The Grenada Revolution Online

Bishop Speech - Address by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop
May Day Rally [1 May 1982]

Comrade Chairman,

Comrade Members of Government,

Comrade President of the T.U.C.

Comrade Workers of Free and Revolutionary Grenada

Comrades, like Comrade Fitzroy Bain, I want to say that this is a limited overs match and I intend to have a very, very short inning and I would like to go into the innings right away.

Comrades, 96 years ago [1886] in the United States, the government of the capitalists and the imperialists attacked and slaughtered workers who were demonstrating, who had put down their tools demanding their rights to have an eight-hour day.

U.S. WORKERS STILL SEEING HARD TIMES 96 YEARS LATER

Today, 96 years later in the same United States workers are still being slaughtered in one form or another, workers are still being destroyed in one form or another.

Today, in the United Stated under Reagan, ten million workers are out of work.

Today, in the United States 96 years later hospitals and schools are being closed down and that will adversely affect the workers of the United States.

The workers today in that country are as oppressed and exploited as they were 96 years ago.

In Grenada 96 years ago, comrades, our workers were semi-slaves, our workers were living in conditions of feudalism, but 96 years later today in Free Revolutionary Grenada the workers are free, the workers are in power, the workers rule the country.

And because, comrades, it is the working people who rule Grenada today, because it is the workers who are in control, when the workers make demands, those demands are heard, those demands are recognised and respected.

That is why so many laws to benefit the workers of this country have been passed over these years, and today I want to tell you comrades, very quickly, that we have passed in the last twenty four hours a number of new laws that will benefit the workers of our country.

I want to start with one that Sister Jeanette Du Bois, the President of the Trade Union Council, referred to when she was speaking about the great concern of the Trade Union Council, regarding the low level of workman’s compensation in this country.

She was right.

Up to yesterday if a worker in this country lost his life on the job, he could not get more than $1920.

That was yesterday.

But as from today if one of our workers lose their lives on the job they are going to be given at least $6000, at least four and a half times more than what they used to get at that time.

Up to yesterday in our country, comrades, if a worker receives a permanent injury while on the job he would be given the sum of $1680.

That was yesterday.

As if today, any worker who gets a permanent injury would receive up to $8000.

ACT ADDRESSES, OLD-AGE DISSATISFACTION

Comrades, this Workmen’s Compensation Act has affected the number and the range of injuries which workmen will now get compensation for.

It has affected the calculation of the disability that workers receive.

If in the past, for example, the laws or the partial loss of an eye was rated to 40 per cent, today, the percentage in that loss would have been doubled.

Therefore, the amount the worker gets would have increased accordingly.

This Workmen’s Compensation Act, therefore, will deal with a long source of dissatisfaction to the working class in our country and we are very happy today to announce this is the first of the three new laws.

I want to mention the second one quickly.

The workers are, indeed, the ordinary people in our country.

Over the years, when taking buses to travel to different parts of the island they often found themselves in a situation where if there was a serious accident that they could not get any compensation for the injuries they received, because under the existing laws up to yesterday, buses had the right to ensure (sic) themselves for one injury in an accident for only $4800.

BUS INSURANCE NOW $100,000

Up to yesterday in our country, buses had the right to ensure themselves for all the injuries on the bus up to $9600.

In other words, if a bus carrying 20 people, let us say, ran off the road and was completely destroyed and all the people on the bus were either killed or seriously injured between all 20 people the maximum they could receive was $9600 each.

That was a source of tremendous injustice for the people of our country and this level of irresponsibility we have now stopped.

As from today with the passing of a Third Party Insurance Act, if a bus with passengers in it, gets into a serious accident, the insurance now has to pay up to $100,000 for the lives and safety of our people.

And the third law I want to tell you about is a law that our people have been talking and calling for and demanding for over seven months now.

Last year in one of our workers parish councils, one of the workers there stood up and made the point that she lived in Grenville and because she was working in St. George’s in the capital and because the bus fares were so high she could not afford to live in her own house and take a bus every day up and down because the bus fare was more than the money she was getting every month and therefore, she had to come and live in town.

