Sunday, MAY 31, 2009
Welcome to the Maurice Bishop International Airport
The sign says it all: Welcome to Maurice Bishop International
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the decision to rename the Point Salines International airport after the slain Grenadian Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, was a symbolic gesture that should help lessen the pain of having never been able to give him an official burial.
Bishop, who would have celebrated his 65th birthday on Friday, was shot and killed along with other members of his short-lived People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) in October 1983, four years after his New Jewel Movement (NJM) had taken over the government from then Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy in the first-ever coup in an English-speaking Caribbean country.
But internal fighting between Bishop and his deputy, Bernard Coard, led to the demise of the PRG and many Grenadians have accused the United States troops that led an invasion of the island to restore democratic rule in 1983 of hiding the remains of the former charismatic leader.
“This renaming of the international airport to Maurice Bishop International is an act of the Grenadian people coming home to themselves, out of the agony and compromises, pain and joy…,” Gonsalves said as he delivered the feature address on Saturday at the official airport renaming ceremony.
“Grenada and Maurice has come home symbolically and in reality … this belated honour to an outstanding Caribbean son will bring closure to a chapter of denial in Grenada’s history,” Gonsalves added.
The ceremony was attended by thousands of people, including local and foreign dignitaries, among them Cuba’s Vice President Esteban Lazo Hernandez and Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Bishop had been instrumental in getting Cuban assistance in building the airport and supporters wore t-shirts bearing his face and the message “A dream Come True”.
The renaming of the airport was in keeping with a promise made to the electorate by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) during the campaign for the July 2008 general elections and Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said that his government was honouring Bishop despite the opposition in some quarters.
“We honour people not because we have agreed on everything they might have done, but in recognition of their contribution in a narrow particular sphere,” said Thomas, who spent two years as a political prisoner under Bishop’s rule.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Peter David said that while not everyone had agreed with the decision of the 10-month-old Thomas administration to honour the slain leader, the renaming of the airport was an indication that the majority of Grenadians had finally come to terms with the political history of the island.
“This is the juncture where a bold past interjects with a dynamic future, it’s a time and place where truth meets reconciliation and where truth to history gives birth to recognition.
“Today is not just recognition to what Maurice Bishop achieved as a leader and the vision he provided to this country in his short political life. This is neither an exercise to canonise Maurice or gloss over history but is to be a sacred commitment to the accuracy of history put in its proper context.
“We owe this moment in time to a 94-year-old Alimenta Bishop, who is truly a mother of this nation, who had to give up her husband and son for the cause of the Grenadian people,” David said, as the crowd cheered and Mrs Bishop, surrounded by her family, including her son’s wife, Angela, and children, Nadia and Johnny, looked towards the skies.
On Friday, passengers arriving at the airport were already being told by flight attendants “Welcome to the Maurice Bishop International Airport”.
A new departure lounge was also unveiled at the airport, which was formally opened on October 28, 1984.