The Grenada Revolution Online

Address to the Guyana–Trinidad Mutual Life Insurance Company
[20 October 1980]

[NOTE: The cover page and page 1, plus any pages after p. 15 are not available at this time. The GTM company also had accounts in Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines in addition to its home base in Guyana and its facilities in Trinidad and Tobago. The speech was given in Grenada.

-2-

as being one region, coming out of one history and one experience with one people. And therefore one of our firmest tenets has been that it is extremely important whatever else we manage to do or not do that we maintain at all times the best possible relations, tighten the links, tighten the bonds between the people of the Caribbean.

As you know, our colonial past made great attempts at trying to keep us divided. There were several different plans of fragmentation, some of them successful.

There was a period when the Windwards and the Leewards for example were not what they are today. There was a period when Tobago formed part of Grenada, today, of course Tobago is part of the Unitary State of Trinidad and Tobago, so we have had that kind of experience.

We have also had a shared experience of slavery, we have had a shared experience of the struggles of our forefathers against slavery.

In our own country in the year 1795 Julien Fedon took up arms against the British slave masters and that insurrection in fact lasted for two years and it is a large part of the historical legacy that our country today has.

We have shared too in the post world war, one year in particular workers struggled as the workers of the region tried to come into the 20th  century by themselves beginning the fight for the rights of workers in this region.

A fight which today has borne many fruits but virtually all of those fruits we have come to take for granted; the right to strike, the right to form and to join Trade Unions, the right to vacation with pay and so forth.

Our region too has produced common patriots and common heroes. Tubal Uriah “Buzz’ Butler, who is recognised today in Trinidad as a national hero happens of course to be a Grenadian and we regard him as a genuine son; notably of Grenada soil, but of the soil of the Caribbean.

Our own son, T.A. Marryshow, one of the leading visionaries of the early 20th century, spent most of his life in the prophetic fight for a united people of the Caribbean in his call for a Federation.

And in this struggle, of course he was joined by patriots in different islands and territories in the region.

So my point in this introduction is to say that we are the inheritors of the same tradition, we have come from the same experience, we have fought the same struggles, our people are one people and that is something that is extremely close to us.

We genuinely believe and genuinely hold out our own process in Grenada as a Caribbean process. We see what we are trying to do here as having relevance to the future of the region, as having a Caribbean potential, as having Caribbean problems for which we will find Caribbean solutions, and we are sure that the aspirations that we have are aspirations which are shared by the Caribbean masses at large.

Our Revolution, therefore, is a Caribbean people–oriented one.

We have tried from the beginning in whatever small ways we can to see what could be done about making the region more accessible to the people of the region and that because it is our very firm belief that that part of the problem with Caribbean integration and CARICOM itself has been precisely because it has now become an organ of governments, an organ of multinational corporations and is increasingly losing its impact and importance to the ordinary masses of the Caribbean.

St. George’s Declaration which with St. Lucia and Dominica, was signed in Grenada in the first months of the Revolution last year, aimed at creating easier ways of travel for the people of these three islands.

We agreed for example to lift passport restrictions. We agreed to make it easier for the people of our territories to be able to come to each other’s country so that they would have the opportunity of seeing at first hand what was going on there.

It must after all be one of the most ridiculous things about the present period in our history, the history of the people of the Caribbean, that we allow tourists from North America and Europe to come into our countries with ID cards and driving licenses but our own people have to present passports.

They very often have to find themselves subjected to bans and foolish questions and all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles are put into the way of ensuring easy access.

This is not an argument at this stage in our history for people having the right to go and spend one of two years in any particular country.

But is is certainly an argument that says that our people do have a right and are entitled to demand that in common with tourists coming from outside of the region, they too must be allowed easier access.

They too must have a right to cheaper travel, they too must be saved the embarrassment and the humiliation of constant and difficult searches by Customs officials.

We believe that this is a right that the people of the region have, and it is a right that certainly we in Grenada are willing to fight for.

