Unease about the U.S. pullout

December 26 1983

Unease about the U.S. pullout

December 26 1983

Unease about the U.S. pullout


Last week's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Grenada left the 115,000 islanders unsettled. Despite a gradual return to normal life eight weeks after the invasion, Grenada faces a multitude of problems. Maclean’s correspondent Peter Chapman reports:

In the shade of the waterfront fire station at St. George’s, a brass band played a sample of its Christmas repertoire: a few bars of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the tropical humidity, with the temperature hovering around 30° C, Grenadians went about their daily business last week with mixed emotions, ranging from shock to euphoria. Eight weeks after the U.S. invasion, many citizens still have not come to terms with the murder of former prime minister Maurice Bishop, still much beloved, and the overthrow of the short-lived military council that succeeded him. Still, there is an overriding concern about the future. Said fisherman Denham Peters, who works out of St. George’s harbor: “I just want the Americans to stay. Everyone—even the small children in the streets—everyone is saying that.”

The concerns flow out of a wide variety of issues. At least one sharp personality clash involving Gov. Gen. Sir Paul Scoon has soured Washington’s preliminary attempts to establish a new political process. There are nagging doubts about aid from abroad, in particular how the completion of Point Salines

international airport, which islanders still consider vital to their tourist industry, will be financed. And the future of the instigators of the coup that toppled Bishop has yet to be decided.

Last week’s departure of the remaining 1,000 U.S. combat troops only emphasized those problems. Groups of soldiers on the tarmac cheered when the first C-141 transport plane arrived from Fort Bragg, N.C., to fly out the U.S. contingent. Yelled one officer above the aircraft noise: “Hey guys, we’re going to be flying over Cuba on the way home—

do you want to drop in?” _

That brought another cheer. The Americans were not only going home in time for Christmas but they were leaving in their own time and on the winning side. Said U.S. military commander Maj.-Gen.

Jack Ferris: “Today you are seeing soldiers who feel good about themselves. The Grenadians are the most gracious and hospitable people. It is a kind of mutual love affair we have going on here.” For Grenadians, however, those words had a hollow ring. True, a residual U.S. presence of 300 military police, technicians and adminis-

trators will remain indefinitely. But the departure of the bulk of the U.S. force has necessarily brought Ferris’s “love affair” to an end.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan has promised $18 million in economic aid, and senior members of the U.S. forces that will remain on the island will have a large say in how the money is spent. As well, Washington will retain a high diplomatic profile. Former prime minister Bishop refused to accredit the U.S. ambassador to the eastern Caribbean, Milan Bish, in Grenada. But a U.S. official said last week that Ambassador

Charles Gillespie, appointed after the invasion, will have a staff of 20 to 30 to look after U.S.

interests on the island. As well, Washington has a powerful ally in Scoon. Some Grenadians refer irreverently to the gov-

ernor general as “Sir Paul Gillespie.” Scoon’s controversial role since the invasion received a setback after the Dec. 7 resignation of Anthony Rushford, a British legal specialist who had served as attorney general in the island’s interim administration. In a bitter statement only five weeks after taking up his post, Rushford declared that the situation on the island was “collapsing to anarchy.” He welcomed a recent announcement by Scoon that he was reverting to his role as governor general. That would end Scoon’s “reign as Cae-

. sar,” said Rushford. But, he added, “the administration is a headless body, incapable of carrying on an effective government.” For their part, Grenadians close to the interim government complained that Rushford had been highhanded in his role as a legal adviser.

One man who might have provided less controversial leadership is Alister McIntyre, deputy secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Devel* opment. McIntyre was 3 asked to head the admin£ istrative council but de2 dined because of illness. - In his place, Sir Paul

chose Grenadian teacher Nicholas Brathwaite, a former Commonwealth Secretariat employee. Gillespie says that despite Scoon’s ceremonial status, the governor general will “probably share the boss’s job” with Brathwaite.

The main task of the interim team is to prepare for elections next year. So far Grenada has four identifiable parties. But two of them, the conservative Grenada National Party and the centre-left Grenada Democratic Movement, have yet to evolve coherent policies and strategies. A third, the Grenada United Labour Party, was largely discredited before its eccentric right-wing leader was ousted in a 1979 coup by Bishop. Finally, there are doubts about whether Bishop’s New Jewel Movement will be allowed to participate. In any case, many of its leaders are in the Richmond Hill jail following the U.S. invasion.

The men who toppled Bishop, former deputy prime minister Bernard Coard and military commander Gen. Hudson Austin, are awaiting a decision about the charges they will face following Bishop’s murder. But while Grenadians are eager to see them brought to justice, the New Jewel Movement itself enjoys lingering popular support.

Another cause for concern is the fragile economy. The island’s economy was stagnant before the invasion. World markets for Grenada’s major exports— nutmeg and cocoa—are weak, and the International Monetary Fund suspended a $14-million line of credit two weeks ago. Not only that, but the invasion delayed the start of the tourist season. The presence of U.S. troops helped compensate for that. But their departure is a blow to the restaurants along St. George’s waterfront. The interim administration has announced that it wants to finish the Point Salines airport at a probable cost of $15 million. But U.S. support for the project— Washington had argued that Bishop might use it for military purposes—is not assured. Washington has said only that the financing will have to come from a variety of sources.

Meanwhile, the island is still “occupied.” An eastern Caribbean security force, now largely composed of Jamaican troops and police, operates alongside the remaining Americans. U.S. military police, according to the interim administration, will continue to have powers to arrest and interrogate persons “acting or likely to act in a manner adverse to the interests of public order or defence.” And while ten detainees were released last week, Richmond Hill jail still houses about 50 prisoners, mostly supporters of Austin’s military council. Their presence is a grim reminder of a recent past which still, to a considerable extent, continues to overshadow Grenada’s future.