An Open Letter to Fr. Gerard Paul

Dear Fr. Gerard Paul,

This letter is in response to your homily delivered at Tivoli R.C. Church on October 25, 2016.  With all due respect to the frock, overall, your sermon was well delivered. However, I beg to disagree with at least three of your arguments: (1) October 25th as a mockery without the return of Maurice Bishop’s body; (2) October 19th 1983 to November 1983 was the most painful period in Grenada’s history and (3) a monument for soldiers who died during October 25th.

Reconciliation and unity Fr. Paul should be all-inclusive in order to be genuine and meaningful.  Your assumption that unity and healing and genuine reconciliation are based on “bringing back the bodies of the people (Maurice Bishop et al.,) who are no longer here,” falls short of what genuine reconciliation should be for all Grenadians.

Disturbing Fr. Paul is your statement, “We need that (Bishop and his cabinet colleagues bodies) or else don’t make a mockery of us every year saying you’re giving us a holiday.”  In essence you are saying that October 25 is a mockery without the bodies of Maurice Bishop and his cabinet colleagues.

No Fr. Paul! October 25th is not about Maurice Bishop. Everything should not revolve around Maurice Bishop. October 25th is bigger than that.

Thirty-three years later, after October 19th 1983, there are many who are still traumatised and need psychological healing; that to me is of greater importance than finding Bishop’s body. Note, Maurice Bishop was a revolutionary and was much tougher than most could imagine.  I spent close “quality time” in his company. I doubt he would appreciate all this fuss over his remains.  He was no Christian. He does not need a Christian burial. Let his soul and bones rest in peace. Do not disturb them. Focus on the living needy instead.

Remember Fr. Paul, that nearly half the young men and some young women, mothers and fathers of the village of Tivoli were unjustly incarcerated for years under Bishop’s regime without any charge or trial. Many faced unimaginable physical torture and psychological pain. Families were broken up, children suffered.

The brothers and sisters of Tivoli were freed from the hellhole called Richmond Hill Prison and from the Hope Vale Concentration camp on October 25 because of the American military actions. To have come on the sacred ground of Tivoli, where the village was collectively punished under the PRG, and insinuate that October 25th is a “mockery” is from all angles an insult, and a sacrilege to the village of Tivoli.

Fr. Paul, you are a son of Tivoli and as a conscious village, we deserve and demand some sensitivity and an apology from you.

One young man in Tivoli Ronald “Masalee” Joseph, you know him quite well Fr. Paul, was simply playing the popular song by Bunny Wailer, “Rise up and Trample the Dragon.”  Captain Lester “Goat” Redhead (one of the so-called Grenada 17) declared the young man a “counter revolutionary,” smashed up the turntable, and carted him off to Richmond Hill prison where he spent several years in indefinite detention.  With no charge or trial or hope of release, his girlfriend with whom he had a child “moved on.” She could not wait. Who could blame her?  He came from prison a broken man, and later died from grief and with a broken heart. No one offered him psychological help; no one reached out to his family to this day. No mention of that Fr. Paul.  He was human too. There are several more cases.

Note also Fr. Paul, that some young men who were unjustly detained by the Bishop regime, with no charge or trial. When their loved ones died, they bawled and begged to be allowed to go down to La Qua, even in handcuffs and chained feet, to see the face of their loved ones for the last time. Tears and sorrow did not move anyone.  Their pleas were consistently denied and they were even mocked in their moment of bereavement.  The Church did not even speak out then. Sadly, the Church is found terribly lacking in the time of pastoral needs both then and now.  Reconciliation and healing Fr. Paul should not be for the elite only, but for all segments of society.

In addition Fr. Paul, you seem big on history.  Allow me to quote you, “If you don’t know where you’re coming from, how the hell you’re going to know where you are going.”  Well Fr. Paul, to assert that the period from October 19th 1983 to November 1983 was the most painful period in Grenada’s history is to exclude all the pain and suffering so many families endured from 1979 to 1983. Wouldn’t you agree?

Few worried about pain and suffering prior to October 1983. The reason, they were too deceived with political propaganda and too engrossed shouting, “Long Live, Forward Ever,” to have cared. October 19, 1983 took them by surprise. A sore was festering, it turned gangrenous and they did not notice. Sadly, October 19th became amputation day. All this may have been avoided if the Church provided sacrificial leadership during that period.

Note then Dear Fr. Paul, that to start “pain” at October 1983 is historically false, dangerously misleading and woefully shortsighted.

Obviously, the Church was cowed and silenced during the Revolution, and regrettably became complicit, complacent and even unwittingly collaborative during the years 1979 to 1983. It lacked the moral will and courage to speak out when the nation needed its voice the most.

Maybe if the Shepherds had spoken out we would have been spared October 1983. To now find the voice, the moral will, and the courage to blast out when things are normal is a bit late.  The Church failed to be a beacon from 1979 to 1983.  Why try to be a spotlight now, when the darkness has ended and daylight is here?

The third point Fr. Paul.  I tend to wonder whose agenda you unwittingly serve.  Regrettably, you mentioned that the Americans erected a monument for their fallen soldiers, none for Grenadian soldiers who fell during the US military battle here. They do have one erected in their honour, but personally from a masses standpoint, they do not deserve it. Why not?

Fr. Paul, the leader of the country and some of his Cabinet ministers were brutally executed on October 19th 1983.  School children and ordinary civilians were shot at while leaping to their deaths and disfigurement in attempts to escape the tyranny.  A military curfew was in place, with order to shoot to kill. People were living in fear throughout the country.

The Americans landed to end the bloody terror. These soldiers of which you speak, chose to disregard the overwhelming sentiments of the Grenadian people and went to fight out of fear or folly. They were killed.  They were not defending democracy. They were defending a small clique of egotists. They were in essence supporting the slaughterers of the leaders of this country, innocent children and ordinary civilians.

Dear Fr. Paul, they were no heroes. They do not deserve a medal neither a monument. They were betrayers. They should be viewed as criminals in light of what transpired at Fort Rupert.  How can you ask to honour them with a monument?  As true heroes they should have fought those who did the killings at Fort Rupert. They did not.

However, my sympathy goes out to the families of all those young men who probably went to fight out of fear of being killed themselves by their military superiors had they refused to fight. Ironically and shamefully, when the smoke cleared, all of the senior military leaders were found alive, hiding.

Finally Fr. Paul, you still remain a son, a brother of Tivoli.

Zealous yes, but misguided of course and unsuspectingly serving the interest of others. Be like the “Prodigal son,” we invite you to come back home!  A forgiving welcome awaits you.

Evan Bhola

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