The New Today


Grenada’s 19 October National Heroes Day in serious limbo

The average Grenadian citizen and political scientists on the history of Grenada have conceded that some form of national recognition or commemoration is appropriate for the unprecedented tragic occurrence on 19 October 1983 and for which, after four decades of activism towards the annual observance, the Prime Minister voiced on 19 September 2023 the intent of the Government to have the declaration of 19 October a “permanent” Bank Holiday as of 2023.

Apprehensions, controversies and disappointments however arise, when in the views of many objective individuals, the Administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by political novice Attorney-at-Law Dickon Mitchell goes ‘too far’ in appeasing or pandering to, or in being captivated or capitalised on by, special interest groups on the matter, by designating the holiday as National Heroes Day.

Indeed, a tremendous level of ‘mismatch, awkwardness, uncertainty and absurdity’ typifies this scenario and thus, the designation is open or is liable to change (either the date and/or the expression) by another ruling Administration, or even by this NDC Administration after thorough reviews, meaningful dialogues and troubling outcomes.

The NDC Administration could be condemned for making such a designation without extensive consultations, without much sensitivity, without genuine rationalisations, and without showing a fair depth in relation to the ‘philosophies, maneuverings, goals and lessons’ surrounding the historic events on 19 October.

In response to the decision of the Government “to observe October 19, 2023 as “National Heroes Day”, a Bank Holiday in Grenada”, Governor-General Her Excellency Dame Dr. Cécile La Grenade on 13 October 2023 issued the Proclamation towards this end.

The Proclamation, Statutory Rules and Orders No. 39 of 2023, can be judged ‘convoluted, conniving and compromising’, and further heightens the confusion and absurdity about the decision to designate 19 October as National Heroes Day.

Firstly, the Proclamation does not speak about the 19 October National Heroes Day as a “permanent” observance which necessitates the amendment of the Bank Holidays Act (Cap. 25) but it specifies the appointment of 19 October 2023 as a “special day …. Bank Holiday” for the purpose of commemorating this day for the inaugural National Heroes Day in accordance with section 7 of Cap. 25.

Secondly, the Proclamation lays the 19 October 2023 holiday on Grenada’s approach “to mark 50 years of Independence on 7th February 2024”, but without also making reference to the 2007 National Honours and Awards Act (Cap. 204A) which deals thoroughly with the awarding of National Heroes.

The National Organising Committee (NOC) for Grenada’s 50th Independence had sought to commence the ‘bright’ milestone celebrations on 19 October 2023 with its ‘dark’ remembrance, but it was obliged to defer this aspect due to many questions, disapprovals and rebuffs; NOC is also seeking to spearhead ‘outside the law and norm’ the Heroes Awards.

Most contemptuous towards “Grenada’s pre-independence and post-independence history, outstanding sons and daughters”, throughout the wide array of noble deeds and prestigious reputations, is the ‘essence’ of the Proclamation which anchors and centralises National Heroes Day on the political skirmish and massacre of 19 October 1983.

Could this unfortunate scenario serve as a deterrent to having ‘simple and neutral’ qualified citizens (or, through representatives) graciously and unreservedly accept being nominated for a Hero Award?

In Her Excellency’s ‘own deliberate judgment’, Dame Cecile assents thus: “WHEREAS October 19, 1983 marked a day of indelible significance in the history of Grenada when Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and other Ministers of Cabinet together with members of the public including school children were killed at Fort George (then Fort Rupert) bringing a bloody end to internal conflict that arose within the People’s Revolutionary Government (‘PRG’); WHEREAS in remembrance of and reflection on the events of October 19, 1983, recognising our strides in recovery and growth and to promote further healing, reconciliation, unity and advancement as one people, the Government of Grenada urges its citizens to commemorate this day by participating in activities organised to commemorate this inaugural National Heroes Day”.

Despite this call and urging, the promotion and programme for the observance of the day took on, and was predominated by, a biased political tone.

The commemorative ceremony features a National Ecumenical Service of Remembrance using the theme “Rekindling Relationships, Restoring Hope, Rebuilding Trust”; however, the proceedings did not reflect any ‘goodwill and good faith’ message of the theme.

Hypocrisy, absurdity and mockery were evidenced about the events on 19 October 2023, with the absence in any form (acts or symbols) of ‘forgiveness, reconciliation and solidarity’ by the major entities of the diverse political divide which still pervades society; but rather, the events were limited and concentrated on the initiation of inculcations for Maurice Bishop as the supreme hero.