I must tell you too that the Revolution in its outlook is not just people–oriented at the Caribbean level. It is also state–oriented, that is to say for reasons of history, for reasons of trade, for reasons of travel, for reasons of blood ties, we believe that it is important that at a minimum the different states in the region maintain normal state–to–state relations.

I put it that way because that is a minimum position. Our preference, of course, will be if these relations could be much better than merely minimum and normal state relations.

We will obviously argue for a relationship that are based on genuine friendship, in genuine cooperation, but relations nonetheless that stand by fundamental principles that guide all the states in the conduct of their international relations.

That is to say respect for the fundamental principles of sovereignty, non–interference in each other’s affairs, full legal equality and ideological diversity and pluralism.

All of these principles are of course fundamental because there is no way at this particular period of our history that it would be reasonable to expect that different governments are necessarily going to have the same approach to the question of dealing with their problems, to the question of the participation of their people in the running of their government and their country, to the question of the ideals and aspirations which are projected and struggled for. We would be very naive to expect that.

But nonetheless it is a dream that I think that all of us should have, it is a dream that our forefathers cherished, it is a dream that we in Grenada certainly continue to dream.

And that is one of the reasons of course in the area of CARICOM, we have been continuously calling for a Heads of Government Conference, because a Heads of Government Conference in CARICOM is the highest authority in that institution.

And it alone can make decisions that will determine for the future what will happen to all of the fundamental questions that CARICOM daily deals with in relation to the lives of the people in the Caribbean.

That is a call therefore that certainly we fell is important and I am afraid that we are not at all impressed by the one or two leaders in the region who have their own reasons for saying there should be no Heads of Government Conference at this time.

We also believe that it is possible and we should continue to struggle for different countries in the region coming under the CARICOM umbrella to try to always achieve a common stand on fundamental matters of international concern whether those matters be the question of the rights of the people of Palestine - whether it centres around the question of secured independence with full territory for Belize, a sister Caribbean country - whether it centres around the question of opposing attempts by the United States to being military manoeuvres into our region and therefore whether it is an attempt by the governments of the region to get the region declared formally and concretely as a zone of peace.

Whatever the particular reason we feel that it is a struggle that we must continue to engage in.

But thirdly, I must tell you that in Grenada our vision certainly goes beyond the English–speaking Caribbean.

Traditionally, because of the policies of the different colonialists who have come to our region, attempts have always been made to get us to feel that other people in the region coming from French, Dutch and Spanish–speaking territories are different to us.

There have always been these attempts to artificially divide the region into different languages and as a result of these linguistic differences to try to impose artificial cultural, historical and geographical differences that do not in fact exist.

We feel that it is fundamentally important that we move rapidly to destroy those artificial, colonial divisions and therefore a large part of our task in this region, and the responsibility will centre mainly on we in the English–speaking Caribbean because we have been the first to get independence, because we have been the first to stand up and declare openly that we believe in independence and are against colonialism in our region.

And because we have taken the first steps, today the responsibility must continue to be primarily ours, the people of the English–speaking Caribbean, to break down those ties, artificial divisions that have separated us.

There is no reason why our sisters and brothers in Martinique and Guadeloupe and Cayenne who speak French, our sisters and [brothers] in Aruba, in Curacao, in St. Saba and St. Eustacius who speak Dutch, sisters and brothers in Cuba, Puerto Rico, who speak Spanish, or in the U.S. Virgin Islands who, I suppose speak American, there really is no reason at all why there should be any differences between us.

And we feel very strongly therefore that another area of struggle for us in the English–speaking Caribbean is the struggle to break down these ties.

That is one of the most important reasons for close ties and relations between our country and the sister people of Cuba because we regard the Cubans as being a Caribbean country, as having a Caribbean country, as being largely a Caribbean people.

We believe that we have a right to develop relations with all people in the region.

We believe that the Cubans have maintained in their own country a principled and internationalist position, we believe too that as part of this process of ensuring ideological diversity and respect for sovereignty and respect for the principles of non–alignment and the right of all countries to choose their own friends without intimidation or direction by anyone else.

