By ADF Newsdesk –
On October 19th, 2023, the Caribbean island of Grenada commemorates the 40th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Maurice Bishop, the former Prime Minister of Grenada. During a coup, Maurice Bishop, the country’s first left-wing prime minister, was assassinated by his deputy, Bernard Coard. This horrific event not only claimed the life of Bishop but also resulted in the deaths of several members of his cabinet. The loss of these prominent figures led to the collapse of the left-wing People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), which Bishop had led. Additionally, numerous civilians died at Fort Rupert, later renamed Fort George. The aftermath of these killings ultimately led to the United States invading Grenada on October 25th.
But who was Maurice Bishop?
Maurice Bishop, a revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born on May 29, 1944, in Dutch Aruba to Grenadian parents. His family relocated to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the prosperous economy, where Bishop excelled in his education. After moving to London in 1963, he pursued a law degree at the University of London while showing a keen interest in politics. In 1966, he married Angela Redhead and became a father to two children, John and Nadia.
Returning to Grenada in 1970 during the rise of the Black Power movement in the Caribbean, Bishop established a law practice in St. George’s and actively supported left-wing movements. He opposed the autocratic government of Eric Gairy in Grenada and was involved in the revolutionary activities in neighbouring Trinidad. Bishop faced violent retaliation from Gairy’s security forces. In 1972, he founded the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP), which later merged with the Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (JEWEL) in 1973 to form the New JEWEL Movement (NJM). The NJM declared Grenada’s independence in 1974.
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Joining Grenada’s parliament in 1976 as an opposition member, Bishop seized control of the government on March 13, 1979, while Eric Gairy was away. He declared himself Prime Minister and established the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) to create a Marxist government inspired by Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Bernard Coard became his deputy prime minister. Bishop’s government maintained a more moderate stance than his contemporaries despite befriending Marxist leaders.
Bishop implemented numerous social and economic improvements during his tenure, enabling Grenada to thrive while neighbouring countries faced challenges in the early 1980s. He attempted to foster friendly relations with the United States, but suspicions about his ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union hindered these efforts.
Internal divisions within the PRG, particularly between Bishop’s moderate politics and Coard’s radical ideals, led to violence in 1983. A committee within the PRG accused Bishop of spreading false rumours about an assassination attempt, resulting in his house arrest on October 12, 1983. A week later, he was released by his supporters and delivered an address but was subsequently captured by the opposition. Bishop was executed by firing squad alongside five loyal PRG members. Six days later, United States troops intervened in Grenada to restore order. Since then, Grenada has transitioned into a democracy.
Despite his controversial politics and the government’s disregard for human rights, Maurice Bishop is still revered as a hero in Grenada. He is celebrated for his dedication to island independence and economic policies, contributing to the country’s prosperity.