On Friday June 20, 2014, at 6:00 pm, hundreds of people turned out to pay tribute and lend their support to the memories of Grenada’s legendary and charismatic leader, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his colleagues, who were machine-gunned to death.
Friends and admirers had the greatest opportunity to see and experience the thrill of such a spell-bounding film, “Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution” at the Medgar Evers Community College Auditorium in Brooklyn, New York.
“Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution” is a documentary film that was released at the film festival in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014 and has since been screened in some ten countries, including Grenada, Curacao, the United Kingdom, Jamaica and Cuba. The film examines the rise and subsequent implosion of the Maurice Bishop-led People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). Though the New Jewel Movement (NJM) embraced broad Marxist-Leninist beliefs, its policy was much in line with current pragmatic Caribbean interpretations (1978-1983) in Grenada.
It captures the significance and impact of the reforms undertaken by the Bishop government following the dramatic wresting of power from Grenada’s then dictatorial prime minister, Eric Gairy, by the New Jewel Movement in 1979.
The film also focuses attention on events that took place in 1983, surrounding the grizzly execution of beloved Prime Minister Bishop along with several of his colleagues and civilians, and the subsequent US military invasion in alliance with certain governments in the region.
On behalf of the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, and the world, we want to take the opportunity to send special accolades, and a special “Thank you” to Dr Bruce Paddington, the man, the genius responsible for producing and directing the film; a superb and noted filmmaker who is based at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Also “thank you” to the Medgar Evers Film and Culture Series, Professor Paul Clement and Mr Rojer Toussaint, who performed excellently and brilliantly as moderators.
This film is spectacularly good; Dr Bruce Paddington is a filmmaker of undisputed ability. He has created a convincing and compelling narrative feature of the events of Grenada’s revolution. Dr Paddington deserves some serious credit for being the driving force behind the film version; thank you for this outstanding debut.
The film has taken us into the raw and very painful reality where rage meets vulnerability and the people of Grenada are still trying to find calm and reconciliation. Dr Paddington has shown us a mature film that makes us, as one united Grenadian people, want to see more of Maurice Bishop, thirty years later. He never will get stale.
Maurice Bishop was born on May 29, 1944, the son of Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. After completing his early education in Grenada, he pursued his higher education in England. Bishop attended Gray’s Inn, he graduated with a degree in law at London University and, after completing his studies, he was called to the Bar in 1969.
Maurice Bishop gained national prominence and became an icon of the counterculture of the 1970s and 80s. He instituted a variety of community social programs designed to alleviate poverty, improve health care in the communities, free education for all, regardless of age. As a practicing lawyer, Bishop had never lost a case; he was a fighter for social justice. Other successful developmental institutions that were established by the Maurice Bishop-led PRG are the Grenada International Airport, the National Commercial Bank (known today as the Republic Bank) and also the Grenada Marketing and National Importing Board. In only four years he accomplished so much.
Some of those institutions were sold out -- the agro industries; the banks -- one was sold by Brizan, the other by Mitchell; he also sold an aircraft that Bishop bought from Australia. It’s like those leaders wanted to erase everything that Bishop built and accomplished. Could it be that those prime ministers were jealous of Bishop? They never wanted to give Bishop credit for anything, never wanting to name the international airport after the legendary Maurice Bishop, every stupid excuse was made so as not to do so.
The Tillman Thomas administration showed how easy it was to do -- there was nothing to it. Job well done, former prime minister Thomas.
There has been no major progress since the assassination of Bishop. There’s no long term plan in place to develop our country, instead our Prime Minister Keith C. Mitchell has come up with a new concept to beg for money, quick fixes, no sustainable development. Who is going to pay back all the borrowed monies?
Maurice Bishop supported the development of sustainable development; his goal was to address the challenge of economic development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and good governance. He knew these goals would have built success for the people of Grenada and to finish the job of helping to end poverty in all its forms.
Bishop recognized that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for Grenada’s population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations. It has to be efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver immediate and long-term benefits for our people and so he created the agro-industries, the NIS, the international airport, the two banks, the marketing and national importing board.
However, Maurice Bishop’s political goals were overshadowed by the criminality of members and their confrontational militant and violent tactics against himself and his cabinet and the public.
Bishop was a charismatic leader with significant support among Grenadian youth and the entire country as a whole. Maurice Bishop was and forever will be the most popular political leader in Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
He preached education, self-assurance, togetherness; he became a national hero in all communities throughout Grenada and the Caribbean. Bishop and his colleagues were intimidatingly confronted by the counter-revolutionaries and shot to death for no justifiable reason.
It was easy for them, the armed militia to control, contain and suppress the members of Bishop’s government and dominate the country. By 1983, the goals of Coard and Austin were to weaken the power of Bishop and to discredit him and his cabinet and to reduce his support and growth, trying boldly to take away power from Bishop. Coard also wanted joint leadership.
Who’s To Blame?
The counterrevolutionaries designed tactics to undermine Bishop’s leadership, incriminate party members, and drain the government of resources and manpower. Through these tactics, Coard and Hudson hoped to diminish the ruler-ship of Maurice Bishop.
