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#1 Feb 07, 2020 11:34 am

New Historian

Independence Day, 7 February, 1974, a day of darkness - literally!

Britain was only too glad to rid itself of these cantankerous little colonies.  Why go through the trouble and expense of keeping them only to have all their petty little squabbles on your doorstep?  Eric Gairy also wanted independence, but for more sinister reasons.  A lot of people were fearful because independence would take away the British counterbalance to Gairy’s power.  In the leadup to independence, Grenada was perhaps the only case in the world, where there were mass street protests, AGAINST independence.  Or at least: independence under Gairy. Throughout 1973, there were increasingly violent confrontations, between NJM demonstrators the police and Gairy’s Mongoose Gang, culminating in Grenada’s ‘Bloody Sunday’.   

At a protest meeting in Grenville, Maurice Bishop and five other NJM leaders were beaten almost beyond recognition by the police.  The beating was ordered and supervised by the police chief of Grenville, the inappropriately-named Inspector Innocent Belmar.  But instead of intimidating the NJM leaders, this simply made them living martyrs.  The incident caused a furore in Grenada and the regional media, and Gairy eventually had to set up a Commission of Enquiry.  In typical fashion, when Inspector Belmar was found culpable and forced to resign from the Police Force, Gairy simply made him Minister of National Security.  Within a few months, yet another Bloody Day occurred, and this time it was Bishop’s father Rupert Bishop who was killed, shot at point blank by the secret police. The stakes had been upped.  Now it was personal.

The anti-government protests intensified.  The Governor resigned and retired to Trinidad; the island was almost ungovernable.  But Britain was not to be deterred; it was determined to shed itself of this quarrelsome little colony, and on 7 February, 1974, Grenada duly became an independent nation, the event occurring in almost total darkness, because a general strike had caused islandwide blackouts.  Hardly the country’s proudest moment.

After Independence things settled a bit.  Grenadians just wanted a little peace.  Not that they got much.  In 1976 there was another general election.  Again, despite seeming widespread support for the NJM, Gairy just managed to squeak through.  Another five years of the same.  In December 1977, ex-Inspector and now Minister Belmar was washing down his dinner of roast monkey at the roadside Bamboo Bar when a car drove up, two gunman alighted and pumped him full of holes.  A score settled.  The police quickly rounded up the usual suspects and within a few weeks charged two NJM members with the murder of Belmar.  Maurice Bishop leapt to their defence, earning an acquittal in a high-profile trial.  To this day you still hear the question asked in bars and living-rooms: who killed Innocent Belmar?


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