The following project was sent to the Government of Grenada on March 29th, 2011.
On 3rd January 2011, while on an assignment in Lagos, Nigeria, I sent Senator Arley Gill a proposal for the establishment of a Peace Centre on Fort George (seen above) and set out some possible uses for the transformed Fort.
In the week beginning 20 February 2011, I was a delegate at the African Union/African Diaspora meeting in Pretoria, South Africa. As part of the itinerary for that meeting, delegates were taken on an official tour of Freedom Park, which is located on a 52-hectare site on Salvokop Hill at the entrance into Tshwane (Pretoria) from Johannesburg. The South African government describes Freedom Park, with its ‘Garden of Remembrance’ as:
‘a meeting place, a venue for the gathering of clans and nations; a place to listen to the voice of silence, a place to pray; a sacred place, a step to the heavens and to our humanity’.
On previous visits to South Africa I had heard of but not visited Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. Now the site of the Constitutional Court and a monument to peace, reconciliation and multiculturalism, it was the Old Fort Prison Complex ‘commonly known as Number Four, where thousands of ordinary people were brutally punished before the dawn of democracy in 1994. Many of South Africa’s leading political activists, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were detained there’.
Both Constitutional Hill and Freedom Park are living monuments to South Africa’s brutal and turbulent past and symbols of healing, reclaimed humanity and hope.
I would urge everyone to look at the Freedom Park website and get a sense of the awesome experience that visiting that place gives:
My visit to Freedom Park was truly inspirational and I was pleased that without any knowledge that the place existed, I had proposed in the Grenada Peace Centre proposal the establishment of a similar facility in Grenada in the context of our country’s specific history and circumstances, including an emphasis on healing and national reconciliation; the heritage of the country and of St George’s in particular; crimes against women and children; young people, crime and restorative justice.
I have no doubt that Grenada as a nation will derive huge moral, spiritual, cultural and economic benefit from the transformation of Fort George as a regeneration development project for the purposes indicated. It will capture, protect and present the nation’s history and heritage for present and future generations and engage civil society, irrespective of political or religious affiliations, in apparatuses and processes designed to encourage collective responsibility for affirming shared values and promoting social order and wellbeing in the society.
I want to comment briefly on Tourism in Grenada in the context of this Peace proposal. I have cause to speak with many people who have visited Grenada as tourists or as temporary residents who stay short term in Grenada for work reasons. A frequent comment I hear from them is that once you have done the beaches and the gift shops, there is not much to do in St George’s, especially if you do not have the time to do the ‘round the island’ tour. More people value heritage than we think, especially as EVERYONE comments that ‘the city of St George’s is second to none, especially the area around and rising up the hill from the Careenage’. We should not underestimate, therefore, the importance of the built environment in St George’s to visitors to the country, including those from other Caribbean nations.
Fort George might not accommodate all the aspects of Freedom Park, but I believe that the Grenada Government will fail to stem the decline in the nation’s heritage and its descent into more and more lawlessness, especially among youth and the unemployed, if it fails to develop the programmes which are outlined in the proposal.
The Board of Tourism should also consider the impact on tourism of visitors’ perception that the country is becoming less orderly. Mercifully, Grenada does not have a crime profile anything like Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica, but it cannot be satisfied, either, that the expectations the seasonal employed and unemployed have of the tourist trade are in any way sustainable.
Promoting Heritage Awareness
I commend the Willie Redhead Foundation for its relentless efforts to push the preservation of the nation’s heritage higher up the policy and political agenda in the country and to raise civil society’s awareness of the importance of protecting our heritage. This is hopefully high on the agenda of schooling and education in the country and the subject of general discourse in villages and towns.
Mr George Grant is equally to be commended for his part in bringing issues to the attention of the nation and providing a level of information that is not generally available to the public. The ‘Sunday with George Grant’ program is well placed to engage Ministers and civil servants in dialogue about government policy and action on these issues and as such Mr Grant is doing a great service to heritage in the country.
To date, I have not had an acknowledgement of my proposal from Minister Gill or anyone else in the Grenada Government. Be that as it may, I would like to encourage the Willie Redhead Foundation, the Maurice Bishop and Martyrs Foundation and any other civil society organisation to take ownership of that proposal, publicise it as widely as possible, have meetings to discuss it and generally plant it in the consciousness of the people of Grenada in order they could engage Government in a meaningful discussion of it with a view to seeing what prospects there are for its implementation.
Surely, we owe it to Fedon, Marryshow, Rupert and Maurice Bishop and all the martyrs of 19 October 1983, those who laboured to build and defend our historical buildings and roads, and generations to come, to preserve our heritage and ensure that the nation, future generations and all those visiting our precious island understand that heritage and revere their memory.