Grenada Speech by RJG
Malcolm X Library
August 19 2007
The Last Prisoners of the Cold War Are Black: The Grenada 17
1. Read Maurice Bishop Speech on Opening of Revo.
2. Read Selections of Apology from Grenada 17 about end of revo.
My focus is the revo period and the aftermath, but to do that some background about Grenada
12 north latitude off the coast of Venezuela, about 80,000 citizens now, about 100,000 in 1979.
Twice the size of Washington DC with about 1/8 the population. Part of British Commonwealth, about 60 percent Catholic, others Anglicans and other protestants, evangelists growing fast.
Economy based in tourism (2/3rds of the economy) , offshore banking, agriculture like mace, bananas, and nutmeg, and as a transhipment point for illicit drugs. Claims a literacy rate of 96 % which is flatly unbelievable.
History, Originally the Caribs who first defended the island against Columbus, but who could not defeat the genocidal French and the Caribs, under assault, committed mass suicide on the north of the island. Rule shifted back and forth between the French and British, finally ceded to the British. Some French names of people and places persist, as does an English/French mix in the language, but for the most part, this is a British colony.
In the 50's a young, brilliant, elegant, handsome, agitator and orator, and leader of Grenadian trade unions led a fight for independence. Gairy born in 1922 had an extra edge. He believed he was an agent of God. Later in life, he told me he WAS God.
Gairy was a bon vivant, a womanizer, a firm believer in flying saucers (introduced a UN resolution urging the body spend more money on UFO investigations) he was spending about 1/4 of Grenada’s gdp on his own investigations. Gairy believed, moreover, that he could control the minds of people by manipulating what he posed as electromagnetic waves, which he could control with specific hand motions. Knowing that, watching him mesmerize a crowd with yet another scintillating, if strange, speech, redoubled the interest.
Gairy, to a great degree, won his first fight. He won limited independence for Grenada from Great Britain following a massive general strike that lasted about 3 months in 1974. He was extraordinarily popular among rural and urban workers, but his biggest base was the rural population.
However, at the same time, Gairy became what he proclaimed what he set out to oppose, he became a dictator and grew extraordinarily wealth through use of his position. Gairy brooked no opposition and, as the country’s wealth was largely being picked off by Gairy and his associates, there was little left for a rising educated middle class.
Influenced first of all by Fanon, and later by notions of Black Power drawn from quarters as wide as Stokeley Carmichael, Rap Brown, Julius Nuyere, W.E.B. Dubois, C.L.R James, The Pan African Congress, and later still by Marx, Lenin, and Castro, a young radical opposition grew, not out of nothing, but from a long history of resistance to oppression in Grenada, back as far as the freedman Fedon who, in the 1790's, upped the ante of the French Revolution by declaring, “Liberty, Equality, or Death!” It took months to defeat Fedon.
Led by a tall, handsome, equally loquacious, British educated lawyer, Maurice Bishop, several different groups came together in the late 60's and early seventies to become the New Jewel Movement. The Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education & Liberation (JEWEL) One of Bishop’s first claims to fame was a successful defense of a 197- nurse’s strike–leading to militant support from the nurses throughout the New Jewel’s life.
In response to growing unrest on the island, Gairy formed the Mongoose Gang, his own private police force, thugs trained by, first, the Ton Ton Mou Coups of Haiti, and later the Chileans. At the same time, Gairy doubled the size of the police force, and aimed special intelligence divisions at New Jewel. Members of the Moongoose gang were known to have murdered the father of the Bishop’s father.
Now, remember the tiny size of Grenada, the fact that many many people are related to each other, that rumors out run news operations, especially then, and you can see the tangle of relationships that always arise in any social struggle.
In 1973, New Jewel drew up a list of grievances ranging from bad wages to the lack of civil liberties on Grenada, and held Peoples Congresses all over the island. Gairy responded, on Bloody Sunday, by having Bishop, Hudson Austin, Selwyn Strachan, and others, arrested and severely beaten. In 1974, Bishop and others were arrested again, this time for seeking to overthrow the government. He was later freed.
But Bishop, his close friend, the exacting Brandeis educated Bernard Coard, and his wife Phyllis, author of one of the most widely read texts in the Carribean about racism and the education of children, firmly believed Gairy would kill them. That fear grew in 1979 when Gairy circulated a rumor to that effect.
