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Winston Bernard Coard (born 10 August 1945) is a Grenadian politician who was Deputy Prime Minister in the People's Revolutionary Government of the New Jewel Movement. Coard launched a coup within the revolutionary government and took power for three days until he was himself deposed by General Hudson Austin.
Coard, the son of Frederick McDermott Coard (1893–1978) and Flora Fleming (1907-2004), was born in Victoria, Grenada and is a first cousin of Hon Mr Justice Dunbar Cenac, Registry of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; Hon Mr Justice Dunbar Cenac's late father, Francis (Kimby) Cenac and the late Flora Coard were biological children of the late Isabella Cenac (née Fletcher). It is also known that Coard is the nephew of the late Hon Mr Justice Dennis Cenac, the last of Isabella Cenac's eight children.
Coard was attending the Grenada Boys' Secondary School, when he met Maurice Bishop, who was then attending Presentation College Grenada. Coard and Bishop shared an interest in left-wing politics from an early age. They became friends and in 1962 they joined together to found the Grenada Assembly of Youth After Truth. Twice per month the two would lead political debates in St. George's Central Market Place.
Coard moved to the United States, where he studied sociology and economics at Brandeis University and joined the Communist Party USA. In 1967 he moved to England and studied political economy at the University of Sussex. While in England Coard joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.
He worked for two years as a school teacher in London and ran several youth organisations in South London. In 1971 he published a pamphlet How the West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain. The pamphlet explained that British schools had a pervasive bias toward treating white children as normal, which led to black children being labelled as "educationally subnormal" (learning-disabled). Coard wrote:
- "The [black] children are therefore made neurotic about their race and culture. Some become behaviour problems as a result. They become resentful and bitter at being told their language is second-rate, and their history and culture is non-existent; that they hardly exist at all, except by the grace of whites."
Coard's thesis was widely cited, even long after his revolutionary career, as a summary of the role of institutional racism in the relationship between race and intelligence. In 2005 it was republished as the central article in the collection Tell it Like it is: How Our Schools Fail Black Children. Coard's booklet was considered as still relevant to UK education system in 2016 by experts who claimed that the failure of black British children by the UK schools still persisted, although disguised by the comprehensive education system of streaming most black children at an early age into the bottom groups on the basis of unreliable assessments, thus resulting in a higher proportion of black children being entered to sit lower level GCSE examinations where they are restricted to achieving a maximum grade "C" in important subjects such as mathematics and science.
After completing his doctorate at Sussex, Coard moved to Trinidad, where he was a visiting lecturer at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago from 1972 to 1974. He also lectured from 1974 to 1976 at the Mona, Jamaica, campus of the University of the West Indies. During his stay in Jamaica, he joined the communist Worker's Liberation League and helped draft the League's manifesto.
In 1976 Coard returned to Grenada, soon becoming active in Grenadian politics. Soon after returning home, he joined the New Jewel Movement (NJM), his childhood friend's left-wing organisation. He was to run for the seat of St. George's in the upcoming elections.
The NJM successfully led a bloodless coup against the government of Grenada, led by Eric Gairy, on 13 March 1979. The radio station, military barracks and police stations were targeted. Before long, they had control of the entire island. The NJM then announced the suspension of the constitution and that the NJM would rule by announcing laws.
Influenced by Marxists such as Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro, Bishop's NJM established party control over all aspects of life in Grenada and banned all parties besides the NJM. Aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba allowed the NJM to build Point Salines International Airport, an international airport with a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway in St. George's. In 1980, Coard was the head of a delegation to Moscow to formalise relations with the Soviet Union.
The removal of Bishop
Bernard Coard was serving as the revolutionary government's Minister of Finance, Trade and Industry, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister under Bishop. A dispute developed within the senior ranks of the party. A majority faction of the party Central Committee, under Coard's leadership, demanded that Bishop either step down or enter into a power-sharing agreement with Coard where both men would share control of the government. Bishop and his faction refused.
Coard ordered Bishop put under house arrest on 19 October 1983 and took control of the government. As word of Bishop's arrest spread, large demonstrations broke out in many places. A demonstration in the capital led to Bishop being freed from house arrest by the demonstrators. Bishop and seven others including cabinet ministers of the government were eventually captured by the army and executed by a firing squad.
Upon Bishop's death, General Hudson Austin proclaimed himself head of the "Revolutionary Military Council" and became the nation's new head of government. He announced a four-day total curfew in which anyone seen outside their home would be subject to summary execution. The Governor General Sir Paul Scoon was detained.
The United States then launched Operation Urgent Fury on 25 October. Hudson Austin's military government was deposed and constitutional government resumed afterward.
Just after Marines landed in Grenada, Coard, along with his wife Phyllis, Selwyn Strachan, John Ventour, Liam James, and Keith Roberts were arrested.
Trial and prison
They were tried in August 1986 on charges of ordering the murder of Maurice Bishop and seven others. Bernard Coard was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991. He served his sentence in Richmond Hill Prison, where he was engaged in teaching and instructing fellow inmates in many subjects, including economics and sociology.
In September 2004, the prison in which he was held was damaged by Hurricane Ivan and many inmates took the opportunity to flee, but Coard said he chose not to escape, saying he would not leave until his name was cleared.
On 7 February 2007, the London-based Privy Council ordered a re-sentencing of Coard and the others convicted for the 1983 killing of Bishop and some of his cabinet colleagues. The hearing began on 18 June. On 27 June, the judge gave Coard and his fellow defendants a 30-year sentence, which included the time already spent in prison. On 5 September 2009, Coard was released from prison. Upon release he said he did not want to be involved in politics again.
Bernard Coard has three children: Sola Coard (born 1971), Abiola Coard (born 1972), and Neto Coard (born 1979).
- Invasion of Grenada
- New Jewel Movement
- People's Revolutionary Government (Grenada)
- Maurice Bishop
- Eric Gairy
- Hudson Austin
- Reagan Doctrine
- Grenada 17
- Martin, J. M. (2007). A-Z of Grenada Heritage. Oxford, UK: Macmillan Caribbean
- "Why I wrote the 'ESN book'", The Guardian, 5 February 2005.
- "Grenada-Willing Prisoners", Associated Press (nl.newsbank.com), 11 September 2004.
- "Grenada's last 1983 rebels freed". BBC Online. 5 September 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
- Pantin, Raoul (5 February 2011). "Exclusive interview with Bernard Coard". Trinidad Express. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
|Prime Minister of Grenada
14–19 October 1983