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

Paragraphs 188 thru 192. - Conclusions by the Commissioners

188. After careful consideration of all the evidence concerning the incident on Monday, January 21, 1974, we have come to the conclusion that the demonstrations which commenced on January 9, 1974 were organised by the two trade unions under the leadership of Mr. Eric Pierre, for the reason that, in the opinion of their membership, the undertakings given by the Premier in November 1973 had not been fulfilled. We are satisfied that persons other than union members participated in them and that the opportunity was taken by persons opposed to the Government to demonstrate their disfavour by songs disparaging to Mr. Gairy. Evidently, the demonstrations were popular having regard to the numbers of people alleged to have joined them, but they were generally peaceful and offered no apparent threat to peace and good order.

It seems also that some business premises remained shut notwithstanding the punitive legislation passed by Parliament on January 3, 1974, while others opened their doors to business and their owners were made to close them by the entreaties of the demonstrators. There was no direct evidence of the methods used by the demonstrators to achieve this objective, but we accept the belief of Mr. Gairy that some of the Syrian proprietors were harassed. According to Mr. Gairy, "They closed the Amado whatever you call it and said the Syrians must learn sense they can't open when demonstrations are passing and they closed them in. They wanted to beat certain store owners and lots of things like that occurred during the demonstrations . . . " Asst. Supt. Francis also spoke about one store owner, Mr. Alfred Fakhre, the owner of the Amado Store, who complained "that members from the demonstration entered his store and forced him to close the doors." He said also that Fakhre reported that he was threatened. It seems reasonable to infer not only that such reports were made but also that they were among the matters which contributed to the decision by Mr. Gairy to recall the police aides.

189. We are satisfied also that Mr. Gairy believed that the demonstrations were aimed at preventing or delaying Independence for Grenada and that his commitment to lead Grenada into Independence in February 1974 was an objective so desirable that the possibility of delay by recurring demonstrations was not to be countenanced. We believe that after the incident of stone throwing at the Gouyave meeting of the Grenada United Labour Party on January 17 coupled with a large demonstration by the unions on Saturday, January 19, Mr. Gairy resolved to recall the police aides in order to curb the activity of the demonstrators. The reputation of the police aides for violence was a matter of common knowledge. It was the excesses of brutality to which they indulged that was responsible for the appointment of the Commission. Mr. Gairy was aware of their record and of their propensities. He had personally supervised their selection. He assumed the sole responsibility for recalling them notwithstanding a promise to disband them. Some of the vehicles which bore them to Mount Royal were owned by the Government of Grenada and when they arrived at his residence he chose from the assemblage no less than 300 to whom he gave only one specific direction:-

"to go to the Esplanade to Georgi's for lunch."

When he sent them to Georgi's for lunch, Mr. Gairy ought to have known that the demonstration had not yet ended and that the conflict upon which he said he had animadvereted [sic], and hopefully desired to prevent, was likely to occur. With regard to the singing of the song "Jewel behave yourself or they going to charge us for murder" we are of opinion, after the most anxious consideration, that the spontaneity of the evidence of Cosmos Nurse about his visit to Mount Royal on January 21, 1974 conveyed a quality of truth, and we are constrained to hold, not only that the song was sung at Mount Royal, but also that apart from directing the police aides to go to Georgi's for lunch, Mr. Gairy gave them no other specific instruction or directions as to the duties they were required to perform in support of the Police Force or for the protection of business premises in St. George's. According to Nurse, Mr. Gairy did not say "why he wanted more hands . . . it one thing that the Premier told the fellows . . . He told them do down at Georgi and get lunch."

Q. Can you remember anybody singing any songs while you were at Mount Royal on that day?
A. It had some young boys that are calypsonians and they sing some song about Jewel come down the road.

Evidently that was the only song the police aides sung that day and they continued their refrain until the riot started. We have come to these conclusions after deciding to exclude from our consideration the evidence of David Isaac; except about the singing of the song as this was corroborated by Cosmos Nurse, who had been a police aide prior to November, 1973, and presumably a supporter of Mr. Gairy. It seems unlikely that he would have recalled the singing of the Jewel song instead of a song in favour of Mr. Gairy - "We put you there you must stay," had this not happened.