Then, on March 13, 1979, under the code name Operation Apple, New Jewel launched their revolution, really a coup. Two people were killed. The radio station and telephone services seized, no problem. The troops surrendered almost immediately. Bishop issued his declaration. The “revo” was enormously popular. Gairy was in the US at the time, visiting former UN General Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi war criminal. Gairy remained in Grenada throughout the revo period, consistently organizing against New Jewel. The short duration of the Grenada revo may have done it more harm than good, as masses of people were only peripherally involved in it: spectators.
Then New Jewel initiated a variety of programs: in agriculture, expanded crops and processing plants, in education a focus on literacy and a high tech work force, in commerce, a new phone
system, one of the best in the Carribean, dozens of home construction projects, over 160 other construction projects by 1981. Cuba sent teachers, medical workers, social workers, construction workers—for a new airport to build tourism. Paulo Freire arrived to lead the literacy program, which became the domain of Bishops paramour, Jackie Creft.
The old airport was a mess. Something of a cow pasture up in the mountains, a perilous and stomach churning landing followed by an equally nasty drive to St Georges, the capital. The airport would be key to economic development, even if tourism and obsequiousness are usually synonymous.
Bishop, during this period, wrote down his personal priorities:
In Bishop's own handwriting - a notation on his official biography, he appeared to summarily itemize the principles for which he stood:
1. Black Power - Nationalism
2. Anti Imperialism/Non Alignment/Striving for genuine Pol & [unclear] Independence
3. World Peace - Caribbean a Zone of Peace/Caribbean integration
4. Struggle for Workers Rights
5. Struggle for Women's Rights
8. Fight against Racism - Southern Africa (CALD)
7. Genuine democracy - Grass Roots structure for real participation & involvement of all the masses
However, the Revo ran into all the problems of socialism:
The theory of productive forces, that abundance must be achieved before equality can be won, that abundance can only be won by a massive increase in production, that requires leaders, usually from the vanguard party, and experts, both seeking pay and privileges for their extra work, and it requires industrial discipline, in the national interest, nationalism, so the work force must be won to, not ideas about class struggle, but about production itself, which also leads to problems of internal democracy, contradicted by rising inequality, and industrial commandism emanating from leaders. The theory of productive forces means inequality will someday be overcome by the benevolence of the party, which has yet to happen. It means that, “we are all together in one nation working to boost production,” supercedes, “all of history is the history of class struggle.” This is theory which propelled the USSR, which moved China to the New Democracy stage, and was under attack during the Cultural Revolution.
Inequality had its personifications in Grenada. Bishop personally owned, according to Adkin, at least three houses at Parade, plus four apartments at the Quarantine Station. His official residence in Mount Wheldale was across the road from the home of Bernard and Phyllis Coard.
This theory plagued the nominal socialists, Marxist Leninists who were the New Jewel. But we also must remember that while the leadership of New Jewel was mostly well educated, comparatively, they were also very young. Bishop was 33 in 1979, and he was one of the olders.
Their socialism was eclectic. Bernard Coard who was recognized by the UN as one of the most exacting and honest national economic leaders in the history of the Carribean, shopped throughout the world for loans and grants. New Jewel wanted ideology in all ways. It linked itself with the Socialist International, to which Freire's Workers Party now also belongs, created deep ties with Cuba--especially through a close friendship between Bishop and Castro, and at the same time courted Soviet support. While the tendency in the U.S. might be to see these allegiances as folds in the same cloth, the reality is that in this period there was frequently bitter rivalry between the groups---and New Jewel played a dangerous balancing game. Nevertheless, the NJM followed the Cuban model, a tentative independence yet finally reliant on Soviet support.
From the outset, it was clear that Maurice Bishop's mass popularity was pivotal to New Jewel's acceptance. People were drawn toward Bishop, but while NJM held mass meetings to discuss matters like the economy, there was never any serious question that decision-making in Grenada flowed from the top down. NJM was a small party, a true vanguard, even for tiny Grenada.
