Maurice Bishop put country before self, says his widow

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada (CMC) — The widow of Grenada’s first left-wing prime minister, Maurice Bishop, last Thursday said that while she did not support his choice to enter politics, he was nonetheless a person who put country over his own family and his legal profession when he returned from England as a lawyer in the early 1970s.

“My fellow Grenadians, I was not happy with that decision. You see, Maurice Bishop was not Maurice Bishop back then, he was just Maurice, my husband, a young father making idealistic choices as he always did but choices that had an impact on our family,” Angela Bishop said at an ecumenical service to commemorate October 19 as National Heroes Day.

The day coincided with the 40th anniversary of the murder of Bishop, who, along with several key members of his People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), which itself had come to power by overthrowing the Government of then Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy in March 1979, was gunned down soon after he was released from house arrest.

A military junta group within the PRG tried to make Bishop either step down or agree to a power-sharing agreement with the then Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. Bishop rejected the proposals and was eventually deposed and placed under house arrest during the first week of October 1983 by Coard.

The in-fighting within the PRG led to the United States launching a military invasion of the island and the whereabouts of the remains of Bishop and others who were killed on October 19, 1983 remain a mystery.

“Maurice never made choices to see how much he could get, he made choices to see how much he could give, how much he could serve, very important words and that sounds lovely, but it had an impact.

“Maurice often chooses service over outings with our family, and I would see the disappointment on our children’s faces. I share that only to convey the deep and abiding love Maurice had for Grenada and for you the Grenadian people,” said Mrs Bishop, who is the mother of his two children.

“This love and commitment to our people was paramount for him and it never waived… he had a keen sense of right and wrong when it came to advocating for justice and the desire to be of service to those who did not have,” she told those attending the service held at the National Stadium and including Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenada, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, several Cabinet ministers, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and Don Rojas, who served as press secretary to Bishop.

“The desire to be a driving force was powerful…as he continued with his idealism and service I was the wife of two young children trying to make sure that they had what they needed, so I continued to encourage Maurice to take cases from people who actually had the ability to pay legal fees and not just from people who will pay his legal fees from backing up a truck in the yard on a Sunday afternoon and offloading plantain, dasheen, breadfruit, callaloo and bananas,” she added.

“Of course, Maurice would receive this payment as if it was pure gold and as if his deepest wish was to receive payment like breadfruit for his work. My fellow Grenadians, the one and only time that Maurice did not answer a question was when I asked him which bank was taking breadfruit and callaloo as payment for our loan; there was complete silence,” said Mrs Bishop, a nurse by profession.

She told the audience that Bishop was a man who preferred a minimalist lifestyle, and shared his reason for adopting a humbler regime for his family and home.

She said after the demise of the revolution, the family went looking for a new house because of safety and security issues. The existing family home was close to the main road. They had to give up the dream of residing in a home with winding stairs because it was not reflective of the average Grenadian at the time.

She said she had to tell the children that they would not be living there.

“Sure enough, he later explained to the kids that he could not be living there while representing Grenadians, many of whom lived in very modest circumstances while he lived in such modern upper class, it did not seem right to him,” she said.