The Grenada Revolution Online

MEDIATION

Press Statement Presented by Michael Als on Mediation
The Crisis in the NJM



The document below is the full text of a press statement made by Michael Als of the Peoples Popular Movement (PPM), Trinidad and Tobago. Als was invited by New Jewel Party members, along with Rupert Roopnarine of the Work Peoples Alliance (WPA), Guyana, to mediate the crisis in the New Jewel Movement (NJM) in the last days of Maurice Bishop's life.

The full text was chosen for inclusion on this site because it is structured in a clear manner that outlines the complex events of the period before the tragedies of 19 October 1983. Parenthetical (    ) insertions are made by Michael Als. Brackets [    ] are inserted into the text by the webmaster to expand clarity. One is reminded that Als was a Marxist during this period, although the full text does appear to surpass the boundaries of fairness aiming to maintain elements of neutrality. The date the document was written is unknown, but dates within the text are indicators of the time period.


Upon request from Comrades of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), I arrived in Grenada to conduct mediation exercises, arising out of a dispute within the leadership of the Party.

I was asked to conduct the mediation based on two important factors:

  1. 1. My personal relationship with Maurice, Bernard and all leading members of the NJM.

  2. 2. The close fraternal relationship that had developed and existed between the NJM and the Peoples' Popular Movement.

    I arrived in Grenada on Monday, 10th October 1983, after midday and took a taxi directly to the premises occupied by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

    Upon arrival at the Prime Minister's residence, I was informed by the security there that I could not see the Prime Minister, and was then taken to the home of the Deputy Prime Minister which is situated on the same compound but separated by a wall.

    When I arrived there a number of leading NJM members with whom I was familiar were present. Everybody was in a state of some excitement and agitation.

    I was brought up to date with events. I listed to all who spoke and then I made the following enquiries:

  3. 1. Who else was invited to mediate?

  4. 2. How were people reacting to the crisis?

  5. 3. What was expected of me?

I received the following:

The matter was extremely sensitive and apart from myself, only one other invited person [Rupert Roopnarine, Guyana] from the Caribbean was present in Grenada at the time.

I enquired about the Cubans - I was told that the position of non-interference in the internal affairs of the NJM was Cuba's position.

Regarding the people - I was told that the masses were somewhat confused, some were angry and hostile and others somewhat apprehensive, but that the Party's membership and almost the entire leadership was with the Central Committee and opposed to Maurice's position. I was also informed that the entire army Command, with the exception of one leading officer was in support of the Central Committee.

As for my role, the comrades asked if I could work out something on my own.

I proposed the following which were accepted:

  1. My access to all persons in the dispute including Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop.

  2. My access to transport and a telephone and

  3. My access to information.

These requests were accepted. I then proceeded to contact a number of my personal friends as well as had discussions with a number of Central Committee members.

I was also given the minutes of a number of Central Committee meetings. I was appraised of a number of statements made by certain security officials of high rank. I proceeded to my hotel where I took several hours to read the various documents. These documents revealed four main points:

  1. There was a serious crisis in statework, mass work, party work and media propaganda.

  2. There was a crisis of confidence in the NJM's immediate leadership.

  3. That the entire Party was itself alarmed, and that

  4. A proposal for joint leadership with Maurice and Bernard was one definite way out of the above situation which had developed in the Party.

The situation however had gone into a state of complete confusion through the following:

  1. Maurice on his return from Hungary and Czechoslovakia [8 October 1983] decided to change his mind on the question of joint leadership in the NJM, and therefore go against a decision of the Party, in which an overwhelming majority, including Maurice, had voted in favour of.

  2. A rumour had been spread [12 October 1983] indicating that the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis Coard were engaged in a plot to kill Maurice Bishop.

  3. Maurice had been placed under - house arrest [12 October 1983].

  4. The entire hierarchy of the Party was split.

These indeed were very serious matters. After assessing the entire situation I made certain requests to the Central Committee.

  1. That I be allowed to see Maurice.

  2. That I be allowed to visit two military camps to speak to the soldiers and verify for myself their position on the matter.

In my hotel room I read certain documents, made copious notes and reflected on the advice I could give to my Comrades.

TUESDAY 11TH OCTOBER, 1983

The following morning I returned to the Deputy Prime Minister's house and held a discussion with him. He mentioned seven points of importance:

  1. He had resigned from the leadership of the NJM on October, 1982 i.e. from the Political Bureau and the Central Committee because of his dissatisfaction with the state of the Party.

  2. He had however resumed Political Bureau membership and Central Committee membership a few weeks ago, based on a decision of the Party.

  3. He had a distinct fear for his life due to the crisis and particularly the rumour.

  4. A number of persons were no longer in the Party leadership and had been removed from same several months ago and in one case up to two years ago. These persons included Vincent Noel, Kendrick Radix and Jackie Creft. More than this, within recent times, Unison was on probation as far as the Political Bureau and Central Committee were concerned and that George was indeed carded to be expelled.

  5. He was seen in the Party as the 'Hatchet Man' since he had been Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee in the Party. This went okay when ordinary members were placed under manners, but as soon as leading comrades came under manners relationships between himself and other leaders became strained, although Maurice himself was part of the disciplinary process. It was having a terrible emotional stress on him since he was only doing that the party required.

