Letter: To Lincoln Depradine

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Lincoln,

This concerns your contribution entitled “Reaching a convergence of truths and facts on the 1983 “intervasion” published in Caribbean News Now on October 21, 2013.

Can’t say that we have met personally, although I have read many of your contributions. Can’t say either that our paths have crossed. Yet, having read this contribution, I am moved to pen the following, specifically in support of your call that “To get to the complete (my italics) truth of 1983, there must not only be a telling of the events but Grenadians themselves also must commit their experiences to paper, especially in authoring books”. I am moved, also, in support of your statement and argument that “much of the truth about exactly what happened in Grenada in 1983… remains fuzzy and riddled in controversy and dispute” and that “truth, under the circumstances of 1983, may depend on where the conveyer of truth was situated and the experience of the individual and his or her family”. Ever mindful of the passage of time and the bowing off stage of so many of the principal actors and with a degree of personal reservation arising from seeing this matter booted about over the years, I am conveying the following truths.

To begin, this conveyer of truth was situated in Trinidad throughout the revolutionary years and maintained a meaningful relationship and dialogue with the American Embassy there. Let me first say that, so far as the telling of events that you encourage, sometime during the period 1984 to 1986 I published a number of articles in the Grenada Informer newspaper chronicling the part played by members of the Grenada Democratic Movement (GDM) in the events surrounding the American intervention in Grenada on October 25, 1983.

If Grenada Informer has kept a proper archive of its publications, these articles should be available to substantiate what I say here. Secondly, let me say that there are many of us who thrive on fuzziness and controversy and delight to dwell in darkness, for fear of the light. And thirdly, this conveyer of truth was, with others of GDM, in the newsroom of Radio Trinidad on the 19th October, 1983 at the time Bishop was freed from house arrest by “the masses”. He, with others, was at the Trinidad Hilton Hotel on the evening of Saturday, 22 October 1983 and held a meeting with Eugenia Charles on the situation in Grenada and the action that could be taken. On Tuesday 25th October 1983, this conveyer together with Dr Francis Alexis and other members of Grenada Democratic Movement (GDM) held a press conference in Barbados on the ongoing events in Grenada. On the weekend following the intervention, together with Winston Whyte, this conveyer flew with Eugenia Charles, at her invitation, to Dominica and appeared with her at a massive public meeting in Roseau. Media records in Dominica would substantiate that fact.

Now that you have been given the situation of the conveyer, let me move to my narrative which is not intended to answer your question, so far as it is relevant; “was it an invasion by invitation or an invasion by coercion? On the evening of October 22, 1983, a number of Caribbean prime ministers, which included the PMs Seaga of Jamaica and Eugenia Charles of Dominica and representatives of Caribbean governments met at the Trinidad Hilton in Port of Spain to manage the Grenada crisis arising from the execution of Prime Minister Bishop and some of his ministers and the imposition of a state of emergency on the island. A delegation from GDM led by me, as vice president, and including Dr Vernon Scoon visited the Hilton and requested an audience with the prime ministers. PM Eugenia Charles invited us up to her room and told us that PM Seaga had asked her to meet with us. In her company were T&T Foreign Minister Ince, the Guyanese foreign minister and others. In discussing the situation, it happened that I pointed out that Sir Paul Scoon, Governor-General of Grenada, was the only surviving link to the Grenada Constitution. To that Dame Eugenia responded, “That’s true! But where is Sir Paul? Is he on island?” We assured her that he was. “Can we get in touch with him? How do I get in touch with him?” she questioned. We knew that direct telephone link was out and eventually suggested that she should speak to Archbishop Pantin who could speak to Bishop Charles of Grenada to speak to Sir Paul. She asked us to arrange for her to meet Archbishop Pantin. We tried to make arrangement only to discover that the Archbishop was out in Toco for the weekend. I called Toco police station and asked the police to relay a message to the Archbishop to contact PM Charles at Hilton Hotel. I reported to PM Charles.

Early on October 23, Vernon Scoon and I left Trinidad for Barbados where, we were advised by the Americans, that the Grenada situation would be handled. I have no knowledge of whether contact was established with Sir Paul through Bishop Charles but subsequent events, down the years, leave me in doubt of such connection.

I read, with interest, your extracts from the memoirs of Margaret Thatcher. I have not read her book. Neither have I read Sir Paul’s memoirs. The narrative of my experience paints a somewhat different picture, though. Because of my relationship with the Americans, I received a briefing at 9.00 am on Monday 24 October, 2013 at the Holiday Inn, Barbados, informing me that President Reagan had made the decision to go into Grenada and that by 5.00 am next morning troops will be on the ground in Grenada. This was personal but can be supported by persons in whom I had to confide. Those persons are: Dr Francis Alexis (Grenada), James Herry (New York), Beryl Caracso (St Lucia), Jocelyn “Fly” Sylvester (Grenada), Phillip Gittens (Grenada) and Dr Vernon Scoon (Trinidad). Relative to Mrs Thatcher’s memoirs that she received a message from President Reagan at 7.15 in the evening, it is of interest to note that it was early afternoon in London when I was being briefed, at 9.00 am Barbados time, that the American president had made his decision. Again, on the flight to Dominica with Dame Eugenia, after her return from Washington following the Grenada landings, she told us that Seaga was calling her all day on Sunday (22 October) on the prompting of PM Tom Adams urging her to go to Washington to speak to Reagan. She said she left from Barbados on Monday morning for New York and it was when she woke on Tuesday in New York she heard that troops had landed on Grenada. So, she said, she continued to Washington.

I can tell you that during the briefing, because we were being asked to set up a government and, as a British trained lawyer, I emphasized the importance of securing the person of the Governor-General. The result was sheer consternation. “We don’t know anything about this man”, I was told. “Where is this man?”

Another thing you had better believe is the issue of the Caribbean Forces. “What about the Caribbean Forces?” I asked. “You have to take them with you.” I said.

“Take them to do what? These people are not equipped for this type of operation. They would just get in the way.” I was told. “Take them to sweep up after you pass.” I advised. “Because,” I said, “When the world press get into Grenada they must see Caribbean Forces guarding all our public places.”

A few days ago, I read an article by a former US diplomat who stated that open warfare existed between the US media and the military over the military’s refusal to let the media into Grenada together with the troops, as was the practice.

So, Lincoln, let us “cross reference” and compare notes and information to see if we can “reach a convergence of some truths and some facts”.

And who says that truth is often stranger than fiction? In any event, Lincoln, does anybody really care?

Reynold C. Benjamin

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