Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Comment - Which is the Voice of the People?

It will be very interesting to find out after all the dust has settled in Grenada, which voice will be given the seal of authenticity as that of the people's. Is the voice of the people the voice of whatever constitutes the legal authority?

It has become obvious that almost all those who have had something to say on the events on the island now, do not think that the views of the citizens count for very much.

'Did Maurice Bishop represent the voice of his people? He came to power through a coup d'etat and as is the nature of such things, he did not consult his countrymen before installing himself as leader, but once the deed was done and more especially, because he had overthrown an oppressive and murderous regime,he became the accepted leader of his people.

Nobody consulted the people of Grenada before the adoption of Marxism as the political philosophy of their country. Mr Maurice Bishop and his friends had decided that they knew best what was good for their countrymen.

The regime that Maurice Bishop had overthrown had originally been elected into office by the people of Grenada, but it would be a most sadistic person who would claim that by 1979 when Eric Gairy was overthrown, he still represented the voice of his people.

The disagreements and struggles within the ruling group which culminated in the putting under house arrest of Maurice Bishop also represented the thinking of some Grenadians. The crowd that tried to release Bishop consisted entirely of citizens of Grenada. Could it be that they too were trying to speak for themselves and their friends?

The Armed Forces of Grenada also consist of the country's citizens, they opened fire on the crowd. killed Bishop and some others of their countrymen, and emerged temporarily victorious with a Peoples Revolutionary Council. they also claimed to be speaking on the behalf of the people of Grenada.

There are many instances in the Third World, enough to lend the practice respectability, that each time a group of armed soldiers forcibly take control of a government and pronounce a people's revolutionary government, they become just that. It is all "illegal" until they seize control of the government and it does not matter how murderous and chaotic they are, it only needs a proclamation - piece of paper to make them "legal" and acceptable in the international community.

Does a regime represent the voice and aspirations of its people because it is the legal authority in the country?

Sir Paul Scoon is saying that in the midst of all the crisis, many of his countrymen called him and asked him to seek help for the nation. Did those citizens who called on Sir Paul Scoon possess a more legitimate "voice of Grenada '' than the voice of the People's Revolutionary Council that had control of the Island and was broadcasting decrees and proclamations over Radio Grenada?

If Reagan were only interested in "restoring democracy and saving poor Grenada from murderous leftist thugs", and if one were to put that by his proclamation that US support for freedom and democracy was indivisible, it would be very easy to point out many parts of the world in which the marines had not been sent and freedom had been assailed by "murderous leftist thugs".

Apart from the Cubans who provided the main resistance force that the marines met in Grenada, there were members of the Grenada armed Forces who also fought, did they have a voice that should count in estimating the opinions of the citizens of the Island?

There are, apart from Sir Paul Scoon and the type of Grenadians who have access to him, many ordinary Grenadians who have welcomed the intervention of the US forces, for many such people, far from being an invasion force, they regard the marines as a liberation force.

For such people, not much impression will be made by fine arguments and brilliant debates at the Security Council. For the average citizen of Grenada as that of many African countries, the unceasing struggle in life is with the elements and the overriding concern remains finding food and shelter. When his politically savvy compatriot seizes power and proclaims a "Peoples government", not only is he never consulted, the ensuing chaos. affects him more and leaves him the worse off than the situation from which he was supposed to have been saved.

It is understandably difficult, if not impossible for people who have never had the experience of living under these self-proclaimed revolutions, to appreciate the misery and agony that is the daily existence of those that have to endure it.

The terror and violence that become part of life cannot be imagined by those who live under long established democracies, the helplessness that comes out of seeing one's own country's armed forces transformed into an occupation force. brutalizing the citizens all in the name of a revolution that does not affect one's daily struggles with the elements.

It is quite possible that purely selfish reasons took the Americans into Grenada, it is also possible that disillusion will set in for the welcoming Grenadians when their "liberators'' turn out to be "occupiers" intent on forcing on them an alien way of life. For the moment, let them revel in what they call their newfound freedom.

Those that aspire to rule Grenada in the future might learn a useful lesson and decide that they should seek out the views of those of their countrymen who form the majority and who have been pointing out to the marines where their old rulers had taken refuge.

The message might also be reinforced to future rulers who would form 'people's governments' without consulting the people, the force tends to generate force and those who live by the sword also tend to die by the sword.

What is even more important, the lesson might emerge that the voice of the people ought to come from the people.

talking drums 1983-11-07 which is the voice of the people