Bernard Coard played a background role, moving into the interestingly conservative role of the nation's banker where, in a brief period, he stabilized the national economy and lowered the percentage of Grenada's debt service to 3.5%, the lowest in the Southwestern hemisphere and 1/10 of what it is today. During Coard's tenure, remarkable for his "financial acumen and his honest, efficient and cautious management", Grenada received a glowing report from the World Bank and, more demonstratively, received loans from the often impecunious International Monetary Fund.(517) The construction of an international airport, vital to the New Jewel program, required an incredible act of will, against the grain of most of the capitalist world. The driving will here was Coard's who is sometimes reified as an apparatchnik, a party automaton, but whose works provide evidence for a much more serious critique.(518) While Coard favored a mixed economy, nationalizing some key industries like the fisheries, he also pressed had to turn the vast majority of landholdings into workers' cooperatives. For a workers' party to survive long, it was important to create a working class and here education was expected to play a vital role. Coard's goal, at every turn, was socialism established on the base of national economic development, which itself depended on the theory of productive forces. The New Jewel economy was modeled on the Soviet New Economic Policy under Lenin, a transitional program to build capitalism under a benevolent guiding state.(519) The New Jewel leadership saw itself as "way, way ahead of the people" ideologically.(520)
But the visible and popular measures were led by Bishop and his companion, Jacqueline Creft, the mother of Bishop's son, Vladimer. Bishop took main responsibility for translating the New Jewel programs to the people---to bring news of the new day care centers, plans to rebuild schools, and the announcement of the arrival of Cuban medical assistance, doctors, nurses and trainers as well as an exchange program to train Grenadian medicals in Havana. Bishop also had a habit of promising new homes to anyone who asked, a problem Coard had to follow on and resolve, by denying the possibility, making Coard far less popular. And Bishop took on the task of enlisting Canadian, Libyan, and Cuban help in constructing an international airport, the vital link in national economic development, if not self-sufficiency.(521) This was not a serious effort at wholly independent socialism in one country. What Bishop and Coard sought to accomplish for Grenada was a new, nationalist, form of colonization, perhaps more sophisticated than the Cuban approach.
Delivery to meet the high expectations of the Grenadian people would have been difficult in itself, but the party predicted and received the immediate hostility of the United States. The Grenadian coup was the first of its kind in the English-speaking Western hemisphere and was not welcomed by the U.S.. It's important to remember that the New Jewel leaders were acutely aware of the implications of the Monroe doctrine--that the U.S. and its CIA had crushed the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1951, had overthrown and murdered the elected government of Allende in Chile, had invaded Cuba to attempt to overthrow the popular government of Fidel Castro and later tried repeatedly to assassinate him, had engineered the removal of the Jaggen government of Guyana in 1964, and had invaded Santo Domingo with Marines in 1965 to support a rightist junta.(522) New Jewel leaders, particularly spokesperson Bishop, warned of U.S. intervention from first moments of their takeover
The U.S. immediately began to warn tourists away from Grenada and, with the assistance of the government of Barbados, the jumping off place for most Grenadian flights, began to delay and harass those who tried to go. Every overblown fancy of the New Jewel leadership had a not-so-neurotic basis.(523)
New Jewel banned papers purportedly established by the CIA and jailed the country's most prominent journalist, Alistair Hughes. Formal elections were never held even though no one questions the fact that if Bishop stood for a vote he would have won convincingly. NJM was too much of a socialist party of the traditional type to allow elections, even though they made repeated promises, before the coup, to hold elections quickly.
Even so, NJM sought to confiscate the state, not smash it. They established the Peoples' Revolutionary Government (PRG) which, as many locals knew, was merely "synonymous with the central committee of the NJM"
The facilities NJM inherited from Gairy were dilapidated--classrooms were falling apart. The curriculum was colonialist, that is, the majority of students lives at home were denigrated and denied while, at the same time, they were prepared for industrial work that simply did not exist. Education was a major New Jewel priority. The goal, as Bishop had stated early on, was to turn all of Grenada into one big popular school and, importantly, to win genuine democratic participation from the masses of people.
