The Grenada Revolution Online

Gairy Grabs Opposition Boss
by Peter Deeley, the Observer Foreign News Service
7 February 1974

Maurice Bishop, head of the radical New Jewel Movement, languished in a cell in a police compound at the foot of historic Fort George on Wednesday night (6 February) while above him on the battlements, Prime Minister Eric Gairy led the singing and prayers that marked the end of British colonial rule over this beautiful island.

In his speech marking Grenada's independence, Gairy referred to the troubles the island has experienced recently but kept from the crowd lining the harbour and streets the fact that now there is no independent voice left to criticise his ruling United Labour Party.

I was the only journalist present at Bishop's arrest. I had gone to his house to learn what plans the NJM had once Gairy had full power. Half a dozen members were meeting in executive session but some came out onto the verandah to tell me they were preparing to go it into hiding in the hills. They said they had got their equipment, tents and food and were moving out in one hour's time. Bishop told me: "We are stying on the island. We could not fight effectively if we fled Grenada."

At this moment several cars full of plain-clothes police swept into the drive. I watched as they read out a search warrant to Bishop and his wife Angela which empowered police to look over the premises for arms and ammunition. While the police began to search I asked Bishop if he had anything incriminating.

"There is nothing at all," he told me, "but I fear that the police may try to plant something."

The police were obviously perturbed to find a foreign journalist at the house. At that moment down in the town a pageant was taking place, with Gairy sitting in the place of honour accompanied by ambassadors and diplomats from more than 20 countries, as well as a United Nations representative. All journalists had been invited to the function and it was clear that the police had not expected any "stray" writers to be in embarrassing situation at that moment.

I watched as the police began turning out drawers and knapsacks, tipping the contents onto the beds and going carefully through everything. Mrs. Bishop called me over and in the presence of Inspector Cuthbert Raymond said: "They have started searching down in the citrus plant too and [unclear] . . . We believe that they are obliged to [unclear]

I asked the Inspector if what Mrs. Bishop said is correct. The policeman said nothing, but Bishop commented to us:"Do you take it that the officers's silence is a denial or [unclear] of what I say?"

I looked over the verandah and saw for the first time a squad of green-uniformed Defence Corps men - a recently-formed paramilitary squad poking about among the trees. They had come into the plantation via a back route. Then Inspector Raymond called Bishop and said they were going to search downstairs. The downstairs rooms are open store-rooms and it was clearly possible for soldiers and police to have gone into them out of our line of vision before Bishop was called down.

I asked Inspector Raymond: "Would you plant anything?" He said: "I would never do that." I asked him why they were at the house and he replied: "If we had been a minute later it would all have gone up." He refused to elaborate on that but did say:"We know that they had their plans perfectly laid."

Superintendent Adonis Francis then arrived and led the search in the store-rooms. Eventually police found five .030 bullets and four .22 bullets. I was standing by Superintendent Francis taking notes of what was being said and heard Bishop remark: "I did not know that they were there." Francis then turned to me and demanded to know who I was, my nationality and why I was in Grenada. The explanations I gave him did not appear to satisfy him and he snatched the notes from my hand and read them. He said he was confiscating some of the notes and they they might be returned to me later. He then ordered me to leave the vicinity of the search.

Shortly afterwards a policeman came up the steps carrying the bullets as well as a green box in which a further nineteen .303s had been found. The police also took away maps, a book - Abbie Hoffman's STEAL THIS BOOK, tenting equipment, an empty American Army issue ammunition pouch and two reels of fuse-wire. No guns were found, only a toy pistol and an old broken-down carbine which even police conceded was unusable.

In the later stages of the search, which took three hours, two American TV crews arrived - but were prevented from filming Bishop being arrested and taken away by police.

About 60 men took part in the raid. The 40 Defence Corps soldiers arrived in a yellow school bus and the 20 police arrived in about half a dozen cars. About one-third of the men were armed with rifles and revolvers. Mrs. Bishop told me later that the box of 19 bullets had been found in a maid's room. "We have not used that room for a long time and have no idea how they got there. As for the odd bits of ammunition we often get people who are out hunting animals calling in on us and they could have left the bullets behind."

At a state function later in the evening, Mr. Gairy said that parts of a telescopic sight had been found in the house. [Unclear] turned out to be binoculars. Police also found [unclear] . . . and Mrs. Bishop told me she did not know to whom it belonged.

Gairy told me that [unclear] maps found was a detailed [unclear] of his house, "possibly drawn up by agencies outside the country."

He said that police had that [unclear] intelligence that the Opposition was planning something and that why police had [unclear] on the eve of independence.

During the night I lodged formal complaints with British representatives here and with Mr. Gairy's chief aide about the seizure of my notes. I asked for their return and for an explanation of why they were taken. So far, however, I have heard nothing.

Since the last election in 1972 the official opposition has been virtually moribund, with its leader and only opposition seriously ill and away from the island. The NJM is a grouping of, but British standards, middle-of-the-road socialists, believing in part nationalisation of vital industries such as the docks and in giving back power to village assemblies. It fears that with independence Gairy will turn Grenada into a dictatorship, ruling like Papa Doc did in Haiti.

With the Committee of 22 - representatives of the professions, churches and shopkeepers - it has formed an alliance calling for the resignation of Gairy and a referendum on whether independence is wanted. Strikes have closed all shops since the beginning of January [1974] and the port is idle. There is no electricity or petrol on the island and outside communications are almost nil.

Meetings to protest against Gairy culminated two weeks ago in the death of Maurice Bishop's father Rupert. It is widely accepted here that he was shot by one of Gairy's aides, the "Mongoose Men", who have been harassing the opposition. Maurice Bishop himself was very badly beaten up some months ago and at that time fled to Barbados to recuperate."

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