The leaders of the party espoused socialist and Marxist doctrines. Their objectives and philosophy expanded and evolved rapidly during the party’s existence, making ideological consensus within the party difficult to achieve, and causing some members to openly disagree with the views of leaders. Bishop’s fiery beliefs in a better life for Grenadians fueled him to pursue power for the weak and vulnerable Grenadian population.
Since the bloody assassination, there have been a lot more questions than truthful answers, questions from Grenadians and foreigners alike and answers from those who committed the crimes and those who were part of overseeing the execution.
People who want to know what took place from the time Bishop and his colleagues were placed under house arrest. We feel disgusted that those responsible for the mass murders have not extended any sincere compassion to the victims’ families, by revealing to them what exactly happened and where is the location of the bodies. Those involved know; those ruthless killers need to come clean and repent.
What is the true story behind the story? The stories as told by Coard, Austin, Callistus Bernard aka Abdullah and others. These are only some of the people with first-hand knowledge of the assassination, because they contributed to it, but have not told the complete truth. They have only told what they wanted to tell -- their own made up stories.
People saw and looked at the pictures of the day that Bishop was freed and all in the audience was in disbelief. We need to get justice not just get but win justice for our heroes.
Since the cowardly assassination act, Grenadians are discovering that the country’s leading political figures are getting richer and the rest of the population are barely holding their own or falling behind. Our hardworking, dedicated workers, after paying all those taxes, are now living in or near poverty. Where are our elected officials who campaigned on promises of “delivering” and “Family Values”?
Bishop was placed under house-arrest, where some believed he was either starved or was afraid to eat from his captors, for fear of being poisoned. He was eventually freed and rescued by his supporters. Later that day, he was placed against a wall and was executed by firing squad. His body and those of his comrades were never recovered.
After Maurice Bishop’s and his colleagues’ untimely death, the country was reeling from political differences. After these events, a new government was designed to prevent Grenada from further turmoil.
Historically the assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop is seen as a turning point. Serious tensions followed the assassinations, with fears that the country would erupt in violence, as Grenadians reached out to each other from the depths of their being.
The murders were deliberate and horrifying. Who cleaned the grizzly scene of the murders on the fort? We must remember, Bishop and the others were machined-gunned down, so this scene had to be a bloody messy job. There is no excuse for that monstrous act. We are the voice of Maurice Bishop and we will make a difference.
Those bloody assassins, full of hate, greed and prejudice, committed deeds so foul that our whole country teetered on the brink of disaster. The cold-blooded murders of Jacqueline Creft, Maurice Bishop, Unison Whiteman, Norris Bain and many others sent shock waves throughout Grenada and the world.
After almost 30 years since that dreadful and unforgettable day, Maurice Bishop still continues to inspire people. Now is the time for all Grenadians to stand united and together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Maurice Bishop and his colleagues stood for. They did not surrender their lives, it was reaped away from them.
Today, those criminals are living large and walking freely among us; it’s just not right. Some even claimed political motivation for their crimes; they acted on orders from Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin.
Bishop’s assassination and of his colleagues has attracted numerous conspiracy theories about the CIA and Ronald Reagan’s outside involvement.
Why did they have to kill him? He was not a murderer, never hurt anyone. Why did they have to destroy the best thing that had happened to Grenada?
The people of Grenada and the world lost a great defender and an icon of its political, cultural and civil life -- the talented and charismatic Maurice Bishop, who dedicated his life to the Grenadian people’s struggle for better education, employment, civil and labour rights. Maurice Bishop was known as a genius strategist and communicator of people’s concerns. He had no problems using words, for he was a dictionary himself. He spoke plainly, eloquently and got results. Courageous and principled, Maurice Bishop unfailingly stood up for working and the powerless. But he was also famous for his wit, his infectious warmth that naturally brought people together.
Maurice Bishop was intelligent, educated, smart, wonderful, brilliant, capable and a truly down-to-earth-good man. When he spoke, people listened. He also trusted people up until his murder.
He inspired and keeps on inspiring 30 years after his cowardly and barbaric assassination; he was a trusting man and had an unapologetic fearlessness. The evil of greed that Bishop warned us about has been allowed to dominate our political system.
Grenadians we must commemorate our heroes. Grenadians, Cubans, Russians, people who loved Maurice Bishop, we need to build a monument, a place where we can go to remember this brilliant icon. A local historical monument that will provide official recognition for our most significant and cherished son of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique and his colleagues. He was simply the best, better than all the rest. Maurice Bishop was unique, authentic, a legend who will live in our hearts forever.
Let’s give the families some closure, give them the satisfaction of knowing what happened to the remains of their loved ones. These families are in an unprecedented struggle to learn the truth for the last 30 years. Not the killers’ truth, but the truthful account leading up to and after the assassination. The information that has remained hidden for the last 30 years.
We can’t bring back our heroes, but we can right the wrong for all of them. We have to continue to push our people in this country to work together to find a cure. Today, what Grenada needs is education that teaches us our true history and Bishop’s role in this present day society. We want all Grenadians to learn about Bishop and his accomplishment in only four years as prime minister of the tri-island.
Long live Maurice Bishop, forward ever.