However, in describing the point of the project, Bishop said the purpose was, "..to develop the productive capacity of our society since it is only through an expansion in production that the standard of living, including the education system, can be improved".(532) But the mode and means of production were decidedly capitalist, in part because the PRG was apprehensive that the people who supported the NJM reform measures would not otherwise work, that is, capitalism with a kindly overseer was "necessary to avoid social and economic disintegration".(533)
Bishop was more pointed about the purpose of school under NJM just weeks later: "We must produce the skills that can be absorbed in our economy...we must produce the agriculturalists, the mechanics, the hoteliers, the engineers, the boat captains,..that we need to man our agriculture, our agro-industries, our fisheries, our tourism..."(534)
Further, NJM leaders reiterated their belief that what must first be developed is the productive forces of society, via science and technology, and that technological/industrial advance would necessarily lead to an early stage of socialism.(535) Another minor motive might be found in that some people in the illiterate population were seen by New Jewel as Gairy's political base.(536)
The New Jewel abolished the secondary school fees, began to initiate day care centers, started regular teacher training sessions one full day a week while the children joined local workers in examining the nearby factories, fisheries, and collective farms. But there were serious tensions with some of the traditional teachers who opposed the NJM curriculum. The Grenadian teachers conducted a wage strike in 1981. The new government pleaded poverty--and passed laws making public worker strikes illegal.(537) New Jewel also imported science and math teachers from the U.S.S.R. and Cuba.(538)
To combat adult illiteracy, NJM established the Committee for Popular Education (CPE)
The literacy program reflects how the NJM progressed, and retreated, during the brief course of the revo.
Describe the first interactive books, the popularity of the literacy campaign, the move to CPE textbooks, the forcing of people to attend classes, the disintegration of the classes, the inward turn of NJM under pressure to meet Bishops promises, and pressure from the US.
This is where I came in. I went to Grenada in 1980, on urging of people in Detroit, including members of the Detroit City council which was establishing close ties with Grenada. I returned in 1982 but was only able to stay about a week due to a death in my family. I came back in 1992, again in 1994, and spent a year there in 1996, most of it in Richmond Hill Prison, interviewing the Grenada 17. I returned, for about three weeks in 1997.
Early in the PRG's life, "without a doubt, the greatest economic success was in obtaining loans and grants from other governments and international organizations". In the PRG period, of $62.3 million total grants, Cuba gave $36.6 million. Iraq gave $7.2 million (and plenty in kind. Grenadian school children were given thousands of exam books with photos of "The Leader President Militant Saddam Hussein" on the cover.) Of $47.3 million in loans, Libya gave $10.4 million. Of $15.5 million in military grants, the U.S.S.R. gave more than $10 million. Even with the growing influx of outside help, by 1982, the PRG faced renewed high unemployment, unstable prices, production for profit, and inequities in wage distribution: capitalism.(555)
Soviet cynicism goes beyond hard-headed direction as to what not to do. It involves what is to be done. There is evidence that the U.S.S.R. used Grenadian NJM leaders within the Socialist International, as well as within the U.N. to press the Soviet's interests.(556) For example, the little colony of Grenada, in the midst of the ocean of one colossus, supported the Afghan invasion. Later, after the U.S. invasion, Grenada refused to support sanctions against South Africa.(557)
By the time of my second visit to Grenada, the promises from the NJM were ringing empty with the people. A celebration of the anniversary of the revolution was a tragi-comedy. A small outdoor stadium was sparsely filled with a crowd from the military, civil servants, the uniformed nurses (ever-loyal to Bishop), and children. NJM officials (and I) sat in shaded seats while the crowd in the hot sun happily ignored speeches from PRG leaders and foreign dignitaries--until Bishop spoke. Then, even with reality peering cruelly over his shoulder, the crowd came alive with his speech promising that "those who do the work now hold the reins", hardly the case, even in the hot stadium, but still appealing to the sense of hope and the attack on alienation that carried New Jewel for fours years.
All was not barren vows. The preventative medical system was still intact, reaching into hundreds of Grenadian homes, mostly because of the highly respected Cuban doctors and nurses---respected by the masses of people but held in contempt by many in the traditional Grenadian medical force. Interestingly, the several hundreds of medical students in an American owned off-shore med school on the island seemed to never have interrupted their parties as the revolution flowed and ebbed. They kept alone, in splendid isolation on the beach.(558)
In 1982 the U.S had carried out a practice invasion of a nation code-named "Amber" (Grenada was known as part of the Ambergine Islands) in a remote area of Puerto Rico. In '82 and '83 a series of terrorist bombings targeted key New Jewel leaders. The American Institute for Free Labor Development and the local Seaman's Union (both with ties to the U.S. CIA) consistently opposed every significant NJM move.(560) There were reports of deep tensions within the New Jewel hierarchy--with Coard and the vast majority of members of the NJM Central Committee attempting to discipline the free-wheeling Bishop who was repeatedly criticized, and was self-critical, for his unrestrained approach to democratic centralism, his willingness to make promises with no hope for delivery, his lack of attention to detail, and his "idealism". After hours of internal struggle, the NJM leaders agreed that Bishop would have to be joined by Coard in Joint Leadership. Bishop saw that as an attack on himself. Coard, I believe, actually thought a deal was made.
