It’s a mixed bag for Grenada 45 years after becoming the first island in the sub-regional grouping known as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to break colonial ties with Britain and move towards independence.
Our showing has been very dismal in the political arena with Sports being the only bright spot on the landscape and providing the proudest moments for the people of the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
As a people, we can look back with much pride and joy to the exploits of track athlete Kirani James, the first Grenadian to strike gold at the London Olympics in 2012 when he won the 400 metres, and wicketkeeper/batsman, Junior Murray, the first of our modern day cricketer to be selected to play for the West Indies.
It is the politics that has beset the island and its development over the years as Grenada moved from one political crisis to another with the resultant effect being a massive exodus of people and in effect a brain drain to greener pastures especially to the United States.
Late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy took the bold step to take the island along the road to Independence amidst massive opposition from a particular class of people in the country who never accepted “The Black Boy” from the north of the island as their leader.
It was not surprising that five years after independence was attained on February 7, 1974 that Gairy was ousted from power in a coup d’etat staged by the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) of late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop.
The armed uprising was popular amongst the anti-Gairy forces in the country as the deposed Prime Minister was accused of having in place a group of armed thugs named “The Mongoose Gang” that beat and terrorised opponents of the regime.
Gairy was also mocked at by opponents as he had approached the United Nations to undertake a study into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO’s) that were reportedly often cited on planet earth.
Bishop was clearly not understood by the ruling class in St. George’s as he turned out not to be “the blue eye boy” they wanted to replace Gairy as he plunged Grenada into the Cuban and Soviet orbit.
Despite his faults and flaws, history will still record Gairy as one of the most outstanding and charismatic Prime Ministers to rule Grenada and one who left his mark on the landscape.
In the face of widespread criticisms and propaganda from the opposition, Gairy took the bold step of inviting a private group from the United States to set up an offshore university on the island through an act of Parliament that was passed in 1976.
The country is today much better off financially and economically due to the presence of St. George’s University (SGU) at True Blue – a project that met with ridicule by the NJM leftwingers who had by then replaced the Grenada National Party (GNP) of Herbert Blaize as the main antagonists against Gairy.
Today that Gairy-inspired project is at the backbone of the Grenadian economy with several locals making a more than comfortable living from accommodation provided for the thousands of students who have attended SGU over the years.
The other leader who has made and left a mark on the Grenada political landscape is Bishop – despite the unconventional manner in which he came to power through the armed overthrow of a Prime Minister and his government.
The Bishop-led People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) suspended the Grenada Constitution and ruled by decree through a number of People’s Law – the first such approach to government in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The revolutionary leaders consolidated power with the detention and jailing without charge or trial of a number of opponents deemed as “counter-revolutionaries” and engaged in the shutdown of the free and independent press like the Torchlight newspaper and the Grenadian Voice.
Under the PRG, Grenada moved closer to the communist bloc as it established ties with the Soviet Union, Hungary, East Germany and others who were engaged in a struggle for world dominance from the United States and the West.
Historians have noted that Grenada’s flirtation with leftwing revolution and its downfall marked the beginning of the end for communism as the process in the East Caribbean island was the first to be rolled back by Washington when then U.S President Ronald Reagan sent in military troops on October 25, 1983 to restore order following a palace coup against Bishop by a hardline faction in the NJM that was suspected to be loyal to Moscow’s version of communism built on the principle of Democratic Centralism as opposed to Bishop’s style which was fashioned after late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.
However, Bishop was able to embark upon some positive developments that are today proving to be beneficial to the country and its development.
The single most important project associated with the revolutionary period was the building of the international airport at Point Salines with massive assistance from Cuba.
Today, the project is key in the development process, the building of hotels and the current and future growth projection for the tourism sector which has now overtaken agriculture as the major earner of foreign exchange and job creation for Grenadians.
The PRG tried to build an agro-processing sector to create opportunities for people, established the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), and also sent many children of poor Grenadians to further their studies abroad in areas like Medicine, Economics, Agriculture and other important fields especially in Cuba which provided a number of free scholarships.
In the last 36 years of our independence, our people have had to undergo severe economic and financial hardships through two Structural Adjustment Programmes brought on by massive and unwise spending especially from the New National Party (NNP) and its Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Ironically, Dr. Mitchell has been the most dominant political figure in Grenada being in charge of the island’s affairs longer than any previous Prime Minister and for 19 of the last 24 years.
He is now virtually in charge of a one-party state as the NNP has won the last two elections 15-0 against the Congress party.
Unfortunately, THE NEW TODAY cannot point to any project undertaken by PM Mitchell in his reign that can be compared or have the kind of effect and impact on the improvement of the lives of Grenadians as in the Gairy and Bishop eras.
Nevertheless, THE NEW TODAY newspaper would like to wish all Grenadians at home and abroad a Happy Independence.