Independence 1974 independence.html

Independence 1974

In the early 1970s, Eric Matthew Gairy was looking to England for discussions on Independence for Grenada.

In Jewel's newspaper, first issue 14 April 1972, Gairy's plan for independence was questioned. Gairy had made his Independence proposal as early as 21 February 1972. He announced that his election victory of 28 February 1972 gave him the go-ahead to seek Independence without a referendum.

First there were preliminary talks with Ministers of the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London. The talks took place in October 1972. Accompanying Gairy was leader of the Opposition Hon. H.A. Blaize. At that time a constitutional conference was scheduled for May of 1973.

In May of 1973, Gairy acted on an assumption of a mandate for him to seek Independence. According to Sanford, Gairy met with protest by

"[Herbert] Blaize and the Grenada National Party, backed by the Chamber of Commerce, [who] vehemently rejected both Gairy's alleged 'mandate' and his claim that independence was a fait accompli. They boycotted the discussions and embarked on a campaign that garnered 19,000 signatures against independence, which they said represented 46 percent of the total electorate in the last elections."


The First People's Convention on Independence at Seamoon was held of the 6th of May 1973. Maurice Bishop himself described the event in an interview in the Cuban weekly Bohemia:

"That year [1973] we held two conventions. The first [in May] dealt principally with the question of independence, which the party then in the government was taking steps toward. Our position was that the people should participate in the whole political process leading to independence. We wanted the government to take the popular sectors into account in working out the Constitution and the principles on which the economic system of independent Grenada would be based. The government focus, however, was to take up this whole question directly and exclusively with the British authorities. About 15,000 people attended this first convention."

In early May 1973, Blaize and Gairy attended a Grenada Constitutional Conference held in Marlborough House, London. Blaize went to protest independence without a referendum for the Grenada National Party (GNP). Bernard Coard, a Grenadian lecturer in economics at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica attended also, representing the New Jewel Movement (NJM) and the realities of Grenada's economic picture.

Others, besides Gairy, in the Government Delegation, were Attorney Edwin Heyliger, Lauriston F. Wilson, C.B.E.; Hon. George F. Hosten, Minister of Finance; Nolan Jacobs, Solicitor General; and Mr. D.C. Buxo. The Opposition Delegation included, besides W. Bernard Coard, Senator Ben J. Jones and Mr. J. Dear, Q.C. They all met with Right Honourable Lord Balniel, British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Both Blaize and Gairy argued the case for Grenada's Independence. Their difference was that Blaize, with 19,000 signatures behind him, did not want to see independence without a referendum.

The Institute of International Relations and the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine sponsored a conference from 11-13 January 1974. The conference was titled "Implications of Grenada's Independence," and produced the book "Independence for Grenada: Myth or Reality."

At that conference and a chapter within the resulting publication, Bernard Coard presented "The Meaning of Political Independence in the Commonwealth Caribbean."

Coard's piece discussed the concept of size and viabiltiy, size vs the structure of the political economy, overcoming small size through increased dependence, the concept of political independence, multinational corporations and political independence, the masses and political independence, the future of Caribbean political independence, and ended with this paragraph:

All of these Caribbean developments are basically reformist and survival oriented, not structural in nature. They can increase revenues substantially and smooth the rough edges of their fundamentally neo-colonialist political economies.

Unless a radical re-structuring of the internal economic and political structures is undertaken, linked with Third-World-wide action to do the same in International Political and Economic Relations with imperialist countries, political Independence will remain a dream yet to be realized."

The Duffus Commissioners wrote in their Report about Eric Gairy's commitment to the political independence of Grenada from Great Britain.

"Mr. Gairy was profoundly committed to political independence. He was unswervingly determined to achieve this in the way and at the time he planned.

When he gave evidence about his matter, we were convinced that his ambitions in this direction were genuine and that the emotional fervour with which he spoke on the subject was a true reflection of his convictions and, in a way, an indication of the measure of determination which attended his endeavours to achieve that status for Grenada.

