This week we thank Attorney Jimmy Bristol for adding his voice to exposing the truth about Grenada attaining independence in 1974 and just how politicians can mislead the public with their mantra which most times have been cleverly created in a way to manipulate people’s thoughts for the sole purpose of getting supporters. Having lived through the Associated Statehood period prior to Independence, Mr Bristol relived the moments on Vibes FM last Sunday afternoon on a programme with Pastor Stanford Simon. He explained all about the West Indies Act of 1967. It was quite interesting to have another person expressing similar sentiments that we had in a recent editorial as we encouraged people to take a deep look at the road to independence.
Bristol explained how the story was twisted and sold through the years as the gospel by different politicians for selfish gains. Those twisted and untrue versions, unfortunately, have been accepted even by some of today’s scholars and touted as the true story of independence. Was it really Mr Gairy’s idea that Grenada should become an independent state? Who was the premier on his way to becoming Grenada’s first Prime Minister when the Statehood song –Hope of our future was introduced also the new flag? How many students today can recreate the Statehood flag or even sing the Statehood song?
Mr Gairy’s struggle was mainly to remain in power which he held on to, until he was violently overthrown in a Coup d’état by the New Jewel Movement in 1979. This statement is not intended in any way to take away from his contribution towards Grenada’s development. In fact we look with pride of what Grand Anse has become. But aren’t there people who are still alive and know that this was a dream started by Mr Gairy? The West Indies Act spelt out the requirements when the British government decided to relinquish power on colonies, giving them power over their domestic affairs. Interestingly, receiving independence also gave those colonies a vote at the United Nations which bigger countries found quite useful – as they lobbied for support on various issues. The name Bernard Coard is associated with the Revolution of 1979 – 1983. But wasn’t he part of the group of people who went to England along with Mr Gairy to sign the documents to complete the process of gaining independence status? That is hardly spoken of.
The politician who named Sir Eric as the Father of Independence in 1996, is believed to have done that in an effort to appease the Gairyites for their support, which he successfully did and became their new leader. But wasn’t that the time when Gairy was pining away in his late years and struggling with the effects of diabetes? In his feeble condition, he was even taken to Queens Park that year and given the privilege to address the crowd. The question here is – Even though Mr Gairy campaigned on Independence, wasn’t it already on stream when he won the elections in 1967 –the same year Mr Blaize became Grenada’s first Premier? Incidentally, the term ‘Gairy’s Independence’ came from the opposition then who disassociated themselves from all things GULP. That same term lost its origin along the way, adding to the confusion that Mr Gairy fought for independence.
We seem to have a penchant to put relevance only to the things that we know in our time, ignoring the details of the past which can easily be researched; a lack of political will can also get in the way of exposing the real story of Grenada’s Independence. So as we listened to the semi-final of the Independence Calypso Show, in observing the lyrics, it was obvious that there are artistes too that are not clear on the true story as they heaped praises on Sir Eric alone. We can at least try to unravel the story for the next generation, but there is a saying Old habits die hard.
On a slightly different note, while we praise Mr Bristol for his first delivery on the programme, we think he erred a bit when he did another piece – this time on the history of Grenada. He said very little of the Caribs and the Arawakan people except to say that the Caribs got rid of the Arawaks. We think that he fell prey to the very thing he condemned earlier by simply repeating popular old sayings about those early people who form part of our ancestors and are preserved in some Caribbean islands even today.
The Kalinago people who, according to Beverly Steele who did a lot of research for her book, were erroneously called Caribs. They lived here; weren’t they the ones who taught us about fishing with nets and baskets and to use the canoe to travel from island to island? Those people had organised communities with chiefs, medicine man, religious leaders, hunters, fishermen and even armies; they may even have had designers for the different outfits they wore. As we express our excitement of 50 years of independence, what better time it is to re-programme our minds. History has recorded how they gave the French who came to our shores with more modern weapons, a tough fight. How many of us try to at least learn to read what is recorded on the boulder at Mt Rich in Saint Patrick? Those early Indians were before the metal age, so they resorted to wood and stones to make their tools and they succeeded. It is also recorded that Carriacou was named by them with ‘Kayryouacou’ being the original word which is said to mean “the land of reefs”.
Cleaning up our history is crucial. But who will take the bull by the horns and make a move at correcting the twisted stories being peddled even by politicians as we heard this week when they were unveiling a plaque in honour of Sir Eric?
Let’s seek the truth in all aspects of our story!