A letter to U.S. President Barack Obama

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"Obama", by "Justin Sloan" (Flickr)

The following letter was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama on February 7th, 2011.

Fraternal greetings from a son of the African Diaspora and I wish you the Creator’s abiding blessings, guidance and protection.

I note with admiration, Sir, your relentless efforts to build and sustain peace between nations and promote social justice at home and it is that spirit that I write to you.

On 19 October 1983, in a collective expression of the people’s will, not unlike the events we have witnessed in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt in recent weeks, an estimated 60% of the entire population of Grenada gathered in St George’s and proceeded to free the Prime Minister and popular leader of the People’s Revolutionary Government, Maurice Bishop, from house arrest. They marched to Fort Rupert, carrying their Prime Minister aloft and assembled to hear him speak. Sections of the armoured corps of the People’s Revolutionary Army arrived, shots were fired and in the mayhem that ensued the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet were lined up against a wall and executed.  Many unarmed citizens, mostly young people, lost their lives either through gunshot or by falling over the walls of the Fort in an attempt to escape bullets.

On 25 October 1983, the US-led invasion of Grenada commenced and within days those who were in the leadership of the faction of the Government that had put Bishop under house arrest and had control of the Army on the day of the massacre were rounded up and detained.  The invasion inevitably inflicted more suffering and trauma on the people of that typically peaceful country.  Significantly, between 19 and 25 October 1983, the bodies of those who perished in that massacre were not taken to the public mortuary for their loved ones to identify, claim and bury.  Indeed, to this day, those relatives and the nation as a whole have not been told what happened to those bodies or how and where they were disposed of.

In this book, Time to Tell – the Grenada Massacre and After, which was launched at the Government’s first book fair and literary festival in Grenada in October 2010, I am calling upon the seventeen prisoners now released from Richmond Hill Prison, including the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the opposing faction, Bernard Coard, to tell the people of Grenada and the world what those responsible for the massacre and those running the country in the days that followed actually did with those bodies.

In this letter, Mr President, I am calling upon you to make all necessary investigations of the Reagan Administration’s record of that invasion and tell the people of Grenada all that the United States of America’s Armed Forces know of the whereabouts of the remains of those victims of the October 19 Massacre.

It is fortunate and a mark of the resilience and forgiving spirit of the Grenada people, in my view, that the release of those seventeen prisoners, many of whom are now fully reintegrated within Grenadian society to the point that they are Government employees, has not been the source of recrimination and civil unrest despite the anger and disbelief that most of the population still feel about the massacre and barbarism unleashed on the masses of the people on 19 October 1983 and their frustration at not being told what happened to the bodies of their loved ones.  That said, there is clearly a need for Grenada to bring closure to this most horrendous episode in its post-colonial history.

Mr President, I am sure you will agree with my assertions in the Epilogue of Time to Tell, that:

Countries spare no effort in recovering their dead from conflict zones or at least ensuring they are identified and given a decent burial even many decades after the particular hostilities ended.  The people of Grenada have the self same need.

I am appealing to you, therefore, to help all those relatives in Grenada who are still grieving after 27 years and help the nation as a whole to bring closure to this national and regional tragedy by revealing all that the US Armed Forces found and did in respect of those bodies during the 1983 invasion.

I very much look forward to your response.

Yours in Peace and with Abundant Hope!

Professor Augustine John

Please click here to download this letter in .pdf format

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