We are, however, constrained to take the view that the intensity of his feeling may have conditioned his choice of action in meeting what he may genuinely have believed to be a threat to the timely achievement of the objective of political independence for Grenada.

We fear that when he said to us that he intended at about that time to achieve political independence 'at all costs', he may well have lapsed into the ideological plane where became rooted the belief that any opposition either to the Government or to the Government'' plan for independence was inimical to the best interests of the State and therefore had to be vigourously crushed.

If our fears are justified, as the evidence indicates they are, it does not seem difficult to understand the course which marked the low of events, nor is there any confusion as to their purpose and direction.

128. We formed the impression from listening to some of the witnesses involved in the Police Force, in the affairs of national security, and in the administration of justice, that they held the belief that the Ministry of National Security, or even a policeman, possesses an inherent power to overlook and by-pass the provisions of the Constitution whenever it is thought that 'national security' warrants it. We fear also that such a notion is the precursor of tyranny.

129. Inspired by the high purpose of political independence Mr. Gairy became convinced that the activity of the New Jewel Movement was subversive to the State of Grenada.

The Governor of Grenada for six years, Dame Hilda Bynoe, had left Grenada and her position on 21 January 1974. Major Leo De Gale was appointed Governor by Gairy.

Governor De Gale served as the Queen's representative on Grenada during the Independence ceremonies. Prince Richard of Gloucester, the Queen's cousin, was to have represented the Queen, but that plan was subsequently cancelled by London. An under-secretary, Peter Blaker, represented the British Government.

The Gairy government was running itself into the ground. Fuel supplies were low; civil servants unpaid. Great Britain gave Grenada an advance independence gift of 100,000 pound sterling out of a total of 2.5 million pounds. The Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union (SWWU) under Eric Pierre ended its strike and allowed food and fuel once again to be imported into Grenada. A US$2 million of loans arrived from Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. According to Schoenhals,

. . . the United Kingdom and Canada also sent three armed vessels to St. George's to shore up the Gairy
government . . .

In early February 1974, 5 boxes at 50 lbs. per box of explosives were stolen from Wimpey & Co., in Telescope, St. Andrew's.

O'Shaughnessy reports this:

Three tons of British fireworks, which had been smuggled past dockworkers in Barbados who were refusing to handle cargo for Grenada and which had cost the Grenadian treasure 3,000 [pounds], were let off, generating some of the only light to be seen in an otherwise darkened island. Just before the celebrations started the management of the Holiday Inn decamped, leaving the keys and the responsibility for the independence banquet in the hands of the Danish pastry cook.

The Union Jack and the statehood flags flew at Fort George. Prime Minister Eric Matthew Gairy made a speech in which he said:

We are now completely free, liberated, independent. In spite of a wicked, malicious, obstructive, destructive minority of noise-making self-publicists. God has heard our prayers. God has been merciful. God has triumphed.

Independence was celebrated by candlelight as power workers were on strike. Food and fuel supplies were low, some blocked by neighboring islands Trinidad and Barbados.

Maurice Bishop was jailed the afternoon of 6 February 1974, one day before the celebrations, and was released on bail 8 February 1974.

It was officially 7 February 1974 when the smallest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, Grenada, gained independence from Great Britain. Eric Matthew Gairy became Prime Minister. Governor Leo De Gale became Grenada's first Governor-General. Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Army in the Kennedy administration and of State under Carter was in attendance during the ceremonies. The flag of Independence flew at Fort George. The electricity from the power station was out and candles cast their shadows.

After Independence, the New Jewel newspaper, now edited by Selwyn Strachan, was banned by the Gairy government. As attacks on the New Jewel Movement became increasingly severe, the NJM party moved further into revolutionary and Marxist thought, confirming the old adage that revolutions occur when oppression is hard put upon social movements.

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