We believe it is important for us to have these relations. Indeed, our vision in Grenada is a Continental vision because when you really strip it right down we are part of the Americas and if we believe that we cannot physically pick up our respective little islands and more them to some part of Africa or Asia then it necessarily follows that it is right here in this region that we are going to have to stand and build our countries; that we are going to have to stand and see what we have and make the best of what we have and if we are serious about that, one of the things too that is called upon from us is to have a very close look at the question of our relations with our giant neighbour to the North - the United States, because our position certainly is that any country in the world today - in the 1980’s - that still has designs, that still has backyardish options, that still has interventionist tendencies, that still had divisionist tendencies, that still believes it can tell other people what they must do and how they must do it and then they must do it and who their friends must be and their enemies must be, we believe certainly that the time has come for us to state firmly as a people and as a region that we are not going to accept those instructions any more, that the Monroe Doctrine is after all 160 years old, 1823, and it was, as you know the Monroe Doctrine that had laid the basis for the invasions of Latin America.

It was the Monroe Doctrine that resulted in several military bases being planted in our region.

It was the Monroe Doctrine that today still gives certain people the right to believe that they can tell others what they must do but all of these things, in our view, are not compatible with genuine sovereignty or genuine independence.

And therefore it is extremely important that we in fact have a very close and hard look at the question of existing relations and what they mean.

I notice that only recently, for example, that Dr. Williams in Trinidad came out with a very strong statement opposing the IMF’s meeting with Seaga in Jamaica, arguing correctly that that appeared to be one attempt to influence the result of the Jamaican election.

And we certainly were very happy to see that stand because as everybody knows there are, of course, areas of very serious differences between Dr. Williams and ourselves.

We understand that he has said he doesn’t even open our letters, not that perhaps that is very important, but the fact of the matter is that when he makes a stand like this on a question of such fundamental concern it is something that we regard as being extremely important.

With the United States we would like to have normal state–to–state relations because we believe that we should have normal state–to–state relations with all countries in the world except for countries like South Africa and the most blatantly and brutal repressive fascist counties like Chile.

So we see this as being important, for on thing there are several thousands of Grenadians living in the United States.

In fact if Grenada has a population of 110,000, there is perhaps 400,000 living outside of Grenada and many of them are in the United States.

More than that, several thousand tourists form America come to our country every year.

Last year stay over tourist there was something like 38,000 Americans here, and in terms of cruise ships there was something like 140,000 who came to see Grenada.

So we have absolutely no reason to want bad relations and in fact contrary to what is being urged in the press, the truth and the reality is that we have made several attempts at normalizing relations and at indicating as firmly and as sincerely as we can that we want only the best of relations.

In the first few hours and days, for example, after March 13th last year we invited the American Ambassador down, we gave the usual assurances with regard to American citizens living in Grenada.

In the weeks following that, we made further attempts at building relations by asking our Ambassador to the United States to go to the State Department and to hold concrete discussions about the form that these relations can concretely take.

We invited down Ambassador Shelton on several occasions and held concrete discussion on these questions.

But I am afraid, and the truth is, that the response of establishment America has always been to resist whatever attempts we have made at normalizing relations.

In the first few days - it turns now printed in the Washington Post in May last year that Brezinski and the national security met and considered for several hours the possibility of imposing a naval blockade against our country. Fortunately that did not take place.

We also discovered from a survey we had done in May 1979, that is to say , one month after the Revolution, that of twenty–five [25] travel agencies approached in the Washington Maryland area of America, nineteen [19] of them advised the particular persons who were ringing they they should not come to Grenada because it was unsafe.

Nineteen of twenty–five travel agencies! And seventeen of those nineteen said that they were so advised by the State Department.

In other words they did not waste any time in beginning their process of destabilisation against us.

We recall too, and I am sure you remember yourselves that the then Ambassador Ortiz when he came to Grenada at the end of April was rude enough to tell us that we could not have relations with Cuba; and was rude enough when we raised the question of cooperation and assistance to suggest that he had a few $5,000.00 in his control mission–administered funds in Barbados and perhaps he could send down a $5,000 or $2,000.