In October 1983, Bishop and others left Grenada, ostensibly for a tour of Eastern Europe. There are many indications he made an unscheduled stop in the US. He did make an unscheduled stop in Cuba and met with Castro.
On October 12, 1983, the day after his return, Bishop initiated a rumor to be circulated by his bodyguard that Coard was planning to kill him. In Grenada such a rumor can circulate throughout the country in less than a day-and can be deadly. A similar rumor, that Eric Gairy intended to kill Bishop and others, preceded the initial NJM revolution in 1979.
Bishop denied he started the 1983 rumor. .
This set in motion a series of events that finished off the revo. The assembled NJM party witnessed a meeting in which Bishop was exposed as having caused the rumor. Even so, the party members also all knew that Bishop was the key to whatever credibility the party still had among the people. They also knew the U.S. was openly threatening the government. The US had staged widely publicized invasion exercises, "Amber and the Ambergines," making its intentions clear. By a wide majority party vote, Bishop and Coard were both ordered to their homes, Bishop under arrest. Negotiations began to overhaul the way the party was functioning. Coard met with the Cuban Ambassador, Julian Rizzo, and came away feeling he had been threatened by Castro himself.
On 19 October 1983, a mob of thousands led by people who had traveled to Cuba with Bishop marched past armed personnel carriers (APC's) lined up in front of his home, freed "We Leader" Bishop, and (under curious banners like "We Love the US") began to move to the town square. No one in the APC's moved to stop the crowd.
Before the crowd moved to Bishop's house, a Cuban military outfit arrived at the downtown Fort Rupert (now Ft George). They had not reported in days and were turned away by the commander on duty from the NJM.
In the town square, where rallies were traditionally held, microphones were set up for Bishop to speak to the people. Bishop could have easily mobilized nearly the entire population of the island to come to the square to support him-and that probably would have been that.
But now led by Bishop and his friends, the crowd turned and marched on a nearby fort where arms and TNT were stored. Bishop demanded that the commander of the fort turn over his weapons. He did, and was locked in a cell.
At this point, things become murky. An award winning Grenadian journalist, Alastair Hughes, famous in the region for his resistance to the NJM and his courage, saw the crowd move to the fort and bolted home, rather than cover the news. Bishop moved his cadre to seize the radio and telephone centers, as had the NJM in overturning Gairy a few years earlier. From another fort on a mountain about two miles away, where Coard and others gathered, Peoples Revolutionary Army APC's were ordered to quiet the mob.
I interviewed people who were on the APC's and many people who watched what followed. The soldiers on the APC's were, for the most part, hardly crack troops. They were mainly youths who had enlisted to get the money to buy shoes for their families. One had deserted out of loneliness and been brought back the previous day. They rode on top of the carriers, in full view. As they approached the fort, fire came from the mob. The commander of the first APC, one of the few experienced soldiers in the group and a highly respected officer, was killed by sniper fire, immediately. Discipline appears to have evaporated on all sides. Fire was returned. The APC’s overwhelmed the mob.
No one knows exactly how many people were killed and wounded. No firm count was ever made. There are films of people leaping over a wall at the fort (why a film-maker was so poised with such a powerful camera is an interesting question).
In any case, Bishop and other top leaders of NJM, including his pregnant companion Jackie Creft, were killed- after they had surely surrendered. The remaining leadership of NJM imposed a curfew on the island. In part because important documents taken from Grenada during the invasion remain classified in the U.S., no thorough-going investigation of this day's events has been possible.
In retrospect, the women leaders of the Grenada revolution who were not jailed felt that male chauvinism played a significant role in the collapse of the revo. From 1979, the women of New Jewel, by their statements, had done, by far, the largest share of the party’s work, while the men frequently partied. After four years, the women were exhausted and simply did not have the energy to seek some kind of reconciliation between Bishop and Coard and the rest of the group.
