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General Austin: The Revolution “detained too much people”

General Hudson Austin – admitted that too many Grenadians were detained as political prisoners by the revolutionary leaders

Former Army Commander, General Hudson Austin has cited the massive amount of persons who were held in custody without charge or trial as political detainees as one of the negative aspects of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY in an exclusive interview, the Commander of the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) said he had no direct involvement in the detention of persons but played a role in helping to get many of them released from custody mainly at the Richmond Hill prison.

“Too much detentions – they detained too much people,” he said in response to a question about the things that he wished never had happened when the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) toppled the Eric Gairy government in a March 13, 1979 coup d’état.

According to General Austin, he was not involved in the process of deciding who had to be detained for whatever reason as this function was performed by the Ministry of National Security and the Interior in which Lieutenant-Colonel Liam “Owusu” James was a major player.

“I had no say in that (detentions),” he remarked.

The ex-army chief said he was alerted to the seriousness of the situation by the then Commissioner of Prison, the late Pat MacLeish with whom he had a close relationship and briefed him on the cost of keeping these persons in detention.

He spoke of MacLeish informing him that the prison was over-crowded and in most cases there were five persons occupying a cell – regular prisoners and political detainees.

He said the prison chief told him that the budget to feed all these people would cost the taxpayers about 0ne million a year and that is when the PRG started to free a number of persons held in protective custody.

The General indicated that he raised the issue about the detainees with Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Maurice Bishop.

“I talked to Maurice and I told him that we have people we have detained up there for little or no reason,” he said.

The ex-army boss singled out for mention Cosmos Richardson, who was detained on the morning of the revolution, later released from custody and joined the army and was part of the squad of soldiers who executed Bishop and his close colleagues on Fort Rupert on October 19, 1983 in the bloody power struggle with ex-deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard on Joint Leadership within NJM.

“Cosmos Richardson was detained when he was going into True Blue as a GVC to help out the fire. What you detain him for?

According to the General, he was confronted by an individual from St. David who raised the issue of Richardson’s detention since he was only engaged in a lawful activity of trying to put out the fire following the burning of the barracks of the Gairy’s Defense Force when it was attacked by NJM armed forces on the morning of the Revolution.

“I told him that I have never seen a list of detainees and he say Austin do something about it (the Cosmos Richardson detention) because you and Maurice are good friends”.

“I went down to see Maurice and I spoke to Maurice about it – I told him what MacLeish told me and what the situation is – so a lot of guys were released on that premise”.

General Austin also made specific mention of the brother of another detainee, Lionel St Paul, a brother of retired high court judge, Justice Lyle St Paul who was also detained for “little or no good reason” at the prison.

He said he was approached by someone who questioned the continued detention of St Paul and suggested that he should be released back to his home since he was not a threat to national security as “that man doesn’t mean no harm to anybody.”

The former army boss pointed out that he paid another visit to Prime Minister Bishop on the same morning of the conversation and raised the St. Paul issue with him.

He said that the Grenadian leader instructed him once again to sort the detention issue out by telling him, “HA just go up there (Richmond Hill Prison) and handle that for yourself.”

“So I went up to the prison and did the necessary documents and so on and they released the man”.

The General stated that whenever he visited the prison thereafter the political detainees saw him as “one coming to release people.”

“I got over 20 persons who were detained, released (from custody),” he said.

General Austin also spoke of coming to the rescue of imprisoned Editor of the Grenadian Voice newspaper, Leslie Pierre (deceased) who was taken into custody along with late attorney-at-law, Lloyd Noel and ex-Prime Minister Tillman Thomas after they started the newspaper.

He said that he made arrangements for Pierre’s wife to visit him at the prison.

“I give McLeish a letter telling him anytime the man (Pierre) wants to see his wife, just let the wife come and see him”.

The General is from the same village of Morne Jaloux where Pierre’s wife also grew up.

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