Well I need hardly say at  $5,000.00 these days can’t even build a good back pit latrine so obviously that suggestion was unceremoniously rejected.

But if you look to more recent times you will discover that right from the beginning too we said to the Americans “You are harboring a man who is wanted for murder in out country, a man who we regard as our Somoza or our Shah depending on how you want to see it and we would like to have this man back.”

We have normal treaty arrangements with you; we are willing to do whatever it is that has to be done legally and the procedures were discussed by our Attorney General with their Ministry of Justice.

And in fact after all the documents went off by August last year the response came from the Ministry of Justice that all the documents were in order and that they were about to process the papers finally but yet within two to three months they contacted us back to say that an error was made, the documents were not in fact in order and we are still waiting on them to find out what exactly is wrong with those documents.

Meanwhile, Gairy is on American television and radio saying that he wants to come back, we in Grenada are down here saying that we want him to come back, American is up there saying that they don’t want him, so all of us appear to agree but yet he is in America. Obviously, something has to be wrong somewhere.

But sisters and brothers there have been just three recent events that I think will give you the best possible indication of what I mean when I say that “we want the best relations” and the problem really is on he other side.

Let me quickly tell you about these three things.

One is that our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bernard Coard, who I believe is going to be talking to you tomorrow, went off to Washington in the last few weeks to attend the World Bank IMF meeting and in the usual way he made a request from Ministry of External Affairs, Grenada, asking for security cover for Bro. Coard.

That’s because we have reason to believe that there could be security threats or problems and therefore we made this request in the usual way, on every other occasion in the past when we made that similar request last year, it was granted.

This year our Ambassador spent something like two weeks trying to make an impact and in fact the request was never granted.

From Grenada we sent off several telexes, we spoke with people in the Barbados Embassy, we also spoke with people directly in the State Department, but on each occasion no response came back, or very trivial responses came back.

In fact, finally after Bro. Coard was in Washington without having been provided any security, a response came back that in essence said that security is not normally provided for people below the rank of Heads of State of Heads of Government, something that is patently untrue.

And not well that at this very time when Bernard Coard is in Washington with security being refused for him, Gairy is in New York attempting to hold a public meeting.

The masses of Grenadians and people from the Caribbean and people from America itself go there to make sure that he does not hold the meeting by organizing a demonstration and the Americans provide twelve carloads of policemen to protect him - the same man that they don’t want in their country.

The second incident I want to mention very briefly concerns the question of our representation in America.

The first Ambassador to the United States after the Revolution was Kendrick Radix, whose substantive appointment was Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, so when he was recalled home we had to appoint somebody else to take over as Ambassador to the United States.

And the person chosen was a young sister - late twenties - Dessima Williams - who had been our permanent representative to the OAS in Washington for the entire period of 18 months.

And last February we wrote off to State Department asking for her accreditation as Ambassador to the United States - for several months they refused to reply and finally they have said that she is too young and she is too inexperienced.

Now when Sally Shelton came out here last year and we agreed to appoint her it never occurred to us to say that Shelton was too young or too inexperienced - something of course we could have said.

They also went on to say that Dessima Williams had been speaking too frankly in the United States and in the OAS at different forums on different struggles going on - meaning by that Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, no doubt now El Salvador and what not.

In other words they would presumably want us to appoint somebody to reflect their interest and their views and not the view of our own government and people.

Obviously that’s not a position we can accept, and I can tell you this particular struggle is still going on.

And the third one I want to mention to you very quickly relates to the fact that following hurricane “Allen” which devastated St. Vincent and St. Lucia and once again went through Dominica and although it was only the tailwind of “Allen” that reached Grenada that was sufficient to do serious damage to our agricultural economy.

We lost in fact 19% of our production in cocoa, 27% in nutmegs and 40% in bananas as a result of the tailwind of hurricane “Allen” only.

