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Edward ‘Eddie’ Griffith in a neglected spot

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22.Jan.10

Editor: “Perhaps – in this neglected spot is laid, Some heart once pregnant, with celestral fire, hands that the rod of Empire, might have swayed, Or wake to ecstasy the living lyre.”

Born in Kingstown in 1936, Edward ‘Eddie” Griffith:- teacher, trained agriculturalist and pharmacist successfully contested the 1984 General Elections under the banner of the New Democratic Party (NDP).{{more}} He was the only candidate to win in every polling station in the Central Kingstown constituency.

With the overwhelming mandate given to the NDP, Eddie was appointed Minister of Education, whilst his brother-in-law Marcus DeFreitas who easily won the constituency of West St. George was made Minister of Agriculture, Trade etc. and was himself part of Eastern Caribbean Agencies – a company which exported our agriculture produce and products regionally and internationally.

There is certainly no need to extrapolate on the existence of a genuine natural bond between Eddie and his brother-in-law, under whose Ministry the sugar factory at Georgetown fell – this state-owned industry with some investment by a few Vincentians at home and abroad. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the sugar factory was a well established mature and prudent businessman, Mr. Luther Robinson.

Prior to 1984, when the NDP came into office, the sugar industry was supposedly losing money. But in the first year of the NDP government, the industry almost broke-even, and in fact broke even in 1985. In the 1984 election, the NDP pledged that it would close the factory. So when both the Chairman and the Ministry of Agriculture pleaded with the Government to give the industry a little more time, that plea fell on deaf ears with no consideration of the devastating effects of the closure of the factory.

It was an open secret that when the Cabinet voted to close down the industry, Eddie Griffith was very strongly opposed to its closure. It is also a known fact that in 1985/1986 Eddie had won the confidence of many of his elected colleagues to the point of approaching the Governor-General, Sir Lambert, to replace PM Mitchell. Indications were that one of the majorities of the NDP members had opposed the Governor-General and they would have very well succeeded. Of course, it never happened. There was a snitch. With electricity, a phone call was made to the palace in London, and Sir Lambert became history.

It is somewhat difficult to determine: What were the feelings of the members of the Government who had committed themselves to support Eddie and how they functioned in the government after the plot had failed. What about the Minister of Agriculture who had won so comfortably in West St. George but was bypassed in the 1989 elections? But not least, Eddie Griffith himself.

On reflection, what trends had Eddie Griffith detected in PM Mitchell’s Government so early in the life of the NDP administration? Following the closure of the sugar industry were the Diamond Dairy, the coconut oil industry and the evaporation of all the jobs at the Campden Park Industrial Estate.

Eddie Griffith fell ill at an NDP public meeting in Kingstown and passed away in December 1986. He now dwells in a neglected spot in the Kingstown cemetery.

Stanley M Quammie

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