I could not let today pass without noting that on October 19, 1983 Prime Minister of Grenada Maurice Bishop and seven of his advisers and ministers were executed by an army firing squad at Fort Rupert (now Fort George) in St. George’s. A faction of his New Jewel Movement had placed Bishop under house arrest five days earlier, because he had refused to share leadership of the political party with Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. This was the only political assassination in the Caribbean – hopefully, the first and last.
Bishop had seized power on March 13, 1979, burning down the army barracks at True Blue while Prime Minister Eric Gairy was away at a United Nations meeting. These were the Cold War days; and troubled days they were.
During my recent visit to Grenada I did not visit Fort George, where Bishop and his ministers were killed. But I sensed that there were very mixed feelings about the period among older Grenadians. One told me Grenadians were all glad when the United States invaded, just a few days after Bishop’s assassination, because the country was in chaos and there was no food to eat. Others regretted the tragic chain of events, and pointed to the achievements of the Bishop regime during the few years he was in power.
In particular, everyone credited Maurice Bishop with the construction of the international airport at Point Salines (now named after him), which was officially opened just a year after his death. It was a huge step forward for the island. The Cuban Government reportedly provided about half of the funding for the airport to be built, plus much of the labor and equipment. Someone else told me that the Cubans had done much for Grenada at the time of Bishop’s revolutionary government. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about the Bishop era and its aftermath, and every opinion was different.
This airport, which Bishop called “of extreme importance to our revolutionary process,” replaced Pearls Airport, which was in Grenville – inconveniently situated over twenty miles away from the capital. We stopped at Pearls, only for a few minutes (how I hate guided tours). Of course, it is overgrown, and completely deserted apart from a few goats. I would have loved to explore some more; and tried to imagine what the place was like at night – imagining runway lights lighting up, ghostly planes taking off and landing, flying to Cuba and back with supplies.
I did see another haunted place though – what was once a mental institution, which had been mistakenly bombed by U.S. forces. It stands in ruins close to Fort Frederick, high above St. George’s. From the fort there are sweeping views of the town’s red roofs below, the harbor, and the wide blue horizon. On the other side are the quiet green hills and the outskirts of the town. Just below the fort to one side, we looked down at the mental home, where our guide told us at least thirty people died. It is not something that you will find much information about, normally.
But everyone has stories to tell. There are many stories. That is history, isn’t it.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/maurice-bishop-murder-grenada_n_1580944.html Maurice Bishop murder: Grenada seeks remains of slain Marxist Prime Minister: Huffington Post