Biography: Maurice Bishop

Last updated: Wednesday, 23 September, 2009

Maurice Bishop

Maurice Bishop
Former Prime Minister

Term of Appointment: (1979-1983)

Prime Minister Maurice Bishop did not assume leadership of the Government of Grenada through the ballot box but by proclamation.

Born in Aruba on May 29, 1944, to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop, six year old Maurice Bishop migrated to Grenada with his parents in 1950 where he was enrolled at the Wesley Hall Primary School.  A year later he was moved to the St. George’s Roman Catholic Primary School where he won a scholarship to the Roman Catholic Presentation College.

In his final years of secondary education, Bishop decided he would study law and, when he left Presentation College in 1963, worked for a short time as a civil servant at the Government Registry before going to London. There he attended Gray's Inn and earned his law degree from the University of London.

Responding to the situation in Grenada in 1973, Bishop formed a political group called the Movement For Assemblies of the People (MAP), and in the same year, merged MAP with another political group established and led by his colleague, Unison Whiteman. Whiteman’s group had the name Joint Action For Education Welfare & Liberation (JEWEL), and the organization resulting from the merger was called the New Jewel Movement (NJM).

Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party won the General Elections held on 7th November, 1976. However, opposition leaders complained that all election officials were members of GULP and that they had tampered with the voting papers. Bishop was elected to the House of Representatives that year winning the seat for the constituency of St. George’s South-East. Appointed as Leader of the Opposition, he held that post for some three years until March 13, 1979, when Bishop and his followers seized control of the government of Grenada, while Prime Minister Gairy was attending the United Nations session in New York.

Proclaiming a People's Revolutionary Government, Bishop suspended the constitution. Promising new, democratic elections, Bishop became Prime MInister and Minister of Defense and Interior, Information, Health, and Carriacou Affairs. Bernard Coard, a Brandeis University graduate in economics, became Deputy Prime Minister, as well as Minister of Trade, Industry, Finance, and Planning. Bishop began to build close diplomatic relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union 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.

By late 1982 a deep rift had developed within the central committee of the People's Revolutionary Government. A power struggle ensued, mainly over the issue of Coard's desire to have coequal status.  On October 13, 1983 Bishop was placed under house arrest. Six days later, on Wednesday, October 19, a large public demonstrations demanding the restoration of Bishop occurred in various parts of the island. A crowd of Bishop’s supporters released him and marched to the military compound at Fort Rupert.

Troops under the command of General Hudson Austin captured and executed Bishop, several government officials loyal to him, and an unknown number of civilians. On October 25, 1983 the United States invaded Grenada, and with the assistance of OECS neighbouring countries restored order to the country.



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