Why Not Amnesty For Coard?
Date: Thursday, February 17 @ 05:26:19 UTC
Topic: Grenada

By George Alleyne,

In the wake of Monday's decision by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal that Bernard Coard and 12 others, who were convicted of killing Maurice Bishop and four Cabinet Ministers in the 1983 coup, should remain in prison, I renew my appeal, first made in October of 2003, for the luckless 13 to be granted an amnesty. The time is long overdue for the Governor General, exercising the powers granted to him under Grenada's Constitution, to grant a general pardon to Coard and the other 1983 coup prisoners. This is not to challenge or in any way question the decision of the Appeal Court Judges but rather to seek to nudge the authorities toward an amnesty for the coup leaders who have been in prison for more than 21 years.

Maurice Bishop, who had led the 1979 overthrow of the constitutionally elected Government of Grenada, and was himself removed by Coard, General Hutson and others opposed to his style of leadership, may have contributed to his death. But before I go that way what is unfortunate is that Bishop's removal and his subsequent death had been used by the Administration of the late President Ronald Reagan as the raison d'etre for military intervention. What is clear and particularly troubling is that the United States would have invaded Grenada even if Maurice Bishop had been in power, and probably would have argued, inter alia, that this had been made necessary because of Bishop's forcible removal of an elected Government and replacing it with a Marxist regime.

Let us not continue to uphold, however unintention-ally, this wilful distorting of history by the Americans, who have proclaimed to the world that they went into Grenada because Marxists had removed the legitimate (Maurice Bishop) Government. Let me recount some of the events in an effort for the umpteenth time to write them into the record. Earlier in October of 1983, a suicide bomber had blown up an American base in Beirut, killing upward of 200 Marines. The Americans smarting from the blow to their pride as the world's leading super-power ordered the long range shelling of Beirut and the subsequent heading for Grenada of several of the American warships on duty in the Middle East. It should have been clear to even the professional apologists for the Reagan Administration that it would have been impossible for US warships operating in the Mediterranean to have reached off Grenada within 48 hours of the overthrow of Bishop.

Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that since the redeployment of the American naval vessels had been clearly ordered before Bishop's overthrow that the original intention was to remove him and his Marxist regime. Bishop, Coard and company had been wedded to the idea of a Marxian Government solving all the social and economic ills of Grenada. They had romanticised Marxism, ignoring in the process that Russian Communism which they had idolised was nothing more, nothing less than State capitalism, and that the Soviet Union was just as Imperialist, dictatorial and expansionist as had been Czarist Russia. I am a Socialist, indeed an unrepentant Socialist, however neither of the left nor of the right, with the (centre) Socialist's suspicion, even contempt for the clearly impractical far left.

Maurice Bishop was wrong to have overthrown the constitutionally elected Government of Eric Gairy and, instead, should have continued to seek to put his New Jewel Movement's popularity to the electoral test, no matter how brutal Gairy's Administration may have been. But I have strayed. I had stated earlier that Bishop may have contributed to his death. Bishop had been overseas for a while and on his return to Grenada found that he had been deposed by a Bernard Coard-led faction of the communistic New Jewel Movement. He was detained under miserable conditions by men and women who had perhaps romanticised a wee bit too much about the late Josef Stalin's accession to power. Bishop would later be freed and would lead the march of a band of loyalists to Fort Rupert, clearly in the hope of seizing the arms and ammunition which would normally have been stored there.

Unfortunately, for Bishop they had been removed and he faced instead the firepower of soldiers opposed to him. Had Maurice Bishop and his followers found and were in control of the arms and ammunition, there would have been a massacre, and the Americans would have intervened, militarily, against Bishop and his tarnished Jewel Movement. I have written several articles, beginning not long after the heady days of 1983, about the tactics of deception employed by the Americans. I do not propose to repeat here what led me to understand fully the subterfuge of the Reagan Administration. Rather, I ask the question: What did the Americans do with the body of Maurice Bishop, and why did they think it necessary to prevent it being a rallying point for his former followers?

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