Shortly afterward, on October 23 1983, 241 US troops were killed, blown up in their barracks in Lebanon by a truck bomb.
US President Ronald Reagan took to the TV, announcing he had discovered, through satellite photos, that the Cubans were building a secret Soviet_Cuban military airstrip in Grenada-a direct threat to US security.
Show the History Channel Video.
Actually tourists were frequently taken to the construction site at the airport-a widely publicized symbol of Grenadian pride. US students from St. George's Medical school jogged by Cuban and Grenadian construction workers each day on the airstrip. The main financial support for the airport came not from the <U.S.S.R>. nor from Cuba, but from Margaret Thatcher's Britain.
Reagan declared the US medical students to be in grave danger from the crisis in Grenada, said that the NJM was a threat to all regional security. He got the organization of Caribbean nations to back him_with a big payoff to those who went along-- and invaded a country the size of Kalamazoo with a massive military force, under a precedent_ setting news blackout. The US had practiced the invasion of Grenada as early as 1981.
Though the medical students were radioing out that they were in no danger-except from the possibility of an invasion-- US rangers "saved" them, after U.S. jets bombed a mental hospital.
Remarkably, it is clear that Fidel Castro was forewarned of the invasion and that Cuban troops tasked to stop the US landing at the new airport never fired their weapons at the Rangers making parachute drops on the runway_until the Rangers attacked them. The Cubans had told the Grenadian military that they would defend the airport area.
The invasion of Grenada (popular among most Grenadian people sickened by the long collapse of the NJM) was complete in a week. It was, however, denounced as illegal by the U.N. Security Council, by Margaret Thatcher and the British government, and by a myriad of US congress_people.
The international press, including US reporters, was cordoned off from Grenada during the invasion. US ships intercepted reporters who rented boats trying to get to the island, arresting them and detaining them until after the invasion was complete.
The US, however, quickly recaptured its post-Lebanon image as a military super-power.
Seventeen NJM leaders were charged with the murder of Bishop, Jacqueline Creft, and others, though most of them were nowhere near the incident, could not have participated, like the commander of the fort who was locked in a basement Fort Rupert cell.
The NJM leaders were tortured and signed transparently bogus confessions. According to affidavits filed by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, and Amnesty International, the NJM leaders were denied attorneys. They were tried by jurors who chanted "guilty" at them during jury selection, in trails led by judges hand_picked and paid by the U.S. They were unable to make a defense in the kangaroo atmosphere. Their lawyers were subjected to death threats and some fled. Key witnesses, like a bodyguard who was present when Bishop created and ordered the death threat rumor, were denied the right to testify. Fourteen of the NJM members were sentenced to death. In 1991, after an international outcry, the sentences were commuted to life. Typically in the Caribbean, a life sentence amounts to around 15 years.
The three remaining prisoners, low-ranking soldiers, were sentenced on several counts of manslaughter. On appeal, their sentences were reduced to fifteen years. With their time now served, the Grenadian government still refuses to release them, the prime minister saying that the judiciary has no right to override the government-or a possible vote of the people.
In prison, the Grenada 17 were systematically abused by guards and others for eight years, according to statements made to me be a former prison warden and several guards. Abuse was especially horrible for the lone woman, Phyllis Coard, who was held in near_total isolation for years simply because few women are jailed in Grenada. In 1991, after their children had been introduced to the fellow who was to hang them from a prison courtyard gallows, the Grenada 17 sentences were commuted to life.
Prison Commissioner Winston Courtney was pivotal to halting the torture. Courtney had himself been held in Richmond Hill jail, imprisoned by the leadership of the NJM without charge for more than a year. During that period, Courtney's son was killed under questionable circumstances. He had reason to believe that the NJM was involved. During the latter days of the NJM's term of power, Courtney was expelled from the island. He returned to be the warden of the prison in the early 90's, holding the prisoners who once held him. Courtney immediately moved to stop the abuse, to create a disciplined yet humane prison that emphasized rehabilitation. He worked 18 hour days to overcome the habits of Richmond Hill, eventually sacrificing his health and eyesight. When asked why he did this, Courtney said, "I am an ethical man and if I do not do this, I am nothing."
