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Heroes versus martyrs versus counter revolutionaries

This week a press release from the Government Information Service (GIS) on Grenada’s First National Heroes’ Day on October 19, has sparked discussion in some circles again since it seems to be pointing to the commemoration of lives lost at Fort George during the tragic events on that fateful day in 1983. Grenadians everywhere are being invited to participate in the activities planned for this day of reflection and remembrance which is now a public holiday and named National Heroes’ Day. While a spokesperson on GBN’s To the Point Friday said the day is not to focus only on the events at Fort George and the release also states that the day is to allow for recognition of Grenadians who have over the years, significantly contributed to our legacy and history, the mystery is why the name National Heroes Day? And just who are our national heroes since no criteria have been released?

As a public service we will present in part the GIS press release which seems to contribute to the idea that the day is to remember those who died October 19, 1983.  “The day will begin with an Ecumenical Service at the National Stadium at 9:00 a.m., to which all are invited. During this service, we will as a nation, honour the memory of the victims through prayer, tributes and collective support for those who lost their loved ones. At 1:00 pm, church bells will toll across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, followed by one minute of collective national silence as Citizens are asked to pause and acknowledge this moment in remembrance and respect for those who are no longer with us.
Grenadians are also asked to gather in their numbers on The Carenage at 7:00 pm for a “Light Tribute” which will mark the final activity of the day. This symbolic gesture will include a candlelight gathering for which all are asked to walk with candles, to represent personal reflection and recognition of the lives lost. In addition, the night sky will be illuminated with 20 strobe lights, 19 of which will represent the known lives lost and one for the unknown loved ones who left us on that day.
Let us come together in remembrance as a Nation on October 19, Grenada’s first National Heroes’ Day, to honour the memory of our fellow Grenadians who will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Anyone requiring transportation can contact their Parliamentary office for assistance.”

While we await the official criteria to understand just who will be qualified for the title of National Hero, it seems that the day is already set in memory of those who were killed at Fort George along with the de facto Prime Minister Maurice Bishop only. The country remains divided on that issue though, with some on the side of the killers and the others on the side of those who were killed. Those two factions continue to hold separate events in October. Of note here is that there are also members of the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) who were ordered to defend the country by taking on the US army and many of them were killed. Their bodies are lying at the Centre cemetery in Saint George’s where after an erroneous Red Cross trip to Cuba and back they were discovered in a body bag. Will those brave men ever be considered heroes? After all they fought for country! A monument was erected for them by private citizens and it’s at that site people gather at different times of the day (October 25) to lay wreaths in their memory. We have also confirmed that while the country has announced October 19 as the public holiday, an event is planned by the Ex-PRA members for the cemetery this year on October 25, the day the foreign troops landed to rescue us from the hands of the Revolutionary Military Council (RMC). When will we see people coming together for the greater good of Grenada and participate in one national ceremony? Even the previous government made it their duty to be represented at the event at the cemetery on October 25 only, and even placed wreaths. That action can be seen as a powerful statement!

We say that government is a continuum, yet as a new party gets into office, we continue to see new pages being turned; so now we are looking for national heroes. But during the Revolution, Tubal Uriah Butler and Allister Strachan were already named national heroes. In fact it was on the day June 19, 1980 when school children gathered with adults to pay homage to them that a bomb went off at Queen’s Park which killed two ladies on the spot while another (Bernadette Bailey) who had the greater part of her torso blown away, died later at the General Hospital as a result of Sepsis. In a national radio address later that day, Maurice Bishop referred to the two ladies who died in that incident as new martyrs – a word that was popularly touted during the Revolution; he did not refer to them as heroes. We are suggesting that this present government carefully examine the words heroes and martyrs before causing confusion by referring to the many people who died at Fort George on October 19, 1983 as heroes. Time will tell when the official criteria is released just why we commemorated them on our very first National Heroes Day. Even the school that was named in honour of Bernadette Bailey was reverted to its original name by subsequent government after the Revolution.

We ask our readers just how many of those people would have been named by the Revolutionary Military Council (RMC) as heroes and how many would have been martyrs or even counter revolutionaries had the Revolution continued? Are we going to document in our history that our national heroes started with the Revolution which overthrew the legal government?

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