Report of the Duffus Commission of Inquiry into the Breakdown of Law & Order, and Police Brutality in Grenada

Part IV

Events Subsequent to November 18, 1973

Paragraph 181. - The evidence of Hon. Eric Matthew Gairy [Part B]

181. We turn now to the circumstances which prompted Mr. Gairy to recall the police aides notwithstanding their disbandment on November 23, 1973. The only evidence of the considerations which led to the action taken was that of Mr. Gairy. With specific reference to this aspect of the matter his evidence was as follows:

Q. Now do you remember the day the 21st January this year?
A. Yes.
Q. You recall that day.

A. I remember that day. I had the senior policemen and some volunteers up at Mount Royal. I know that there was a demonstration against the Government, against me and the Governor; and I knew that the demonstration started at 9:00 o'clock. I also got information because I checked on that that the demonstration was over at 11:15; and this includes the demonstration and addresses because the demonstration would take three quarters of an hour, they started at 9:00. At 11:15 the crowd had dispersed.

Nevertheless, I decided not to take any chances to allow the men to go to town. I realised that at the moment the Jewel had done everything possible to prevent, to try to prevent Independence. Now this was about two weeks before Independence which took . . .

They had spoken to me they asked me what the situation was. They came and looked for themselves Mr. Laird and Mr. Baker. Representatives from Parliament, sorry, representatives from the Palace came down because we were expecting to have Prince Richard. A parliamentarian was to come down and they were threatening not to send him down because of the newspaper reports.

I knew that the Jewel had sent representatives to the House of Commons with a view to painting a picture so that the House of Commons would have prevented the Independence. I knew that they had made representations to the Lords, to the House of Lords, with a view to preventing the Independence. I knew that some of the reporters here were distorting pictures, stories of Grenada.

An incident that occurred in Sauteurs was reported by a certain reporter here that the incident took place in the city, and the handling on the paper was something like 'Riot in the City.' The incident occurred 15 miles from the city. And I knew that the whole idea was to paint a picture so that the British Government who had the last word would have prevented Independence. And all through the months before independence my role was to maintain peace and calm, actually I remained home for weeks and when some of my superiors were weakening because [words missing] something else but I was trying to avoid a clash. I specifically and I say that on oath realising the full spiritual and material impact -

I specifically told the men to do down to the Esplanade to Georgi Salhab for lunch. I specifically told them - "Do not get in any conflict with the Jewel or the demonstrators." This I have been doing for a matter of months and it could not be logically to deduce at this point two weeks before Independence that I would tell them to go singing where there was a demonstration. I ensured that the demonstration and the addresses were completely over and the crowd were dispersed; then I told them to go directly down to the Esplanade.

When they were about to disperse it was in the back of my house, I was going in passing through by the pantry and one of them shouted:- "Uncle, could we sing out song?" And I say this on oath again, what came to my mind was the opposite of what the Jewel was singing. The Jewel was singing: "Gairy must go and the Governor must go." And they were singing: "We put you there you must stay." And this is the song that came to my mind when they asked me if they can sing their song. I would not have given them permission to sing anything that could incite, that could bring any confusion. And I repeat that my role in those days was to prevent anything that smelt like a riot because this would have completely prevented the Independence; and to me Independence was the biggest thing for Grenada and I was fully aware of the efforts the other side was making to prevent the Independence. I was fully aware also that it was their pleasure to have a conflict. I was fully aware that they did things that were provocative to bring about a riot; and my role has been quite successful I should say over the months before Independence to prevent anything like a riot - I say this on oath."

Mr. Gairy, in cross-examination, was asked with greater particularity about the recall of the police aides on January 20, 1974.

Q. What I am getting at is, Mr. Prime Minister, we had the incident. in Grenville. We had the incident in Gouyave and then we had a mammoth demonstration on the 19th of January and you, Mr. Prime Minister, or Premier as you then were, had the indignity of allegedly being stoned at the meeting in Gouyave.
A. No. The stone was not meant for me.
Q. Of course not.
A. The meeting was just over. We were closing with prayers, as usual, and a nice hymn giving praise and thanks to God when the other side thought it was nice to throw stones so they threw stones and a Minister (he is no more a Minister) . . .
Q. He has resigned since. That's Mr. Whyte.
CHAIRMAN: What date was this?
Q. The meeting in Gouyave was the 17th of January, Thursday, the 17th of January.
A. We don't believe in stone throwing in meetings.
Q. I accept that. And then, with that build up, you decided, on the 20th of January, to recall your disbanded police aides. Can you remember that?
A. I can't remember the sequence of these things but the police . . .
Q. The 20th of January. Sunday, the 20th of January.
A. Oh. When all these things happened, as I said before, the people felt that they wanted to volunteer their service to help the police and they came to me, business men and said that they wanted to open and they can't open. The demonstrators are closing our business, and so on, and I called the aides and from then we selected a few of the aides with the hope that the businessmen who came to me voluntarily will join in a volunteer corps and this also is in keeping with what I did in 1970 when we had the Black Power Movement. We had called the businessmen, we had called the merchants, the hoteliers and so on because I didn't want to leave them out because they felt that great injustice was being done; and some of the workers on these premises came too because they knew that they would have lost their jobs as a result of which lots of them have lost their jobs as a result of the demonstrations. A lot of people in the hotels have lost their jobs and some of them are half-paid and some of the salaries have been cut.
Q. So on the 20th January, you released a statement from Mount Royal asking the disbanded police aides to come to Mount Royal on the 21st and bring with them three interested persons. That is right?
A. Yes.
Q. And you also released that statement to the police station at Central?
A. Yes.
Q. That they should so inform the disbanded aides. You accept that?
A. Yes.
Q. And they all came on the 21st?
A. Yes. They were not all selected. Very few were selected.

At this point the only comment we make is that if the "very few" selected were "the men to do down to the Esplanade to Georgi Salhab for lunch" then it may well be that Mr. Gairy's memory of the events is not as reliable as might be expected, for the reason that the number of men was not less than 300 as later in his evidence the following was said:

Q. What I am going to ask you is why would you have wanted to make specific enquiry about that fact, i.e. if the demonstration was over?
PRIME MINISTER: I wanted to ensure that the demonstration was over, the meeting was over and the people were dispersed.
Q. Yes. But what I want to find out is why did you want to know that that was the position?
A. 300 men going down to the Esplanade which is about a quarter of a mile from the Carenage - I was making sure, doubly sure that the people who came from the demonstration had already left the town. Put it that way.
Later:
Q. What I was thinking about was the civic commotion aspect of it in which you have about 300 men having a clash with thousands of people.
A. My impression, the concept of which I got from the information which I had was that these 300 men went around the Carenage, passed through by the building, where there were a few people inside.

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