Over the past 33 years, the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada has seen two disasters. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed the island and in the wake left 24 persons dead.
But the disaster which struck Grenada the hardest was the bloody coup of October 19, 1983, which led to the deaths of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and members of his People’s Revolutionary Government.
Up to today – 33 years later – no one knows where the bodies of Bishop and members of his Government were buried. That’s the greatest mystery. Only those who were charged, convicted and later released, have that answer.
In 1979, Bishop toppled the country’s democratically-elected Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy.
But within the New Jewel Movement (NJM) leadership, factions and infighting developed.
Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and General Hudson Austin, commander of the Grenadian Armed Forces, objected to Bishop’s decision to try and forge closer ties with the United States.
On 13th October 1983, the ruling party met and decided Bishop should be put under house arrest.
On 14 October, official radio reported the resignation of Coard because of rumours he had plotted to kill the prime minister.
But in other reports the radical deputy prime minister was said to have taken power.
And on 17 October, General Austin denied there had been a military coup but said Bishop had been expelled from the NJM for refusing to share power and disgracing the revolution.
Following the release of Bishop from house arrest, he and his supporters had marched towards the military headquarters Fort Rupert where he believed loyal army officers were being detained.
On his arrival in the early afternoon, troops, commanded by General Austin, fired on the crowd and it is reported that dozens of demonstrators were killed.
General Austin said that Bishop was threatening to bring down the leadership of the armed forces and the NJM, and was killed as soldiers stormed the fort.
But other accounts say that Bishop was taken the prisoner and shot dead at Fort Rupert along with three ministerial colleagues and two union leaders.
Six days later, United States President Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, claiming that 650 American students on the island were at risk. According to US figures, 45 Grenadians, 24 Cubans and 19 Americans were killed in the invasion. An SOS came from then Dominican Prime Minister, Eugenia Charles.
Coard was among 17 arrested and charged with several murders, but only 14 were convicted and sentenced to death. But on February 7, 2007, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London quashed the death sentences imposed on Coard and 13 others for the murders of Bishop and ten others.
The Law Lords also ruled the Governor General’s commutation order that the Grenada 14 spend the “rest of their natural lives” in prison was also unlawful. According to Lord Hoffmann who delivered the 11-page judgment, there is nothing called “natural life.” He ordered that the Grenada 14 would have to undergo a re-sentencing hearing in St George’s.
The successful appellants were Coard, Callistus Bernard, Lester Redhead, Christopher Stroude, Hudson Austin, Liam James, Leon Cornwall, John Anthony Venture, Dave Bartholomew, Ewart Layne, Colville Mc Barnett, Selwyn Strachan and Cecil Prime.
On December 4, 1986, the jury had found the 14 guilty and Justice Dennis Byron (now the CCJ President) sentenced them to death. In 1991, an appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed and the death sentences affirmed.
On August 15, 1991, the then Governor General signed warrants commuting the death sentence to one of natural life in prison.
On September 4, 2009, all the convicted prisoners were released from the Richmond Hill Prison, Grenada, leaving one unanswered question – where is Maurice Bishop’s remain?
Some of the persons killed on Fort Rupert on 19th October 1983.
These persons listed below were killed execution style:
Others who were killed who on the Fort that fateful day.
Andy Sebastian Alexander.