From Wed Oct 17 18:46:01 2001
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 23:34:57 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Grenada Seeks Truth, Reconciliation, Healing
Article: 128626
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Grenada Seeks Truth, Reconciliation—and Healing

By Bert Wilkinson, IPS, 16 October 2001

GEORGETOWN, (IPS)—Donald Trotman, a retired Guyana high court judge, has been named to head a three-member, South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Grenada as the Caribbean island nation northwest of here seeks to heal wounds inflicted by political turmoil, the killing of a prime minister, and a U.S. invasion.

“We hope that through our efforts and cooperation, pain and hurt will be replaced by peace and harmony,” said Trotman. “This is a significant development in the life of the people of Grenada, a high point.”

Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell has given the Trotman commission six months to conduct hearings in his country and in North American and British cities where Grenadians have settled, and a further three months to submit its report.

The commission's mandate stretches to 1976, when the country was wracked by political turmoil during the tenure of the late Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy, who clung to power with help from gangs of enforcers who killed political opponents and activists including one Rupert Bishop.

That was a fateful mistake. Rupert's son, Maurice Bishop, toppled Gairy in 1979 and led the New Jewel Movement (NJM) government until 1983. By then, the NJM itself was badly split and soldiers loyal to Bishop's hard-line leftist deputy, Bernard Coard, executed the charismatic prime minister and three Cabinet colleagues.

Later that year, U.S. troops invaded Grenada under the pretext of saving Grenada from communism and securing the safety of U.S. medical students there.

Mitchell's administration has asked Trotman's commission to pay particular attention to the period of NJM rule.

“The trauma of that horrific period is deeply implanted on the minds of many of us. It was a period when brother fought brother, sister against sister and friend against friend,” Labour and Local Government Minister Lawrence Joseph said. “Many questions pertaining to that period 1979–83 still remain unanswered. It is hoped that the Commission will find some answers.”

Attorney-General Raymond Anthony noted that no official inquiry has been held to determine what exactly happened during that period.

“This process is meant to clear the soul and get at the truth,” he said.

Mitchell, a former mathematics professor from Howard University in Washington, DC, had promised on the campaign trail to put the commission in place in order to put a sad chapter behind the populace.

As proof that the wounds are still gaping, the two-term head of government has several times talked about freeing Coard and more than a dozen others who continue to languish in jail for the murders of Bishop and his colleagues. Each time, an angry population—particularly the middle class and sections of the media—have rebuffed him.

While Bishop and Coard wrestled in public, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was biding his time and watching for an opportunity to crush the so-called people's revolution. His chance came with Bishop's execution and Coard's ascendancy.

Reagan had never made a secret of his discomfort over Grenada's close ties to Libya, East Germany, China, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.

In 1982, Libya granted Grenada a soft loan of six million dollars to build the New Point Salines airport, complete with a 10,000-foot runway suitable for jets bringing hundreds of visitors to tourist dependent Grenada. The runway also would have been perfect for warplanes but the government said it had no hidden agenda in building a large runway.

The Libyans wrote off the loan last month, following a visit to Tripoli by Mitchell and two other Caribbean prime ministers.

Mitchell, a center-right leader, was the third Grenadian leader to visit Libya.

Reagan had said that the airport would have been used by the Soviets and the Cubans to spread communism and revolution in the Caribbean and South America. Ironically, U.S. soldiers were among the first to use the runway.

In less than a week of fighting, the United States said it lost 19 soldiers. Joseph, the labour and local government minister, however, pointed out that no one knows exactly how many Grenadians died either in combat or from events just before the October invasion.

Additionally, no one has yet indicated where bodies, including those of Bishop and his ministers are buried. It is widely believed that U.S. troops took the corpses off the island.