public transportation, massive improvement in agriculture and agro-industries, tremendous improvement in education, because of such widespread improvements in Grenada, thousands of scholarships was awarded to students, who were sent abroad to carry on studies in the first time in Grenada’s history, under no other prime minister has that ever occurred in Grenada. That was accomplished under Bishop. There was also vast improvement in the Common Entrance examinations. Maurice Bishop also created the Centre for Popular Education, a program that was set up to stamp-out illiteracy in the country. It was a remarkable success.
Bishop at 70, what would that have been like?
Maurice Bishop’s murder is not a minor footnote in history, but it left a profound impact on not only our nation, but on history itself. Bishop’s assassination has had such immense repercussions. His influence on Grenada’s politics was considerable. His death at the hands of people who were supposed to be his friends may have singlehandedly destroyed any chance Grenada may have had for political stability and likely contributed to the general spiral our country has experienced ever since. Bishop’s murder left a void that no other Grenadian leader has been able to fill, leaving the little Spice Island an increasingly unstable and dangerous country.
Maurice Bishop dedicated his life for the betterment of our country and people living within Grenada. He was responsible for making and implementing strategies and policies meant to better serve the interest of Grenada. Now let’s compare these two leaders, Maurice Bishop and Keith C. Mitchell.
We know of what Bishop had accomplished in only four and a half years. Let’s also look at Mitchell’s accomplishment, and the role he played in bringing down the revolution.
In the very beginning, Mitchell was supportive of the revolution, but when he didn’t get what he wanted, which was ambassador to the USA, he turned, and went with the CIA to bring down the revolution and put an end to Bishop. Mitchell used his resentment against Bishop to create a terrible, vicious, horrible vendetta against the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
Where is the Keith Mitchell, leader of leaders, where is the Keith Mitchell who was supposed to be making political history? Today the only history Mitchell is making is with his new title as garbage collector for solid waste. He picked up the garbage that former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas threw out and brought it into his Green House. All this posturing with Peter David will soon seem not merely dull but irrelevant. Embracing Peter David, a man whom Keith Mitchell accused of pulling a gun on his father. What is Mitchell thinking? Today Mitchell is embracing the same criminals and mercenaries that assassinated Bishop and destroyed the revolution. There is a stink in the Mitchell NNP government Green House, and it’s Peter David.
Mitchell is today known as the master of false promises, the master of deception of our youths.
Where is the ambitious plan that Mitchell has put forth to expand our economy, where is his practical responsibility? When Mitchell and his NNP team called, it was the youths of the Tri-Island who facilitated the response to the call. Mitchell should know that there is only one path to leadership -- service. There is no other way. If you aren’t a servant, your leadership will collapse, it won’t matter, that you won 15 seats, that’s no legacy. Get with the program, Stop taxing our poor people to death, stop the borrowing and follow in the footsteps of Bishop and you can also take some advice from the president of Uruguay and follow his examples -- that will surely become your legacy.
Services should be made available to our people, responding to their needs and helping them, the way Bishop responded. Stop the borrowing and start developing. It requires going out of your way, going out of yourself, getting closer to everyone, especially the frail and the young, our youths and being aware of what others are going through. That’s what real leadership is about, that’s what a real leader must be.
Maurice Bishop, Grenada’s legendary hero, was a story of courage and endurance. He gave his life for his country. His greatest love was God and the people of Grenada. His greatest devotion was humanity. His greatest heritage, a living inspiration to all of us. Let’s follow in his footsteps, the struggle for a better Grenada continues. I join with the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique in wishing our beloved Maurice Bishop a great 70th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr Prime Minister.