So she came down to town and she found a little room in somebody’s house and this person was charging her a rent and every month she kept asking the person to do something about the boards in the house that were pulled up, and about the roof that was leaking, and about the windows that did not have glass, and instead of taking her on, the landlord used to come every month and say, “if you don’t like it you could get out and is fact if you keep giving me trouble, I go put the rent up.”

LANDLORDS NOW ACCOUNTABLE TO A BOARD

So the third law I want to tell you about today that is meant to deal with the question of high rent for the working class, is the Rent Restriction Act which our government also passed today.

Under this Rent Restriction Act, comrades, all landlords in our country, all owners of houses who rent those houses have to go before a board, a Rent Assessment Board within the next three months.

They have to register before this board.

That is the first thing that this law is doing.

The second thing is that it recognises that the poorest people in our country very often cannot afford to pay a lawyer, that the poorest people in our country very often are afraid to go before a Magistrate’s Court because too much “big law” they saw down there.

So the second thing that his law is doing is that when the landlords come before the Board, it is not a Magistrate they are facing but three ordinary people in each of our six parishes on the mainland.

These people will be appointed by the workers, by the mass organizations, by the Trade Unions, the Chamber of Commerce, the Employers Federation etc.

In other words, all sectors have the opportunity of deciding on member who can sit on this board and the way it will work is this: in each parish we are going to ask for choices to be made, for elections to be made from the different mass organizations and trade unions as to who they will like to see sit on the Rent Assessment Board, and each parish will have a panel of discussions between six and nine people and out of that a chairman will be appointed by the Minister of Housing, and this chairman will choose two members from the panel to hear a particular application and it is these three sisters and brothers who will then determine the question of what is a fair and reasonable rent.

GOVERNMENT SEEKS THE PEOPLE’S VIEWS

We feel in this way, sisters and brothers, comrades, that we will be able to address this question in a realistic way.

We also will be seeking your views on what you want to see as being the correct amount of tent.

We want to get your views as to how much the maximum amount of rent should be before we apply.

Some of the comrades have been saying $250 a month, some have said $300, some have said $350, one or two here said $400 a month.

We need to know from you what your views on that are and what you want to see as being the correct amount of rent that has to be paid in order for this law to apply and after which a different law will apply.

So, comrades, these are the laws which I wanted to bring to your attention this afternoon.

But before closing there is one matter that I want to spend a few seconds on.

Many other comrades before me including Comrade Chalkie Ventour, have mentioned this matter and that is the question of war and pace, and of the particularly dangerous manoeuvres which the Americans are holding in our air space right at this very minute.

ONLY BECAUSE THEY ARE BIGGER AND STRONGER

Comrades, if you can imagine a situation like this: you are living in your own land and you have your own boundary, and you have put up some fence around your land because you have animals in the land that you have to protect and using another section you have a kitchen garden that you want to protect and if you can imagine somebody coming and deliberately tying their goats and their cows to mash down your fence and letting them go inside there and eating everything you have planted because they are bigger and they are stronger than you.

What I want to tell you about now is something like that.

In this part of the world, the Caribbean, a number of our countries including St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada have to rely on Trinidad in order to get proper direction and proper electronic coverage for the planes that we fly.

Every time, for example, one of us leaves Trinidad to come to Grenada, or leaves Dominica to fly to Grenada, or Barbados to Grenada, before we take off and fly the people in the Trinidad Control Tower must give us direction to pass, must say how fast to go, how high up to sly, and they give you certain electronic guidance.

Now on Monday morning last, our tower at Pearls got a message from the Trinidad authorities saying they received a message on Sunday night telling them that the Americans were going to be holding military manoeuvres in the very air space that we have to use, that they are going to be holding military manoeuvres 25 miles on either side of the air space that our LIAT planes pass each day.

50 MILES BY NAKED EYE

As a result of that message the Trinidad authorities were no longer able to provide the proper technical or electronic coverage to those LIAT who were flying the planes and therefore instead of relying on all of the sophisticated and powerful equipment, the LIAT pilots had to use their eyes for 50 miles of the danger area that the Americans had declared.