190. Although we are satisfied that the purpose for which the demonstrations were organised was not to prevent independence for Grenada, it is reasonable to infer from the tenor of the speeches that some of the demonstrators were disenchanted with Mr. Gairy's leadership and unequivocally advocated his departure from the high office of Premier. It is inconceivable that these demands did not imply a delay in the programme for independence notwithstanding the passage through the Houses of Parliament in England during December 1973 of the enabling legislation. It may well have been hoped by certain interests in Grenada that the British Government might, even at that late hour, delay the progress of events and in that regard we are satisfied that Mr. Gairy had reasonable grounds to believe that the demonstrations involved political considerations which posed a threat to his leadership. We think his belief was well founded and genuine, but we cannot commend the measures to which he resorted in order to arrest its development/

191. In the light of the foregoing conclusions of fact it is not difficult to determine the causes of the riot.

The police aides who were faithful supporters of Mr. Gairy were directed by him to proceed in a massed group for lunch to a place in St. George's while a demonstration of trade unionists and their supporters, including members of the New Jewel Movement, was gathered on the Carenage. The expressed intention of the police aides to sing a song capable of inciting public disorder was a sufficient indication of the spirit in which they intended to proceed through the city.

The evidence of Cpl. Bedeau may be true as regards the encounter between Ralph Thomson and a police aide, but we are satisfied that the riot would have occurred whether or not such an incident had occurred. The eye witness accounts do not, however, support an initial encounter between two men which gradually engulfed the persons in the immediate vicinity.

The demonstrators booed the police aides as they jogged pass in formation. It seems that the police aides carried a supply of stones or found a ready source nearby because the first missiles thrown by them on the demonstrators were stones. These were followed by bottles from a truck which seemed conveniently positioned. This was followed by gun shots from small arms. The eye witness accounts support the conclusion that the whole body of police aides without any apparent leadership, started an assault, first upon the demonstrators and then upon Otway House, as an action of unvarnished terrorism.

We are satisfied that after being attacked by stones, bottles and gun fire, some of the demonstrators retaliated by throwing stones and bottles and that sometime after the riot started, some missiles known as "Molotov cocktails" were thrown towards the police aides from behind Otway House. There was a large crowd of people outside Otway House before the police aides arrived. They had not foregathered for violent purposes and we are satisfied that Mr. Gairy's belief of the circumstances of the riot described by him in his evidence is not founded upon fact./p>

The version of the sequence of events told by Mr. Alister Hughes is, in our opinion, the truth. We therefore conclude that members of the Police Force not only made no attempt to prevent the riot or to separate the two rioting groups; but instead aided and abetted the police aides by their unjustiable [sic] use of rifle fire and the unexplained use of tear gas, in causing public disorder and terror.

192. It is incumbent upon us to add that none of the civilian witnesses who gave evidence about the events on January 21 could be described as untruthful, with the exception of David Isaac about whom reference will later be made. We are satisfied that they endeavoured to give an account of the events to the best of their honest recollection. It is unnecessary to identify anyone in particular as being more helpful than another, except Mr. Alister Hughes, not because of his better recollection, but because he kept a contemporaneous record of the incidents as they appeared to him and was thus able to introduce a dimension of timing which gave us a clearer perspective on the sequence in which events occurred.

Some members of the Police Force who gave evidence also impressed us as being in the main truthful about the matters on which they testified, but there was a marked lack of candour among the senior ranks, particularly so in the cases of ag. Commissioner James and Asst. Supt. Francis.

We are of opinion that Asst. Supt. Christopher and Inspector Raymond were capable of being more helpful to the Commission but, with the exception of Constables Randolph Myers and Lennard Charles, they and all the other members of the Police Force seemed fearful of the consequences of being frank, not merely about the events which occurred on January 21, but also about the police investigations which should necessarily have followed as a result of the riot.

Whether there was a concerted effort on the part of the Police Force to avoid any documentation of the incidents of January 21 we are not in a position to say, but we should observe that the meagreness of the records in the diary of the Central police station, when juxtaposed with the omission to make enquiries by the Criminal Investigation Department, leaves the impression that close investigation of member of the Police Force was not encouraged.

Not the least lamentable feature of these incidents was the looting of business premises undertaken by police aides after maliciously damaging the premises of Pressey Cold Store and other businesses. No doubt, unidentified members of the public thereafter became involved; but we are satisfied that the first steps to damage business premises and to steal therefrom were taken by police aides who formed the group convened by Mr. Gairy at Mount Royal earlier on January 21. We find it difficult to compare these exercises with the purposes for which Mr. Gairy said he had in mind when he decided to recall the police aides on Sunday, January 20.

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