|Press Release from Bernard Coard
1) On Monday 15th January 2001, in Grenada’s Parliament during the Budget Debate, the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Baptiste, launched yet another attack on my gravely ill wife, Mrs. Phyllis Coard. Over the past six to eight months, he has called her a ‘murderer’, ‘mass murderer’, ‘criminal’, and ‘condemned prisoner’. My wife is none of those things. My wife had absolutely nothing to do with the ghastly and tragic events which occurred on October 19th, 1983, and this is well known by those who investigated the case and who prosecuted her. This fact will become increasingly clear as more and more of the declassified Secret US Government documents on the case of the Grenada 17 are made public, as a result of a US Federal Court Order. Lawyers and judges both within the Caribbean region and in the United States, Canada, Britain and other countries who have studied the court record have been astonished that Mrs. Coard was even sent to trial, [far less convicted], given the extraordinarily flimsy nature of the evidence presented against her at the Preliminary Inquiry. Indeed, a leading Professor of Law and Head of his Law Faculty in a leading Commonwealth country stated recently that the judges in the case of the Grenada 17 may face serious repercussions in the near future, as a consequence of their actions in that case.
2) Mr. Baptiste has asserted repeatedly that my wife has been accorded special treatment by the government of Grenada
(a) To be released from prison for medical treatment;
(b) And to go abroad for such treatment; something he claims boldly has not been permitted to other prisoners in like circumstances. Given that Mr. Baptiste, as a Member of Parliament, is entitled to ask questions of ministers and to be given the answers, it is more than a little strange that he has not to my knowledge sought to ask the Minister of National Security if there have been any cases of prisoners at Richmond Hill Prison being released from prison because of their medical condition (and if so, how many, provide the name(s), for what illnesses, etc). Were he to do so, he would discover that, in just the past 10 or so years, at least six (6) prisoners (other than my wife) have been UNCONDITIONALLY FREED from prison because of their medical condition. Five of them were male prisoners and one was a female prisoner. Two were because they were diagnosed with cancer, and four with HIV-AIDS. One of the six was actually on a sentence of death at the time of his unconditional release from prison [my wife is serving a life sentence - even though for a crime she did not commit; she is not a ‘condemned prisoner’, as Mr. Baptiste repeatedly asserts].
3) Indeed, it may interest Mr. Baptiste to know that the female prisoner unconditionally released was/is a U.S. citizen diagnosed with the HIV virus. Had she remained in Richmond Hill Prison, she would almost certainly have died there in short time. However, being released to return to her home in the US (as she was) meant that she would be able to get the cocktail of drugs presently used in the US to prolong the lives of people in her condition, sometimes for as long as 10, 15 and even 20 years.
4) I am indeed grateful to the government of Grenada for permitting my wife to get treatment for cancer, which has spread. However, had Mr. Baptiste accused the government of Grenada of discriminating against my wife by freeing unconditionally every other prisoner with a life-threatening illness while only giving her a respite from prison for six months renewable on the basis of medical advice, and with her having to return to Richmond Hill Prison eventually, he would be better serving the cause of equal treatment for all in like condition. [But perhaps that would not suit his domestic political purposes].
5) Mr. Baptiste, (and Grenadians in general), should be apprised of the fact that the release of prisoners from Richmond Hill Prison once they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is expressly provided for in the Prison Rules [Section 83 of Statutory Rules and Orders 14 of 1980, gazetted in accordance with Section 53 of Act No. 11 of 1980 (The Prison Law)]. Indeed, as I have pointed out, several prisoners have been released on this basis over the past decade, i.e., both under the NDC and the NNP administrations. In addition, incidentally, at least two prisoners were freed to go abroad (England and Canada) for medical treatment during the reign of the PRG, as well as others during Mr. Eric Gairy’s time and under Mr. Herbert Blaize. This principle of the release of prisoners in Grenada with life-threatening illnesses goes back several decades and spans several governments. MR. BAPTISTE DOES NOT HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD ON THIS. HE CAN CHECK THIS OUT FOR HIMSELF. SO CAN ALL GRENADIANS.
6) For the benefit of those many Grenadians who have shown concern for my wife’s condition, let me bring you up to date on her situation:
(a) She has been diagnosed both in Grenada and in Jamaica as suffering from three (3), not one, life-threatening medical conditions;
(b) With respect to her treatment (chemotherapy) for cancer, this treatment has thus far encountered serious problems. It is because of these complications that the specialists (oncologists, gastroenterologists, etc) treating her have recommended that she go to a special Cancer Research Institute in Australia for a maximum of four to six weeks for special tests, and then return to Jamaica to be hopefully treated in Jamaica in accordance with the recommendations of the specialists in Australia.
7) Incidentally, for the benefit of Mr. Baptiste and those who may have been misled by his assertion that Mrs. Coard is presently ‘in a hotel in Australia’, Mrs. Coard is still under medical care in Jamaica, and hoping to proceed to Australia in the near future. She would be based at her sister’s and at the Cancer Clinic there, and not in Mr. Baptiste’s fanciful hotel.
8) It says a lot about Mr. Baptiste that he considers a defenseless woman battling for her life a fair target for his repeated attacks. I would much rather he spent his time attacking ME.
9) I however want to thank on my wife’s behalf and on my own behalf, the literally hundreds of Grenadians who have written me, visited or otherwise enquired after my wife’s condition, and who have prayed and are praying for her recovery. Even while undergoing treatment in Jamaica, she has received a steady stream of letters, cards, and phone calls from Grenadians in Grenada, and from people all over the world, wishing her well and praying for her. She is aware, too, that several church congregations in different parts of Grenada have been praying for her. All of this has helped keep her faith strong and her spirits high, despite the continuing unsatisfactory medical news. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.