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 193 thru 198. - Consideration of Mr. Gairy's evidence

193. It now becomes necessary for us to consider the evidence of Mr. Gairy who has been in the forefront of trade union affairs and politics in Grenada since 1950 when he returned to the island from Aruba. He organised the agricultural workers and workers in other industries. He founded the Grenada United Labour Party. In 23 years the party lost only on election. He has been the political leader of the country for almost 20 years, excluding a period between 1957 - 1961 when he was out of office.

He has undoubtedly made a worthwhile contribution to the progress of Grenada between the 1950's and the 1970's and he takes seriously, with a spirit of personal dedication, his responsibilities as the Head of Government and also, during the past seven years, his duties as Minister of National Security. We were impressed by Mr. Gairy's concern for the progress and development of Grenada. He has given many years of service to the country. He attended the La Fillette School and then the St. Andrews Roman Catholic School and then he became a teacher in the La Fillette School and was also an acolyte. He went to Aruba and returned to enter trade unionism and politics. He has become a successful leader in both. He may also be described as a man of property.

194. We are satisfied that this beliefs about the Black Power Movement in 1970 are genuine although we heard no evidence to justify them. We are also satisfied that he believes that the New Jewel Movement is a subversive movement and a threat to the security of the State. We cannot say that there was evidence to justify this belief, except the bald statement to that effect contained in the reports of the Special Branch. We should, however, add that there was evidence to support the conclusion that the theft of explosives and the use of bombs early in 1974 indicate terrorist activity in Grenada. Mr.Gairy's beliefs have been partly formed by reports of the Special Branch, the level of efficiency of which did not appear to us to be any higher than was generally to be found in other branches of the Police Force. We were gravely concerned by the fact that some of these reports, which may have influenced executive action, were prepared by policemen with rank no higher than that of constable, but we choose not to comment in any detail on those reports because their contents are not likely to aid our enquiry into the circumstances of January 21. It appears also that some of the information Mr. Gairy received from members of the Police Force was not accurate. We cannot say, however, that such was the case on January 21. Having regard to all the circumstances we are constrained to hold that while the marching around the city had ended by 11:15 a.m., the demonstration had not ended at that time and there was no indication from he demonstrators or otherwise that this was so. It was customary for speeches to be made after the marching. Having regard to the duties undertaken by Sgt. Joseph and the other policemen of the Sans Souci station and the state of preparedness which was evidenced by the entries in the diary of the Central police station it is necessary to examine the evidence given by Mr. Gairy about a report made to him by a police patrolman to the effect that the demonstration was over.

The Demonstration

195. Mr. Gairy said that he knew the demonstration started at 9:00 a.m. and that it 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." According to him he received the information that the demonstration was over from the police. He said "I think that they went out on cycles and they came back and told me." It was for him a matter of importance when the demonstration was over because he apprehended the possibility of a clash between the police aides and the demonstrators, if the demonstration was still in progress. Mr. Gairy was aware that after the demonstrators returned to Otway House on the Carenage at the end of their daily marches around the city, they would usually be addressed by various speakers. The question which necessarily arises is what should reasonably have been inferred by Mr. Gairy when a motor cycle patrolman informed him that the demonstration was over at 11:15 a.m. The evidence of other witnesses about time and circumstance becomes relevant.

196. Rosanna Neckles said the demonstration returned to Otway House around "11:00 a.m. to after 11:00 a.m." Alister Hughes said the riot started about 12 noon. Inspector Raymond said he was at CID at 12:20 p.m. that day when he heard gunshots on the Carenage. Asst. Supt. Adonis Francis gave the following evidence:

Q. Were you aware that on that day the Honourable Premier had, in fact, invited a number of his secret police to come to Mount Royal before ten o'clock that day. Were you aware of that?
A. Yes, sir. I was aware of that.
Q. Did it come to your knowledge on that day, before twelve o'clock that the secret police had left Mount Royal on their way to St. George's - to town. Were you aware of that?
A. Yes, sir.
. . . . . . . . . .