There would have been a more reasonable acceptance of the Theme as well as the Proclamation, if at least the commemoration was punctuated with official remarks by the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament, the main political party (New National Party), the rivals in the skirmish within the PRG (such as the alleged Bernard Coard’s fraction), the victims of extreme abuses and atrocities by the PRG (such as to those described as counter-revolutionaries), and the remnants of the democratically-elected Grenada United Labour Party which was violently overthrown by the Marxist Leninist New Jewel Movement on 13 March 1979 to form the PRG.

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Instead of accomplishing political consensus going forward for stability, prosperity and security in Grenada, Dickon’s NDC-administration tends to peddle political partisanship and to intensify political injuries, and thereby gives reality, credence and perpetuation of the textbook “Grenada Island of Conflict”, penned by local historian George Brizan.

Strategic efforts for political mileage by Dickon’s NDC administration overshadowed the sound perspective for considering and raising the wide spectrum of heroism, and the strides and stagings over the past years (including via the 1995 Grenada National Honours Act and the 1979-1983 PRG) for recognising and rendering national acclaims.

Is there the purposely ignoring of the sterling and valuable contributions upon which modern Grenada has been built and is now surviving and ‘flourishing’?

It is very difficult to fathom the reason/s, other than about expediency in achieving a narrow agenda, for the Administration not to highlight in its presentations about national heroes, the areas such as involving war veterans, trade unionists, political statesmen, stalwart activists, cultural and sporting achievers, scholarly icons, selfless humanitarians and sacrificial victims; this ‘fiduciary responsibility’ is especially also required toward the Civic Education of the young generation.

Contributors in those areas are properly chronicled, universally circulated and traditionally acknowledged, and thus this also worsens the absurdity of fully inaugurating Grenada’s National Heroes Day without making or declaring at least the first hero award on someone.

A key component of the Transformation Agenda of the 23 June 2022 NDC administration, as articulated and demonstrated by NOC’s chair, Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel, is to “rewrite” Grenada’s history using the occasion of its Golden Jubilee as a bridge or crossroad between the past and the future.

In fact, the related schedules to commence the Independence celebrations on 19 October 2023 and to designate 19 October as National Heroes Day are by “no accident” and with “no more fitting day”, as implied by Prime Minister Mitchell.

Critical with this thrust to review, rewrite, refocus Grenada’s history is the ‘danger and likelihood’ of the Administration to plunge Grenada into an abyss of ‘ignorance and darkness’, as the parallel thrust is to teach the young naive generation the new or invented version of history.

Clarifications and contextualisation are needed when Wendy claims that the September 2023 launched textbook to be used in the nation’s schools, “Junior History of Grenada” written by Dr. Nicole Phillip-Dowe and published by Collins, “is the first time in the history of Grenada that we (‘Grenadians’) are telling our stories ourselves. We are writing our own narratives”.

The reverberating lessons and challenges for independent patriotic citizens therefore, especially those with the capacity of practical experiences, institutional memories and resource networks, are about “the struggle continues”.

There is the constant task for alertness and proactiveness to save Grenada’s democracy, rule of law, moral principles, good governance and its identity and legacy; without any ‘political reservations, sympathies and compromises’.

The designation, 19 October National Heroes Day, is a misnomer which thwarts the authentic history and sentiments of Grenada; indeed, it poses misleading concepts, unnerves the public and perpetuates political troubles.

As a ruling party of assorted political background and persuasion, including fractions from the demise of the PRG as well as individuals who have been negatively affected by the PRG, NDC may again be positioning itself to be in Government as a one-term administration; ignorantly or otherwise with already some ‘questionable missteps’.

Whilst Dickon’s NDC administration may use the inaugural National Heroes Day on 19 October 2023 for glorifying and reincarnating the spirit of Maurice Bishop and the PRG, it must know that the PRG could be termed a one-term government which ended due to “internal conflict” and that the 2008-2013 Attorney-At-Law Tillman Thomas-led NDC Administration lost general elections heavily due to ‘internal conflict’.

Thomas has been a detainee of the PRG but was able to accommodate high-ranking officials from the PRG; typically, are Peter David and Nazim Burke who it is said were at the ‘center’ of the internal conflict in relation to leadership of the NDC.

It is anticipated that the Government would reverse the association of the observances and effects of the historic events of 19 October with the observances and features surrounding National Heroes Day, as it did about the observances of Grenada’s Independence.

Debates on the relevance for keeping 25 October as Thanksgiving Day and for recognising 13 March as ‘Liberation and Patriotism’ Day would intensify.

J.K. Roberts