The lone woman convicted for causing the death of the de facto Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and other members of the People’s Revolutionary Government has died.
Phyllis Coard, a key figure in Grenada’s Revolution, passed away in a hospital in her homeland Jamaica on Sunday September 06, 2020 at the age of 73.
Sister Phyll as she was called by her friends, headed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and assisted with the Ministry of Information as Secretary to the Minister.
She was one of 17 people sentenced to death in 1986 for causing an incident which saw the leadership of the country being lined up and assassinated at Fort George on October 19, 1983. Other civillians died in the sad event which sparked an invasion of outside forces and the arrest of most of the people who were held responsible.
However the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991. Phyllis, who was said to not be in good health, was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2000 when she was granted a respite from her prison term by the New National Party government to receive medical assistance abroad.
While reports circulated on social media that she was seen walking her dog in the area where she lived in Jamaica, Phyllis never returned to prison in Grenada.
Her legacy, which some people believe will be subject to much debate, include how she lobbied to raise the standards of living for women in Grenada by forming a powerful women’s group.
It was under her watch that the first Dimanche Gras calypso crown went to a woman –Lady Cinty.
Claudette Pitt, an activist who worked closely with her during the Revolution said “Sister Phyl pioneered the way for women in this country. Maternity Leave Law, Equal work for equal pay, no discrimination of women sexual or otherwise at the workplace, school books and uniforms, nursery and pre-school programmes are just a few she piloted through the period 1979 t0 1983.”
Phyllis Coard’s book, Unchained –A Caribbean Woman’s Journey Through Invasion, Incarceration and Liberation, tells the story of her experience.
Phyllis was married to Bernard Coard who served as Grenada’s deputy Prime Minister and Minister of finance during the Grenada Revolution and is believed (in some circles) to be the mastermind behind the October 19, 1983 incidents.
Another member of the Grenada 17 Kamau Mc Barnette, passed away January 15, 2020, nine years after his prison term ended.