So naturally the four islands, Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada was part of the Windward Island Banana Association - WINBAN as it is called met to discuss the question of hurricane habilitation.

And in the usual way we had discussions with different international agencies and aid donors, and one of these was the USAID and finally it was announced two weeks ago that USAID had made a grant to WINBAN (Windward Islands Banana Association) of which Grenada is one of four members, but the grant was for Dominica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia only.

Grenada was excluded.

Now if you want something more blatant than that, I would like to know what it is.

To the credit of our neighbours, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, they have all come out and through the Chairman of WINBAN have made a very firm statement denouncing this attempt at divide and rule, denouncing this clear attack on the Grenada Revolution, and asking the Americans to rethink.

That is a very principled thing for our sisters and brothers in St. Vincent, Dominica and St. Lucia to do and I want it to go on the record that we in Grenada will certainly remember this act of solidarity coming from our sister nations.

So sisters and brothers that essentially is our position on one or two of these questions which I wanted to let you know about because I know that you would have been hearing several different things concerning the question of relations between our own country and other countries in the Caribbean, and of course between ourselves and the United States.

I want to tell you, attempting to wind up, that the Revolution came with very definite objectives in view having regard to the fact that hurricane Gairy had swept us for twenty-nine [29] years. And Hurricane Gairy, let me tell you was a lot worse than hurricane “Allen”.

We inherited what could only be described as a ravaged economy, as a country that was being pushed more and more into the realm of metaphysics and superstition.

Gairy, am I am sure you will recall, was a mystic who had a direct telephone line to God and therefore he had no reason for planning.

Fortunately or unfortunately none of us in Government today have this facility, and therefore we are obliged to plan but we really have had to start from scratch.

In the last Budget of the Gairy dictatorship in 1978, they had put down in their vote in the Ministry of Finance for an economist, they had put down the sum of $5.00 and when we raised this in Parliament, George Hosten, Gairy’s Minister of Finance said “well you put down $5.00 really a token provision, you never know you might find an economist somewhere”.

So that was the kind of attitude and approach to the question of planning.

Statistics and such like, of course, non–existent - a public service that naturally became demoralized as a result.

A Treasury in which we found something like $47.00, that could hardly buy a good pair of shoes these days and that was the base from which we had to start.

Naturally, we therefore were forced to identify our objectives in a very concrete way.

One, the question of finding more jobs for our people reducing unemployment because that is a very serious problem.

We inherited a situation of 50% unemployment nationally, and of 75% unemployment among women, whom top of being discriminated against in employment, also had to be subjected to the sexual pleasures of those who appointed them when they occasionally did.

We also set ourselves the objective of lessening the pressures on our people - of bringing them some more social benefits - in health, in education and elsewhere.

We set ourselves the task of re–building the national economy because obviously the major stage we are in right now is a period of national reconstruction - the infrastructure in terms of roads, in terms of pipeborne water and such like had been totally destroyed and therefore it also became part of this process that we had to immediately move n the areas of seeing what could be done to repair the infrastructure, and in some cases to rebuild from scratch.

And we also set ourselves the task of developing a new approach to the question of democracy in terms of people’s participation, people’s involvement and people’s right to run their own affairs, particularly at the work place.

What we discovered rapidly was that even in a situation where money was scarce, and money is of course very scarce, the recurrent Budget in this country is just $61 Million our money which is nothing.

The Capital budget is just another $58 million so money is scarce, money was scarce but we discovered very rapidly that if you put your trust in the people, if you tell them honestly what the problems in the country are, if you state openly and sincerely what your objectives are, and if you call on the people to be involved in that process, it is possible to get the people to rally behind you. It is possible to get that kind of work going.

In the area of health care, for example, because both in health and education it is our very very firm belief that any Government that is serious and honest and committed, can in fact get a large number of things going even in the absence of a large capital recurrent budget. That is our sincere view.

We have been able to double the number of doctors who are now able to bring free medical attention to our people.

When the Revolution came, there was one Dental Clinic operating in Grenada in the capital of St. George’s, there are now seven Dental Clinics operating in each parish of our country.

