Darcus Howe pities the people of Grenada

Hurricane Ivan was a blessing only for the murderers of a former Grenada premier

After the hurricane had hit them, it would be quite understandable if the people of Grenada, a tiny Caribbean island (population: 94,000), had dug into their folklore to explain why misfortunes continue to dog them. Jumbies and soucouyants patrol the night, they might say.

Up to March 1979, they lived under one of the most oppressive regimes ever to exist in the English-speaking Caribbean. The late Eric Gairy, the then prime minister, who ruled as though the island was his private fiefdom, turned his private "Mongoose Gang", which he described himself as "the roughest and the toughest", upon those who dissented. Relief came when a mass democratic party, the New Jewel Movement, physically overthrew the regime. Within four years the New Jewel Movement had degenerated into a gang of Stalinist brutes who murdered Maurice Bishop, the then prime minister, and several cabinet ministers. In 1983, the Reagan administration intervened militarily and the population cowered as US gunboats bombarded the country. To this day, no one knows the numbers killed or where they are buried.

The murderers of Bishop and his colleagues got life imprisonment. One of them, Bernard Coard, had been the darling of the British Communist Party and a friend of many who are now at the centre of Tony Blair's government. Slowly, Grenada regained some sort of stability, with free and fair elections. But now the governor general has set up an inquiry into allegations that the current prime minister, Keith Mitchell, sold a diplomatic posting to a German fraudster.

Then came Hurricane Ivan, blowing away everything in its path. Even the prison which housed Maurice Bishop's murderers is no more. Coard and his friends are holed up in an annexe. They are refusing to be moved and are demanding a pardon from the governor general. Ivan seems to have dropped some blessings, but only on the forces of evil.

I guess the corruption inquiry will now be postponed. None the less, the UK Department for International Development should be exceedingly careful how cash and materials are doled out to Grenada. I advise it to bypass the regime.

Donations to the Grenada Disaster Relief Fund, Lloyds TSB account no: 00584503, sort code: 30-92-83

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