By the summer of 1983 the growing split within NJM reached a critical point for the Grenada Revolution when the Coard faction blamed Maurice Bishop for the country’s problems. Their solution? An attempt to get Maurice Bishop to accept a power-sharing role with Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard.
The idea of joint leadership was first proposed by Liam James – a protégé of Bernard Coard and Grenada’s chief of national security – at a Central Committee meeting in September 1983.Bishop is clearly taken aback by the joint leadership proposal and almost immediately, he smells a rat. Bishop would later go on to say that the idea of joint leadership was not an outright concern for him, but the ulterior motive behind the suggestion led him to believe that this was possibly a power play.Following his proposal, Liam James presents a motion for joint leadership and Central committee members take a vote. The end result is that nine (9) members – just about the entire Coard faction – vote in favor of joint leadership. George Louison, minister of Agriculture and Bishop supporter, is the only Central Committee member who votes against joint proposal.
Approximately ten (10) days at an Extraordinary NJM General Meeting chaired by Liam ‘Owusu’ James, Secretary for the Interior and a Coard supporter, is held and Maurice Bishop agrees to accept the Central Committee’s proposal of joint leadership and the meeting ends on a high note amidst the sounds of revolutionary music.
Bishop goes to Europe
The following day, Monday, September 26, 1983, Maurice Bishop leaves for a scheduled two-week trip to the Eastern Bloc to negotiate electrical power generators that are desperately needed for Grenada. Bishop’s press secretary, Don Rojas; Shahiba Strong, his Chief of Protocol, and Bishop’s personal bodyguard and confidante, Cletus St. Paul are with him. The Bishop delegation flies out of the island’s small airport in Pearls, in the parish of St Andrews. Located on the North East side of the island. In 1983 Pearls Airport was the only airport in Grenada. Because of the short runway, international flights required a change of aircraft in a neighboring country. The Bishop delegation connects in Cuba. Publicly, nothing seems to be amiss within the party; the topic of joint leadership is an internal and confidential party matter…at least for now. Radio Free Grenada, the primary source of communication between the PRG and the people of Grenada, continues to make its broadcasts. For the everyday Grenadian, it’s ‘business as usual’.
Whether George Louison was the driving force or not, at some point while he is visiting the Eastern Bloc, Maurice Bishop changes his mind and realizes that a power-sharing role with Bernard Coard is not the right move and a huge mistake.
No verifiable info exists, but it’s believed that George Louison (who arrived in Eastern Europe approximately a week before Bishop in preparation of Bishop’s arrival) publicly denounces the party’s decision and he convinces Bishop that the Central Committee’s proposal of joint leadership is simply a cover for Bernard Coard to gain control of the party and the country rendering Bishop powerless.
Bishop in Cuba
As Bishop’s trip to the Eastern Bloc wraps up and he heads home, the delegation makes a stop in Cuba. Bishop arrives in Havana on the evening of Thursday, October 6 and spends the next 36 hours meeting with Cuba’s leader, Fidel Castro. While in Havana, Bishop’s personal security aide/bodyguard, places a phone call back to Grenada tells Ashely Folkes that Bishop has, in fact, changed his mind and will no longer accept joint-leadership of the party. He ends the call by warning that, ‘blood will flow!’ seemingly referring to Coard and any other anti-Bishop members. Viewing St. Pauls’ comments as a direct threat, Coard, Selwyn Strachan and several other NJM members are convinced that they are in great danger – with Bishop plotting against them and aided by Fidel Castro’s support – and subsequently several members of the Coard faction go into hiding.For the record, Bishop completely denies having any type of discussion with Fidel Castro about internal party issues during his final trip to Cuba. Later, in Bishop’s defense, Fidel Castro claims that Bishop never said a word to him about internal party problems because in his opinion, to do so was likely embarrassing for Bishop. Castro also believed that Bishop really had no idea just how volatile things were within the NJM party.
Bishop Returns to Grenada
On the morning of Saturday October 8, 1983, the Bishop delegation arrives at Grenada’s Pearls Airport, however, members of the NJM leadership are noticeably absent. A casually-dressed Selwyn Strachan is the only member of the ‘welcoming committee.
During the 45-minute ride from Pearls to St. Georges, Bishop confirms to Strachan that he has reconsidered the joint-leadership proposal and would like to reopen the topic at the next scheduled NJM Political Bureau meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 12.
By the time Bishop arrives at his home in Mt. Wheldale, his neighbors Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis Coard – who live in a house next door to Bishop – have already left their home opting to spend the night at the home of friends.
Events went downhill from there.
A Timeline of Events:
Bishop Meets FidelAugust 18, 1970
Bishop makes an unscheduled visit to Cuba. Bishop is the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Castro in Havana