|STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA BY EWART LAYNE, FORMER DAY-TO-DAY COMMANDER
OF THE PEOPLES REVOLUTIONARY ARMY
On October 19, 1983, as the day-to-day commander of the People's Revolutionary Army, it fell upon my young shoulders to make certain decisions in the context of the serious political and military situation which developed in our country. At that time, in 1983, as I was discharging what I honestly perceived to be my duty, I could not imagine the catastrophic consequences which would flow from my actions. I had always been deeply committed to the Grenadian Revolution. In my early teenage years I accepted as an ideal the necessity of the revolutionary transformation of Grenada and I worked tirelessly towards that. I was one of a few dozen Grenadians who in the early hours of March 13th, 1979 risked everything to herald the Revolution. I was due to leave Grenada with my family on April 7th, 1979, three-and-a-half weeks into the Revolution, to migrate to the USA to live and study. To the dismay and incomprehension of my family, hours before our scheduled departure, I turned my back on this opportunity. The only explanation I have ever given my parents for this action, which broke their hearts, is that duty demanded that I stay. In fact on the morning on which I was due to depart I was called upon by the leadership of the Revolution, and by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop personally, to remain at home and help consolidate and build the revolution which I had contributed to making. I say all of the above to make the point that there is no way that I, Ewart Joseph Layne, would have done anything which I believed could hurt the Revolution, not to mention destroy it. Of course I was young and immature, and above all I'm human, and therefore I was fully capable of making blunders. But I think my state of mind and motives at the time were beyond reproach.
What happened on October 19th, 1983 was in no way planned. I awoke on that tragic day very hopeful that a solution to the political crisis was at hand. There was no way that the thought crossed my mind or could have crossed my mind that in just a few hours the greatest tragedy imaginable would descend on our country and that in a few days the Grenadian Revolution would be no more.
Reflections of the day even 16 years later have the feel of a very bad dream. First, I remember the crowds gathering in the streets; then their appearance at the entrance to Mr. Wheldale; then the breaking into the compound and the taking away of Maurice. Next thing I knew hundreds had overrun and seized Fort Rupert, the headquarters of the army. Then alarming reports as to what was taking place at Fort Rupert and as to the declared intentions of those there, started to come in: the Operations Room had been occupied; members of the General Staff were under arrest; the soldiers had been disarmed; the armoury had been seized; weapons had been distributed to civilians; units were being formed to move to seize the Radio Station, and Army Logistics Base where all the reserve weaponry of the army were held. Civil war was evidently at the door.
Faced with this alarming situation, efforts were made to contact those assumed to be in charge of Fort Rupert with a view to resolving the situation peacefully. But all of these efforts were rejected out of hand with the demand to surrender or face the consequences. It was in this context that I gave the order to a military unit to proceed to Fort Rupert and retake the headquarters.
I honestly believe that any objective observer who is aware of all the material facts would recognise that October 19th was a spontaneous situation, which got terribly out of control.
But I do not consider this an excuse. My perspective is that those who were leaders must accept responsibility for what happened. I was the one who ordered the troops to go to Fort Rupert and to use military means to recapture the Headquarters. Therefore, from the military standpoint, I must unreservedly accept responsibility for what happened. I so do. It is a very heavy responsibility given the magnitude of the events and given my youthfulness and immaturity at the time. But it is one I must bear.
I know it is terribly difficult for many Grenadians to forgive what happened, and particularly so for those who lost loved ones. Indeed, it is only in the last 36 months that I have finally been able to forgive this, and myself with a lot of help from my family, some dear friends and several spiritual leaders. But still, I seek the understanding of all Grenadians as to the extremely, almost impossibly difficult situation which I as a 25-year-old Lieutenant Colonel had to face up to in 1983.
Once again I express my profound regrets and apologies for the consequences
of my actions.