  6. Relations between himself and Maurice were becoming strained and with the rumour, which he indicated had no foundation whatsoever, things were at a low ebb.

  7. 7. He knew that in Grenada people saw him as a disciplinarian and someone whose role was to keep the economy in order. He was not considered 'popular' but was rather respected as Maurice's second in command. He had no illusions about this.

I took note of all these points. I then spoke to other Central Committee Members. I had also made previously, repeated attempts to reach Vince, Uni and George but none of the three could be located either at home or at the office.

I then went to see the Prime Minister after lunch on this day (Tuesday 18th October). We spoke for over two hours.

We first greeted and hugged each other. He jokingly indicated that I had made a major breakthrough since the only other persons allowed to see him were Jackie, who was also under house arrest, and his mother.

We immediately got down to business. I indicated to him initially the following:-

  1. I was party to certain information including Central Committee minutes.

  2. My assessment of the information made available to me so far was that the majority of the Party was not supporting him and that army officers were also not backing him.

  3. The question of the rumour was having a devastating effect in the Party and on the country as a whole.

  4. The regional and international implications were not to be ignored.

Maurice made the following points:

  1. He was very concerned about what was going on.

  2. He was not clear what could have been done in the situation since the Party with the exception of a few comrades were against him.

  3. He had agreed to the principle of joint leadership, but three days after leaving for Hungary and Czechoslovakia he had changed his mind. He had changed his mind since he was not clear how it would operate, since he was of the view that a majority of the Central Committee were not on his side and that whatever he did would be objected to since only Uni and George were his allies, with Fitzy from time to time. More than this he was going to be relieved of 'Strategy and Tactics' and he knew of no political leader who would not be in control of 'Strategy and Tactics'. He felt it was a line which would streamline him into state work and thus control of the Party would lean heavily on Bernard. He was not prepared to allow that to happen.

  4. Relations between himself and Bernard were in a poor state. However, he admitted that when things between himself and Bernard were close, the Party, the country and the revolution were at their best performance. He felt that Bernard and himself in the interest of the revolution had to work out their personal differences and party differences. However, he indicated that he was very suspicious of a particular act, i.e. Bernard was not at the airport to greet him as he usually did when he returned from a major trip. He felt something was up.

  5. He vehemently denied any participation in the rumour, but a number of people had warned him about Bernard, but he had always dealt firmly with such persons since he did not believe such nonsense.

    He further made the point that if he had started such a rumour, he would be a fool since he was the person in charge of security as Commander in Chief as well as leader of the Party, and that if he had to start such a rumour it would not start with his immediate security but rather with persons three or four times removed from him.

    It was ridiculous to suggest that he would sit down with Cletus [St. Paul], Earle [Errol George] and Jackie [Jacqueline Creft] and start such a rumour by approving a list of persons to whom this line of action should be carried. He denied any knowledge of it and said he would certainly get to the bottom of it. He felt some person or persons were behind this ugly rumour.

  6. He was of the view that the large body of the Party members were against him based on his self-confessed weakness in the area of Party work. They did not take into consideration that he had tremendous responsibilities and that there was so much a person could do.

In addition what they were using against him was the fact that he had hesitated for several weeks before he had agreed finally to the joint leadership of the party. Now that he had changed his mind, the entire party was up in arms against him calling him 'unprincipled', 'dictator', 'anti-party', 'one man ruler' etc. They did this without recognising he had genuine difficulties with the operational aspects of the entire situation.

The decision to detain him had only cemented the difference, and that the use of the radio by General Austin and Major Cornwall was unfair since they did not give his side of the story.

We broke for refreshments. I asked him of his health. He said he had a queasy stomach but he was okay. He was smoking incessantly and appeared to be in a state of mental agitation.

I then pointed out the following:

  1. The present situation to say the least was very complex. It did not have easy solutions. The Party reorganization could be solved with further debate, but the rumour had really created chaos, mistrust, anxiety and fear in the Party. All persons concerned were too inflexible in their approach to the issued which had profound dimensions.

    The Prime Minister agreed with me.

I then told him that just prior to coming to see him that I was informed by a member of the Central Committee that Cletus St. Paul had now given a statement to security implicating him in the rumour, indicating that it had originated from him the Prime Minister.

This shook Maurice. Cletus St. Paul was not just a guard. He had a pathological relationship with Maurice. They were almost like the skin on flesh. Only those who were very close to the life of Maurice and the Party may have an appreciation of this point. (I knew them both very well).

Maurice indicated that it had to be a plot to discredit him, in which, perhaps for some reason, St. Paul was involved.

I told him this was not easy to conceive given the close relationship that existed between Cletus and himself. He stated that almost nobody would believe him now, (with Cletus' statement) coming on the heels of the contribution of Earle George his second in command of this personal security. He repeated his innocence.

We then came down to the proposals I thought would or could be useful if both parties would agree to it.

  1. That he speak to the nation in his capacity as Prime Minister even if it meant a controlled speech i.e. one agreed upon by the Central Committee and himself, calling for calm and indicating a settlement of the crisis was in sight.

