Each year in October the focus falls on the events of 1983 as more and more information comes to light. However, there is still some areas where clarity is needed. Dr Nicole Phillip-Dowe who is a qualified historian was a guest on a radio programme. She revealed that she was only 11-years-old in 1983 so it is anybody’s guess that most of what she said was based on research and interviews. It was interesting when she pointed out that November was earmarked by the Central Committee for the Revolution to end since they had run out of funds to continue with the projects started. It was brought to light in the reflections and apology written by the Grenada 17 that by 1982, the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) was engaged in 164 construction projects simultaneously. All these programmes greatly contributed to the massive reduction in unemployment. But it was a very short period in time to see their success and completion since it was a mere four years since the overthrow in 1979. The Grenada 17 is the group that was held responsible for the events of 1983.
Maybe the speed at which the PRG embarked on so many programmes, was to prove their worth to the world. To quote from the 17 writing “No one can seriously deny the enormous social and economic achievements recorded by the Revolution in just four and a half years -The House Repair; Low Income Housing; community Centres and Medical Clinics construction programmes; the Primary Health Care; free milk; School Books and uniforms; free Secondary and (through massive scholarship awards) university, NISTEP and CPE programmes; establishing NCB, GBC, NIS, MNIB, GRC, NTS, Agro Industries: fruit and vegetable, coffee and fish processing; the Eastern Main Road (phase one), farm and feeder roads, Sandino; stone crushing and asphalt mixing plants facilities; electricity expansion in Grenada and Carriacou and the electrification of Petite Martinique; Maternity leave and trade union recognition and other social legislation are all examples. This does not include the scores of other micro-projects undertaken by the people voluntarily at a community level. Grenada has never seen anything like this before or since. The building of the international airport was simply the Jewel in the Crown.”
During that time, it was Bernard Coard as Minister of Finance to secure financial assistance for the many projects. Whether he had run out of steam in his efforts is not clear. However, Dr Phillip-Dowe during Friday’s radio programme stated that the Revolution had reached a point where it was in trouble. When asked to explain “the point” she said the leadership was in grave financial difficulties.
In short, the Revolution went broke and was on the verge of grinding to a halt. This is probably what leaked out and prompted the utterances from the masses that Grenadians would be made to work as slaves in the fields to boost exports.
Other information as documented in the minutes of the Central Committee’s meetings then, seems to say that Maurice Bishop’s signature was needed to deal with a group of people that were said to be against the Revolution. This by itself leads to the question ‘did Maurice die to save some souls?’
On the call for joint-leadership, up to recent times people are still expressing doubts as to its functioning. Chester Humphrey who was a member of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) in speaking to The Grenadian Voice, said that while he followed the majority and voted for joint-leadership, in hindsight it was not the best thing. He explained that he cannot point to any country with two leaders simultaneously. In fact, he said that in essence Coard was the real leader when it comes to getting things done. Another question that still stands is -why then he was not seen by the masses as the leader?
In assessing and dissecting the events, the issue of the revolutionaries being morbidly afraid of internal opposition must be taken into consideration as a factor when it comes to an atmosphere of permanent combat alarm or state of emergency; and a siege mentality. In this siege atmosphere the civil and human rights of those who opposed or even disagreed with them were placed under heavy manners.
As quoted again by the Grenada 17 “We just did not have the maturity and wisdom at the time to recognise that many who dissented did not do so because they were stooges of the US government, CIA agents or unpatriotic Grenadians; but because of their concerns about the non-existence of checks and balances; and because they felt, correctly so, that as citizens, they had a right to freedom of expression and to participate in the political process.” A perfect view in hindsight, but years after the sufferings and killings of Grenadians including Strachan Phillip who risked his life as he helped in 1979 to overthrow the GULP Government. Phillip was killed by his own comrades in 1980 when he was blamed for the June 19 bomb blast that year in Queen’s Park which apparently intended to wipe out the leadership as they attended a rally.
Ian St Bernard who was the Police Commissioner during the Revolution made reference to a herd mentality that existed which was responsible for a certain type of behaviour that left them protecting and excusing even the wrong things that were done then. The events of 1979 – 1983 will continue to be discussed by many in a bid to bring closure to the issue.