Now, I want comrades to understand how dangerous that it.

That means instead of a situation where when the pilots leave an airport they know that they are being controlled by instruments and electronic equipment, they now instead have to control themselves by their own naked eye for a certain part of the journey.

And every LIAT plane that lands in our airport, land with about 48 passengers.

In other words, the lives of 48 of our people were being put in jeopardy by these Americans, because they decided that they want to manoeuvre in our air space.

They have all that amount of air space up in America, all that amount of air space out in the deep sea but they want to come and do their manoeuvre right in our air space in Grenada, and in that way to put the lives of our passengers and our people in jeopardy.

PLANNED FIVE YEARS AGO

I want comrades to understand that this particular manoeuvre was planned for as long as five years ago and in face on February 29, the American Defence Department had put out a release in Washington which said that they were going to have four manoeuvres in the region: one was a naval manoeuvre, one was called Red X 282, one was called Face Fact ’82, and this other one is called Ocean Venture ’82.

So as long as 12 weeks ago they knew that they wanted to hold manoeuvres out there, yet the actual notice that they gave to the Trinidad authorities was only a few hours on the Sunday night before they started their manoeuvre Monday morning at 3 o’clock.

And there were pilots flying planes who were coming to Grenada during Monday, who never heard a word about it until they were actually in the sky flying the plane.

Up to that time they assumed they had the full coverage they could get.

Comrades, our government has sent up a strong and sharp protest to the government of the United States.

That went off yesterday.

We have pointed out to the United States Government in that message yesterday that as far as we are concerned in Grenada the question is not having the manoeuvre in the region, the question is getting permission and if no permission is given don’t come up in our air space at all.

WE DON’T WANT THEM ANYWHERE NEAR US

We made it very, very clear in that message, that as far as we are concerned in Grenada we don’t want any American planes engages in any military manoeuvre flying over our land or our sea.

We don’t want any of them anywhere there.

Comrades will have noticed over the last few days planes and some helicopters flying over various points of our country.

All of that extra activity, all of that illegal violation of our air space is part of this military manoeuvre that these Yankees are engaging in.

There people seem to believe that they have the right to come into our country and tell us what we must do.

They seem to believe that they have the right to come to our seas and use our waters with their guns and their battleships.

They seem to believe that they have the right to come and fly over our land and do what they want, putting our people’s lives in danger, destroying our commercial traffic, give us no consultation and we have to sit down and take it.

They seem to believe that they can do what they want with us, but once again we want to say to these Americans of Ronald Reagan that while they can fly their planes, and while they could bring their big ships and while their planes can shoot at our people and our land and while their ships can bomb our country, we want them to know that unless they bomb down our whole island and kill all of our people whenever they land we will whip their tails and turn them back.

WE ARE THANKFUL FOR SUCH WORKERS

And that is why comrades, again today, I’m telling the workers of the world who are meeting to celebrate International Workers Day that we are thankful that we have workers like you, Grenadian workers, who have fought to defend the gains of their Revolution, workers who have come out and crushed counter-revolution, workers who have been the eyes, and the ears, and the noses of our Revolution, workers who are armed and with their guns in their hands would fight any enemy that lands on our shores.

Let me say to all of you workers: continue to stand firm, continue to support your revolution, continue to struggle with your government for more benefits for our people, continue to express your international solidarity, continue to build the economy of our country, continue to maintain your unity, continue to develop your political education and your consciousness, continue to build your organization, and your organs of popular democracy for once again we say:

 

 A UNITED, ORGANIZED, CONSCIOUS AND VIGILANT PEOPLE CAN NEVER BE DEFEATED.

LONG LIVE THE WORKERS OF FREE GRENADA,

LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS DAY,

LONG LIVE THE WORKERS OF THE CARIBBEAN, OF LATIN AMERICA AND OF THE WORLD,

LONG LIVE FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION AMONG ALL THE WORKERS AROUND THE WORLD,

LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE FOR PEACE,

LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE OF OUR WORKERS FOR UNITY, DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL PROGRESS,

LONG LIVE THE GRENADA REVOLTUION,

FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER.

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