Maurice Rupert Bishop
Former Prime Minister of Grenada
Maurice Rupert Bishop (29 May 1944 – 19 October 1983) was a Grenadian politician and revolutionary who seized power in a coup in 1979 from Eric Gairy and served as Prime Minister of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada until 1983, when he was overthrown in another coup and executed.
Early life and education
Born in Aruba on 29 May 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 7 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 13 March 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 13 October 1983 Bishop was placed under house arrest. Six days later, on Wednesday, 19 October, 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 25 October 1983 the United States invaded Grenada, and with the assistance of OECS neighbouring countries restored order to the country.