OBSTACLES TO HEALING AND RECONCILIATION
IN GRENADA AS IDENTIFIED BY THE TRUTH
AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
It is very obvious that there still remain in Grenada today, some serious obstacles to reconciliation and healing among many persons both at the interpersonal and national levels.
Going back to the days of Eric Matthew Gairy up to the 1979 revolution, then to the tragic events of October 19th, 1983, and the intervention of a combined U.S. and. Caribbean forces on October 25th, 1983, one sees that apart from the many persons who lost their lives during those periods, many more have suffered and have been wounded and scarred (some permanently) physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually. Those wounds are responsible for a tremendous amount of bitterness among many Grenadians up to today.
As long as those wounds and scars remain, and continue to be part of the national psyche, then reconciliation and national healing will remain extremely difficult. However, as rational human beings, we all can forgive, reconcile, and put the past behind us no matter how difficult that might be. Nevertheless, reconciliation is not something you can force upon people. People must freely reconcile, they must want to do it.
Many persons were hurt, wounded and suffered and have remained bitter for different reasons. For some, the Gairy days were experiences of murders, victimization, fear, disappearances, and violence. For many, the coup on March 13th 1979, and the ensuing form of Government meant a period of fear, loss of loved ones, weapons in the hands of children and the inexperienced, and the loss of constitutional democracy. Still for some, the "Revolutionary period" 1979 to 1983 was an experience of unlawful arrest and detention, as well as imprisonment without trial, torture, loss of limbs, loss of property and livelihood, loss of personal dignity and integrity, disappearances, and even death.
For many, the execution of the then Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and many of his Government Ministers on the 19th of October 1983 was an inexcusable, almost unforgivable act. Many are still bitter because the Revolution let them down and did not continue to deliver all that it had promised. The events of October 19th, 1983 have left festering wounds. An unknown number of lives was lost. There were the executions, and bodies were disposed of without proper burial.
Some are still bitter because of what many refer to as a few days of "reign of terror" by the Revolutionary Military Council (R.M.C.) when people's freedom of movement was taken away. Still, many are bitter over the intervention of the combined U.S. and Caribbean forces, which continued the cycle of violence, bloodshed, and death. Many Grenadian soldiers were killed, many families lost their loved ones. Many too are bitter over the continued incarceration of the former P.R.A. and P.R.G. leaders, (referred to as the "Grenada 17").
There is still division over the significance that the events of March 13th, 1979; October 19th, 1983, and October 25th, 1983, have in our national calendar. There is also the issue of the renaming of the "Point Salines International Airport" to the "Maurice Bishop International Airport". These and other issues remain sore points of bitterness and division among many Grenadians. The wounds are still there: the bitterness; the hurting individuals and families, and the many unanswered and unresolved questions. But if permanent healing and reconciliation are to become a reality among Grenadians - especially between those who have been wronged and the wrong-doers - then all Grenadians (men and women of goodwill) must come together and forgive one another, since forgiveness is good for those who forgive, and for those who are forgiven. We must put the past behind us, reach out across the dark waters of pain and hurt, and break down the barriers of division, bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness.
True reconciliation means, among other things, accepting the fact that l have done something wrong, or something wrong has been done to me, and having the heart and desire not just to say sorry, but also to show in tangible ways the genuineness of my words and the acceptance of forgiveness. In other words there must be reciprocity between those who have done wrong and those who have been wronged.
Grenada will not truly move forward without this healing and reconciliation. In some sense, the heart of the nation is still bleeding. So in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, it is not a question of whether or not we need reconciliation, we must be reconciled.
For true reconciliation to take place there must be admission of guilt and sorrow on the part of the wrong-doers and forgiveness on the part of the victims. True reconciliation therefore involves accepting responsibility for my actions and the consequences of my actions on the one hand, and the willingness to forgive on the other.
Many people have asked,
Do we need to worry about reconciliation in Grenada after all these years?
Wounds are sometimes very easy to inflict, but take a long time to heal. So given the present reality in Grenada of much hatred, division, bitterness, hurt, and resentment among many, reconciliation is not an option, but a must.
Grenada has a history to remember, but also a history to forget. And, even though much of the truth of Grenada's recent history remains unknown, healing and reconciliation are still a possibility. Bridges can be built from what is known. Every Grenadian therefore, should play his/her part in this endeavour. There should not be any conscientious objectors, all should join in the process of trying to bring permanent healing and reconciliation to the nation. Grenadians deserve no less.
Insofar as the present reality in Grenada demands healing and reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has identified some areas and issues of national life that remain obstacles to healing and reconciliation. Here are some examples presented under nine (9) headings beginning with Section 2, each with its own recommendation.