Q. The demonstration would have commenced about what time in the day? Early in the morning? What time?
A. Well around 9:00 o'clock, sir.
Q. 9:00 o'clock. And you got there at 12:35 p.m.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you know when it was that the demonstrators returned to the Carenage. Not in terms of time. Did you know when they got back there?
A. It was sometime after 11:00 o'clock.
Q. After 11:00 a.m. Would you have been aware that speeches were being made over a loudspeaking system?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And at that time your six detectives would have been deployed with them?
A. Yes, sir.

Eric Pierre's evidence on the point was as follows:

Q. When it returned to Otway House could you remember about what time that was?
A. It was nearly 11:30 a.m.
Q. And now what would have happened if this group of people had not come? What was the next step when they got back to Otway House? What would have occurred?
A. The next thing we do is - several speakers would address them before asking them to disperse. We would sing some more songs and then we would disperse until the next demonstration.
Q. That had been the usual practice.
A. The usual practice.
Q. At what point were you in your practice when it was drawn to your attention that the group of men were [line missing].
A. I had just introduced the last speaker for the morning - a school boy.

The Riot

197. At the time the riot started there were about 5,000 (five thousand) demonstrators outside Otway House and about 300 police aides. This was the estimate of Cpl. Bedeau.

The senior officer of police in St. George's was Supt. James. He said he received information about the riot sometime after 12 midday when he was at the Central police station. Accepting that an unidentified motor cycle patrolman told Mr. Gairy that the demonstration was over at 11:15 a.m., having regard to the credible evidence, he could not possibly have meant anything else but that the marching was over and the demonstrators had assembled for addresses on the Carenage. We recoil, however, from the conclusion that the information required by Mr. Gairy was so limited in scope because it would imply that his intention was to ensure that the demonstrators were stationary on the Carenage in order to sent he police aides at that time for lunch at Georgi's. He said he believed the demonstration was over and that the crowd had dispersed.

But the issue which unavoidably arises is whether, notwithstanding that belief, it was a threat to public order and public safety to despatch the police aides without consulting the senior officers of police whose duty it is, with the Commissioner of Police, to take such measures as are necessary to preserve law and order. According to Mr. Gairy, the possibility of a clash exercised his mind. He was not on the spot at the Carenage to make a personal assessment of the position, nor was it part of his function to do so. Therefore, his apprehensions about the possibility of a clash ought to have prompted him to seek the most reliable advice from the persons whose duty it was to give it. It is evident that he consulted none of his officers about conditions then prevailing at the Carenage.

Had he spoken to Supt. James or Asst. Supt. Francis, as he should have done, the information would have been given that the demonstration was still in progress. Moreover, we feel strongly that whether or not the demonstration was in progress, the opinion of the police officers ought to have been sought as to the risks involved in sending into the streets of St. George's at that time of day and in the political environment which existed at that time a group of not less than 300 men, including Moslyn Bishop, who, as the evidence shows, was armed with a revolver, and others whose reputation for violence had become a matter of public concern.

198. We are satisfied that Mr. Gairy's failure to take proper or any steps to ascertain the real circumstances of the demonstration at 11:15 a.m. and after, is evidence of a grave disregard for public order and public safety and was at the very least, an omission which in our opinion constitutes gross negligence. We cannot too strongly comment on the improprieties involved in the action undertaken by Mr. Gairy on his sole authority; firstly, of recalling the police aides and secondly, of disregarding the obligation to seek the advice of responsible police officers as to whether it was safe for the police aides to enter the city when he was aware of the real possibility of a clash between themselves and the demonstrators. In our opinion the cause of the riot on the Carenage on Monday, January 21, 1974 was the gross negligence of Mr. Gairy in despatching the police aides at the time and in the circumstances he did without regard for considerations of public order and public safety, which ought to have been the subject of consultation and advice involving senior officers of police whose knowledge of the facts should have constrained them to advise against such action.

Back: Duffus 188 thru 192      Next: Duffus 199       Duffus Contents

Home Page: Index