It was a moment of reflection for members of the Upper House of Parliament during last week Friday’s sitting at the Trade Centre in Grand Anse amidst the tabling of the citation of the Botanical Gardens Act 1968 to be amended to the Sir Eric Matthew Gairy Act 1968, in honour of the country’s first Prime Minster, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy.
The Bill that was introduced to the House by Culture Minister, Senator Brenda Hood makes provisions for the renaming of the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen to the Sir Eric Matthew Gairy Botanical Gardens.
Sen. Hood recalled the many ways Sir. Eric had contributed to the development of the people and country by encouraging empowerment of the less fortunate and initiatives such as land for the landless, among others.
She noted that in 1951, the charismatic and controversial politician fought for the rights of the under-privileged, the people who were working on the plantations and were not treated fairly.
“…He (Gairy) put his life on the line to be able to support and ask for fair wages for these people,” she said.
Sen. Hood also recalled the instrumental role Sir. Eric played in helping dark-skinned people find employment in the country as opposed to lighter skinned persons.
“During the late 60s, early 70s, if you were a dark-skinned person you were not allowed to work in a bank. When you go to the bank it was always fair-skinned people looking like white people – they were the ones that were hired.”
“It took Sir Eric Matthew Gairy – he was the man to change that. He was able to get dark-skinned people to go into banks and earn a living. When you look around this country a lot of the things that he did is still prevalent today.”
Sen. Hood pointed to the many round-a-bouts built in the country under Gairy’s rule and branded him as “the one with the vision’.
“… I think we had a man with a vision for Grenada – who knows what would have happened if the events didn’t happen in 1979, but I believe we need to recognise that we all make mistakes.”
“I know some people would say he (Sir Eric) doesn’t deserve it because he made a lot of mistakes but tell me which one of us has not made mistakes.
Gairy was toppled from power on March 13, 1979 by a coup d’etat staged by the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Maurice Bishop.
He returned from exile in the United States months after Bishop was killed in a second coup staged against him by a hardline faction led by his deputy, Bernard Coard.
Sen. Hood also recalled that during her childhood days, Sir Eric was responsible for a “well kept zoo in the Botanical Gardens”, where children used to love to visit on a regular basis.
Labour representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts echoed similar sentiments when he said that, “undoubtedly Sir Eric led the workers as no one else did, adding that during the 50s and 60s he was known as the champion of the ordinary people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
“He did what was then for many, the unthinkable” by taking on “the powerful ones…the estate owners and led ordinary people to believe in themselves.”
While the members of the House extended overwhelming support for the change, calls were also echoed for more to be done to honour Sir Eric, especially in terms of documentation so that future generations cannot only be enlightened but can build upon the contributions he made to national development.
Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke said while the renaming is “a good step, it is not enough,” expressing the view that “something more significant, substantial and historic ought to be attributed to his (Sir Eric’s) memory.”
Sen. Hood also informed the House of the development of a full body monument of Sir Eric, which is expected to be completed by Independence 2016.
The legal document to rename the Gardens in Honour of Sir Eric comes approximately 21 months after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell made the announcement at the 2014 Independence celebrations.