At the time when the Revolution came, you had to pay doctors even when you were attended to in public institutions, in the hospitals, in the health centres, in the visiting stations and medical centres and what not the doctors had a right to demand for prescriptions, for medical leave certificates, sick leave certificates for medical attention, for injections and what not.

As of the 1st of October, two weeks ago we now have moved to the stage where we have reached an agreement with the doctors of our country that as from now no one will ever have to pay for any medical attention again once they are attended to in a public institution and that of course is going to make a very fundamental difference.

In the area of education - the last year of Gairy 1978 - there were three Grenadians who were able to get University scholarships to go abroad, one of them of course being one of Gairy’s daughters.

In the first six months of the Revolution, in September last year 109 Grenadian students left our country to go abroad on free University scholarships; a percentage increase you will note of 3,500%.

We have also been able to substantially increase the number of scholarships for children of the primary level when they pass the common entrance in order to get into secondary schools.

School fees which before the Revolution were $37.50 a term have been reduced down to $12.50 a term, $25.00 off, and we are hoping that as of next year secondary education in our country will be completely free.

We have also been able to have build a new secondary school - the Bernadette Bailey Secondary School which was opened in fact two weeks ago and I must point out that after 350 years of British colonialism they had left us only one secondary school, the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School, the other twelve were all built by the churches.

So what this new secondary school represents is only the second secondary school after 400 years to have been built by any Government, and naturally that is something we are very proud of.

Recognising the importance of providing training skills to our people, we have opened a number of new training centres.

There is now a fishermen training school, the agricultural training Centre at Mirabeau in St. Andrew’s has been reopened, we have opened a hotels training school, we have started an in–service training course for the public servants, we have started an in–service training course for teachers in the country, we have opened an agro–industrial school, we have opened a school for the militia in our country.

In other words, in several different areas there is now a much greater concentration on the need to train our people, the need to provide them with basic literacy and numerous skills and thereafter to provide them with further forms of training that will ensure that our country at last can enter into the twentieth century, note I haven’t said the twenty-first century.

In the area of democratization what we feel has been attempted over these past eighteen months is an attempt at getting our people to be involved in the process of helping to build the country through the building of grassroots democratic organizations that the people can relate to and work out of.

For example, there are different organizations which have come up now like the community work brigades and these community work brigades come out on Sunday mornings and the people in different villages around the country on those morning give voluntary–voluntary labour.

They get involved in things like cutting overhangings, fixing drains, repairing community centres, repairing schools and what not.

The basic approach is that the Government provides the materials through a social projects unit we have established in the Ministry of Communications and Works, and the people provide the labour voluntarily.

Now before November last year when the rains began to some very heavily there were some week–ends when 85% of the villages in Grenada were involved in voluntary community work.

(Side 2.)

The fact [is] that we have been able to motivate the people to join with the Government in helping to re–build our own country.

I don’t know what the experience in our own particular countries might be, but certainly it is within our knowledge that under the period of Gairyism it was not possible for Gairy to have motivated people on any occasion to come out and do voluntary work except of course by a few paid party types who would be moved around to different villages.

But in terms of the voluntary involvement of the masses of the people in helping to rebuild their country that is something that has been entirely new and has come only as a result of the Revolution.

Likewise we have established something we have called the community education councils and what these councils have been doing is that they have been ensuring the maintenance and the repair of the schools in their particular villages and they are increasingly now getting involved in the monitoring of the quality of education that their children receive.

In January this year for example the schools were closed down for some two weeks so that all the primary school teachers could have been brought together for a series of seminars and during those two weeks in January sixty–six [66] primary schools were repaired voluntarily by these community education councils with the support of the people in different communities saving the taxpayers of our country well over a million and a half dollars and that again was something that is of course extremely important.

The Centre for Popular Education programme is another such attempt as we see it at democratisation because what this programme [end of available pages]

Back: Bishop Speech List

Home Page: Index        Site Map

          CONTACT