Maurice Bishop

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The Right Honourable
Maurice Bishop
Maurice Bishop 1982-06-11.jpg
Bishop in Saxony, East Germany, on June 11, 1982
Prime Minister of Grenada
Under People's Revolutionary Government
In office
13 March 1979 – 16 October 1983
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Paul Scoon
DeputyBernard Coard
Preceded bySir Eric Gairy
Succeeded byBernard Coard
Personal details
BornMaurice Rupert Bishop
(1943-05-21)21 May 1943
Aruba
Died19 October 1983(1983-10-19) (aged 40)
Grenada
NationalityGrenadian
Political partyNew Jewel Movement
Spouse(s)Angela Bishop (1966–1981)
Domestic partnerJacqueline Creft
ChildrenNadia (born 1969)
John (born 1971)
Vladimir Lenin (1978–1994)
Alma materLondon School of Economics
King's College London
 
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The Right Honourable
Maurice Bishop
Maurice Bishop 1982-06-11.jpg
Bishop in Saxony, East Germany, on June 11, 1982
Prime Minister of Grenada
Under People's Revolutionary Government
In office
13 March 1979 – 16 October 1983
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Paul Scoon
DeputyBernard Coard
Preceded bySir Eric Gairy
Succeeded byBernard Coard
Personal details
BornMaurice Rupert Bishop
(1943-05-21)21 May 1943
Aruba
Died19 October 1983(1983-10-19) (aged 40)
Grenada
NationalityGrenadian
Political partyNew Jewel Movement
Spouse(s)Angela Bishop (1966–1981)
Domestic partnerJacqueline Creft
ChildrenNadia (born 1969)
John (born 1971)
Vladimir Lenin (1978–1994)
Alma materLondon School of Economics
King's College London

Maurice Rupert Bishop (29 May 1944 – 19 October 1983)[1] was a Grenadian politician and revolutionary who seized power in a coup in 1979 from Eric Gairy and served as Prime Minister of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada until 1983, when he was overthrown in another coup by Bernard Coard, a member of his own government, and executed.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Bishop was born in Aruba to Grenadian parents, Rupert and Alimenta Bishop, and migrated with his parents to Grenada in 1950, when he was six years old.[1] He was a pupil at Wesley Hall Primary School and after a year moved to St. George’s Roman Catholic Primary School, from where he went on scholarship to the Roman Catholic Presentation College.[1] In high school, he won the Principal's Gold Medal for outstanding academic and general all-round ability. Leaving school in 1963, Bishop worked briefly as a civil servant at the Government Registry, before going to London to study law. He attended Gray's Inn and earned his law degree from the London School of Economics, University of London.[1][2] He began post-graduate studies at King's College London but left this prior to being called to the bar in 1969,[3] he practiced law in the UK for two years, co-founding a legal aid clinic and developing his interest in campaigns against racial discrimination, especially against West Indians in England.

Returning to Grenada, he became active in politics. In 1973, he became head of the Marxist New Jewel Movement (NJM) political party. He was elected to parliament, and for several years he held the position of leader of the opposition in the Grenadian House of Representatives, opposing the government of Prime Minister Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP).

Premiership[edit]

In 1979 Bishop's party staged a revolution and deposed Gairy, who was out of the country addressing the United Nations at the time. Bishop subsequently suspended the constitution and declared himself Prime Minister of Grenada. All political parties except for the NJM were banned, and no elections were held during Bishop's rule. Without a constitution in place, the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) simply issued laws by decree. The country was governed in theory by a cabinet of ministers with Bishop as Prime Minister, but in reality power in the country was exercised by the central committee of the party.

Bishop began to build a close relationship with Cuba after he took power. He initiated a number of projects, most significantly, the building of a new international airport on the island's southern tip (that in May 2009 was renamed in his memory). Financing and labour for the construction of the airport came from Cuba, although most of the airport’s infrastructure was designed by European and North American consultants. American President Ronald Reagan accused Grenada of intending to use the new airport’s long “airstrip” as a waypoint for Soviet military aircraft.

Among Bishop's core principles were workers' rights, women's rights, and the struggle against racism and Apartheid.[4] Under Bishop's leadership, the National Women’s Organization was formed which participated in policy decisions along with other social groups. Women were given equal pay and paid maternity leave, and sex discrimination was made illegal. Organisations for education (Center for Popular Education), health care, and youth affairs (National Youth Organization) were also established. Despite its achievements, Bishop's government would not hold elections and stifled a free press and the opposition. The establishment of voluntary mass organizations of women, farmers, youth, workers, and militia were presumed to make the holding of elections unnecessary.[2]

The People's Revolutionary Army (PRA) was also formed during Bishop's administration. Critics accused the army as being a waste of money and resources, and there were many complaints that the PRA was used as a tool to commit human rights abuses, such as torture and detention of political dissidents without trial.[5] PRA recruits were required to take an oath of loyalty to the NJM party and the natural superiority of Marxist socialism as a basis for government.[citation needed]

Arrest and execution[edit]

In 1983 disputes at the top level of the party leadership occurred. A group within the party attempted to get Bishop to either step down or agree to a power-sharing agreement with Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. Bishop rejected these proposals and was eventually deposed and placed under house arrest during the first week of October 1983 by Coard. Large public demonstrations demanding the restoration of Bishop subsequently took place in various parts of the island. In the course of one of these demonstrations Bishop was freed from house arrest by the crowd. In unclear circumstances, Bishop made his way to the army headquarters at Fort Rupert (known today as Fort George). After he arrived, a military force was dispatched from another location to Fort Rupert. Fighting broke out later at Fort Rupert, with many civilians being killed. Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers, were captured. Later in the day, on 19 October, they were executed by an army firing squad.

Family[edit]

Maurice Bishop married nurse Angela Redhead in 1966. They had two children, Nadia (b. 1969) and John (b. 1971). Angela emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with both children in 1981, while Bishop was still prime minister. He also fathered a son, Vladimir Lenin (1978–94), with his longtime partner Jacqueline Creft (1947–83), who was Grenada's Minister of Education.[6] Creft was killed alongside Bishop at the confrontation at Fort Rupert on 19 October 1983. After his parents' deaths, Vladimir joined his half-siblings in Canada, but was stabbed to death in a Toronto nightclub at the age of 16.[7]

Legacy[edit]

On 29 May 2009, Grenada's international airport (formerly Point Salines International Airport) was renamed Maurice Bishop International Airport.[8][9][10] Speaking at the ceremony, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said: "...this belated honour to an outstanding Caribbean son will bring closure to a chapter of denial in Grenada’s history."[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Gairy
Prime Minister of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada
13 March 1979 – 16 October 1983
Succeeded by
Bernard Coard