Grenada marks 50th anniversary of political independence

February 08, 2024 in Regional

Grenada marked the 50th anniversary of political independence from Britain on Wednesday with the traditional military parade, cultural activities and a call from Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell for a united population going into the next 50 years.

Under the theme “One People, One Journey, One Future,” Grenadians were joined in the celebrations by the prime ministers of St Lucia, St Kitts-Nevis, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and President Sandra Mason of Barbados and the Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez.

In a message expressing his disappointment at not being present for the occasion, Britain’s King Charles described Grenada as an exemplar of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

In the message that was read by his representative, Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade, the British monarch said that over the past five decades, he has watched with the deepest admiration as citizens have built the island and forged a distinct place in the world as well as become an essential member of the Commonwealth family.

“Together, you have established Grenada as an exemplar of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Together, you have risen to the most critical challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss by offering the world an example of leadership, resilience, and innovation. “Together, you have given life to the words of your national anthem: “Aspire, build, advance!”, he said, adding “my wife and I hold such special memories of our visit to your beautiful ‘Spice Island’ five years ago, and of the warm and touching welcome you extended to us.

“Then, as whenever I have met Grenadians anywhere in the world, I was struck by your resilience, the strength of your community, and by your shared determination to make a positive difference,” said the King who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

“I can only say how sorry I am that I cannot be with you in person to mark this momentous milestone, and to enjoy a little Oil Down with you all,” he said, adding “my family join me in sending our heartfelt congratulations to you all”.

During his address at the ceremony held at the Grenada National Stadium, Prime Minister Mitchell paid homage to those people who had contributed to the development of the tri-island state, especially after it gained political independence from Britain on February 7, 1974.

He praised the island’s first prime minister Sir Eric Gairy for having courage to take the island into independence and who had insisted that “size was not destiny, and that not withstanding our size with a mandate from the people of Grenada he took us to the promise land of national independence.

“We are here today, 50 years later because of the courage, his vision and his determination to chart a new course for Grenada,” Mitchell said, adding that accompanied by Sir Eric’s daughter, Marcel, a small group laid a wreath at the tomb of the former prime minister.

“And so Sir Eric Mathew Gairy with the baton passed to him shook the fabric of our society by social and political revolution of the 1950s, and armed with a mandate from the population attained this nation’s independence 50 years ago… In doing so he turned on its head the anemic and limited view that small countries like Grenada were not viable.

“So it is clear today that 50 years later we can say that Sir Eric was emphatically right. We can say that Sir Eric was emphatically correct,” Mitchell said, telling the rally that the occasion also provided the opportunity to celebrate the Grenadian women who would have made a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the island.

While he did not mention by name, the 1979 coup by the then left wing People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of Maurice Bishop that toppled the Gairy administration, Prime Minister Mitchell told Grenadians that the independence journey has been one of resilience and progress and great aspiration.

“We know that social unity and cohesion are the bedrock of a successful nation. We have always cared for each other,” he said, adding “so today as we are together to celebrate this golden jubilee we must be stronger and more determined and more united in our desire to make Grenada a better place, because at the end of the day.We all want what is best for our children and grandchildren.

He urged Grenadians to continue on that journey fuelled by determination and unity to create better opportunities for the upcoming generation.

“Let us make it our duty to shape a Grenada where all Grenadians can share in the dreams of our nation. A future where all Grenadians can enjoy equal opportunities, a future where all Grenadians can be proud of who we are because we know from whence we have come.

But he said that for this bright future to be realised, it would require a shared commitment from everyone, adding “we need to foster an environment where opportunities are acceptable to all regardless of background, gender or socio-economic status.

“So as we take a moment to reflect on our last 50 years….let us remember the lessons of the last 50 years, let us remember that our darkest moments have been when we were disunited, when we were intolerant and when we were not prepared to share with each other.

“So let us ensure that as we go forward for the next 50 years that we go forward united together stronger as we aspire to build and advance as one people so that we can ascend up…,” he added.