Maurice Bishop died 40 years ago – Grenada remembers

Maurice Bishop

The Grenada government has announced plans to observe the 40th anniversary of the murder of Maurice Bishop, the country’s first left wing prime minister, who was killed during a palace coup orchestrated by his deputy, Bernard Coard on October 19, 1983.

Head of the 50th Independence Anniversary Committee, Dr Wendy Crawford, told a news conference that the activity will form part of the island’s 50th anniversary of political independence that will be launched on October 19 this year.

“Since independence is such an historic event for us, a period when we are given a time to tell our history, what better time could we ask for when the nation will be attentive to not only the celebration of our independence…and October 19th is a story that everybody has told, has written about, spoken about established the narrative and all of that came externally.

Last October, the government said it was moving ahead with plans to have October 19 declared a public holiday to commemorate the 1983 killings of Bishop and several members of his cabinet that led to the collapse of the left wing People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).

In addition to Bishop and his cabinet colleagues who were killed in the palace coup orchestrated by his deputy, Bernard Coard, several civilians died at Fort Rupert, which was renamed Fort George.

As a result, of the killings on October 19, the United States invaded Grenada on October 25.

October 19 is traditionally commemorated by the 1983 Martyrs Foundation, a non-governmental organisation with a memorial service and wreath laying ceremony.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell defended the decision to launch the 40th anniversary coinciding with the independence, saying the 19th is “merely the launch of the commencement of the activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

“I am using the word commemorate because I think too often people assume public holiday means a festive or celebratory event. In fact, and that’s the point I wish to make here, our perspective of marking the 19th October as a public holiday is in fact for us to recognise the sombre nature, the tragic nature of what happened and for us to reflect upon it and understand why it happened”.

“And so it is important for us to mark that occasion in a sombre manner, in a reflective manner and perhaps even in an emotional manner, so we understand when we say for example that we are a democratic society that we value democracy, we value freedom of speech…that those things actually mean something because the opposite of it would have been what happened on the19th October in a very tragic manner”.

Mitchell, who came to power following the June 2022 general election, said the 50th anniversary celebrations “includes part of that history, which effectively is 40 years old as of this year.

“We need to recognise that when we are celebrating our 50th anniversary of independence that there are significant dates within a  calendar year, the 7th of February, the 19th of October, the 25th of October, the 13th of March that means something to us as a people”.