  2. That the Deputy Prime Minister and himself meet immediately (that night) and thrash out their differences in the name of the Party, the revolution and the people.

  3. Work out a line that would squash the rumour talk immediately since that was the real storm of the crisis.

  4. See if the Cubans would play a role in the matter since the NJM and the CCP (Communist Party of Cuba) were close.

Maurice responded as follows:

  1. He had no difficulties with the radio broadcast but that Uni and George should be party to drafting it up. It would be difficult however, especially where Austin and Cornwall had already given a one-sided approach, in his view, of the matter.

  2. He would really like to discuss matters with Bernard, and in fact had prepared a number of proposals whilst he was in Hungary to geeing discussing with Bernard on their way from the airport, upon his arrival the previous Saturday [8 October 1983]; but Bernard did not appear at the airport (the reason for Bernard's non-appearance was later explained but it was a fateful non-appearance that really raised some serious suspicions in Maurice's mind).

  3. He had said all he had to say on 'this rumour nonsense'.

  4. The Cubans were prepared to be informed and give advice but not to interfere in the internal affairs of the NJM. He was sure now that they themselves were very disturbed about the matter, since on his way home from Hungary he had stopped over in Havana where relations between both countries had been further improved.

He further indicated that he was very unsure of the Party's approach to him since at the previous [13 October 1983] Thursday's all membership meeting the majority of members called for his expulsion from the NJM. He was ready to work out something but that he was not prepared to be humiliated by anyone. Members were talking about 'principle is principle' but they had to consider who he was in spite of his errors.

We then agreed to meet again in the morning [19 October 1983]. He asked me what I thought of the political situation outside. I replied 'Explosive. The masses are with you and the Party and Army against you. In addition because of this the government is divided. This calls for super human qualities'.

'Boy', he said in parting. 'Dem men tough as hell and I just as tough. We go see. They have their model and I have mine'.

We shook hands. I told him to give Jackie my regards.

I then reported our deliberations as outlined to the Central Committee and proceeded back to my hotel where I attempted to contact Uni and George in reference to the statement. I was still unable to make any contact with either of them. I was further advised Maurice met with a four person representation of the Central Committee and that at that meeting the following proposals were put forward:

  1. He remain as the Prime Minister and leader of the revolution.

  2. He admits responsibility for the crisis.

  3. He abides by the decision of the Party on the question of joint leadership in the Party.

It was that same night that Uni informed Radio Antilles that he as Foreign Minister had resigned; George as Agricultural Minister, Norris Bain as Housing Minister and Ramdhanny as Tourism Minister had also resigned and that a subsequent resignation from Education Minister, Jackie Creft, was expected.

He (Uni) indicated that Bernard was not more or less running the country. This pronouncement signaled a deepening of the crisis.

The following morning I had breakfast with Don Rojas, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary, since my hotel was closed. He, like every one else was in an agitated mood. Speaking with him made me more certain that the crisis had to be handled quickly. He decided to give me a drop to Maurice's house.

We never made it to the PM's house by car. The streets were already too filled to drive in the direction of his house. Thousands of People had hit the street. Business places were closed, schools were closed, the masses were heading for St. George's.

The previous days had seen marches in Grenville and Sauteurs. In St. Andrew's the previous day (Tuesday) the airport was closed [for a couple of hours by a demonstration]. On the Saturday previously [8 October 1983], Kendrick Radix had led a march of a few hundred people and was detained. Don Rojas and myself were almost at the Prime Minister's residence when we heard rounds of gunfire. I hurried upward. Thousands of people were shouting 'we want we leader', 'we want we leader', 'we want we leader'. They had converged on the road leading the roadway up to the Prime Ministers house.

The widest cross section of the Grenada population was there. There are three check points to Maurice's home. Each check point was guarded by soldiers. Rounds of automatic fire was shot into the air at each point and was greeted with 'Is blanks. They can't shoot the masses'.

Jackie and Maurice were now released by the crowd. Shouts of 'We get we leader', 'We see we leader', 'We go hear we leader' echoed in the crowd.

Jackie and Maurice were now under what some section of the crowd were popularly described as 'mass arrest'. Jackie was in a pair of shorts and a jersey and Maurice was no better. He was in a pair of rubber slippers, a short pants and a merino.

Everything had happened in less than ten minutes from the point of the first shots and the rescue of Maurice and Jackie. The masses, together with Maurice and Jackie were now heading down the streets towards Market Square.


And here Michael Als' press statement ends.


George Louison is supposed to have been escorted from confinement to an early morning meeting with Maurice Bishop where Louison presented a 6-point proposal. After Michael Als and Don Rojas walked up the hill, one report says Michael Als was inside Coard's house discussing the crisis with Coard and members of the Central Committee. Maurice, though originally intent on speaking in Market Square, was transported to Fort Rupert. One report is Maurice Bishop got out of the transport he was in when reaching Market Hill [a directional dividing point], and talked with Don Rojas. Another report has Rojas telephoning Radio Barbados in the late morning. All reports are unsubstantiated and not corroborated.

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