For all of the achievements of the PRG and its promotion of a new social order anchored by solidarity, the government is not without critics. In its effort to kickstart a number of ambitious initiatives, it also suspended the constitution, which enabled it to hold prisoners without due process, posing an obvious human-rights concern. “The revolution had some positive ideas, but the revolution did not respect democratic rights, and that was the danger,” says Tillman Thomas, who served as the Prime Minister of Grenada from 2008 to 2013.
As a lawyer and longtime public servant, Thomas initially became involved with the New Jewel Movement’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Programme, and was later imprisoned by the PRG. Escalating conflict within the government saw the party cleave between Bernard Coard, the deputy Prime Minister who was ideologically to the left of Bishop and backed by the military, and Bishop, who was backed by the people. The standoff ended in bloodshed — Bishop, and his ministers, including his partner, Minister of Education Jacqueline Creft, who was pregnant at the time, were all killed by firing squad.
What happened next has been exhaustively covered, perhaps the single most internationally reported moment in Grenada’s history: the country’s invasion by the United States. In 1983, Time magazine devoted an entire special issue to covering the events, and there’s an episode of This American Life where children simulate the invasion and fumble through its numerous confusing missteps. To give you a snapshot: Military personnel tasked with providing aerial backup, the 82nd Airborne Division, planned the attack on a tourist map of the island and developed intelligence using an issue of The Economist. The U.S. defence department, aware of the incoming blowback, issued a total ban on press coverage in the first few days of the intervention, and severely restricted reporting in the following weeks.
Wilson has one particularly telling memory: “Would you believe that after the revolution, I was in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the 82nd Division came from. I was talking with one of the soldiers and he asked me, ‘You’re from Grenada. What part of Jamaica is that?’”