The New Jewel leaders are still serving time in a prison built in the nineteenth century. The last prisoners of the cold war are black. Their health is rapidly fading. Despite immense obstacles created by prison officials over the years, the NJM prisoners are conducting one of the most successful literacy campaigns in the country. Less than two in ten of the program' grads return to the Richmond Hill jail.
Winston Courtney Video
As of October 2004, the NJM prisoners, will have served 21 years. Phyllis Coard was released in 2000 to seek cancer treatment abroad, following an international campaign on her behalf. She is still expected to return to the jail following treatment. Three soldiers who were sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter were released in 2007, having served nearly 24 years, on orders of a British appeals court which, later this year, released three more of the men, making it the Grenada Ten today.
I filed a Freedom of Information suit demanding documents which were seized by the US and kept out of the trial. The US military commandeered tons of documents in Grenada immediately following the invasion. The documents were sifted and some of them later appeared in a book called the "Grenada Documents," edited by Michael Ledeen, now an Iraq war hawk who calls for the invasion of Iran. US intelligence agencies denied my request for more documents. I sued.
The suit came to court in Detroit on November 10th, 1997, after delays of more than one year. In October, 1998, Judge Hood gave the U.S. government thirty days to give me the documents. To date, the US has released a ream of blacked_out material, some of it indicating that the US clearly interfered in the trial of the Grenada prisoners-and paid the trial judges. However, the US insists that the remaining documents were all returned to Grenada. The Grenada government denies ever receiving the material.
In October 2003 Amnesty International has issued a detailed report, demonstrating their conclusion that the Grenada 17 were denied due process in their trial: "the trial was manifestly and fundamentally unfair." The selection of both judges and the jury were tainted with prejudice. Documents that might have contradicted key prosecution evidence were denied the defendants. Instead, prison guards forcibly took materials from the prisoners that they had prepared for their defense. Defendants were not allowed to present key witnesses whose testimony would have undermined the testimony of the sole prosecution witness, Cletus St. Paul, one of Bishop's bodyguards, who claimed he overheard Coard and others ordering Bishop's liquidation. Errol George, also a Bishop bodyguard, was not allowed to say that he was right next to St. Paul during the time in question, and heard nothing of the sort.
In 2002 I interviewed Grenada's ambassador to the US, asking him why his government is so determined to keep the Grenada 17 in jail. He replied that he, and the nation's current leader, Keith Mitchell, believe there will be riots if the Grenada 17 are set free. The possibility of serious civil strife in Grenada, about anything but the corruption allegations aimed at the Mitchell regime, are actually quite negligible, as leaders of the opposition party and the country's leading paper, the Voice, tell me.
I spent 1996 in Grenada interviewing many of the jailed NJM leaders. To say they are innocent of everything is not the case. To say they are innocent of the charges brought against them is. Serious mistakes were made by the New Jewel leadership. The prisoners have issued extensive, indeed insightful, apologies to that effect, taking responsibility for the crisis of the revolution, but not for the murders they did not commit. Their continued imprisonment is a mysterious yet great wrong that needs to be righted. The truth of the Grenada revo, and its destruction, needs to be known. Why did Bishop march on the Fort and issue orders to overthrow a government that could not oppose his popularity? Why did Alastair Hughes run home. Why were there signs carried by member of the mob calling for a US invasion? Why was General Ochoa, a Cuban General who ran the ports of Grenada from the day of the revo til a month before its end (removed by Coard’s action) later scapegoated for the Cuban involvement in drug transhipments, that is, executed? What role did he really play in Grenada.
Who Are the Grenada 17?
# Austin, Hudson ‘H.A.’ also ‘The General’
# Bartholomew, Dave ‘Tan’
# Bernard, Callistus ‘Abdullah’
# Coard, Bernard
# Coard, Phyllis*
# Cornwall, Leon ‘Bogo’
# James, Liam ‘Owusu’
# Joseph, Vincent - released 2 December 2006
# Layne, Ewart ‘Headache’
# McBarnette, Colville ‘Kamau’
# Mitchell, Andy - released 2 December 2006
# Prime, Cecil ‘Dumpy’ - released 27 June 2007
# Redhead, Lester ‘Goat’ - released 27 June 2007
# Richardson, Cosmos - released 2 December 2006
# Strachan, Selwyn ‘Sello’
# Stroude, Christopher ‘Chris’ - released 27 June 2007
# Ventour, John ‘Chalkie’