Sir Paul Godwin Scoon, GCMG, GCVO, OBE, was born in Gouyave, Grenada, on July 4, 1935, and died on September 2, 2013. He attended St John's Anglican School and Grenada Boys' Secondary School before going overseas to pursue university education in the United Kingdom and Canada.
After earning the M Ed Degree from the University of Toronto, he returned to his native Grenada. He taught at his alma mater, the Grenada Boys' Secondary School and ultimately rose through the ranks of the teaching service to become the chief education officer of Grenada.In his civil service career, he rose to positions of secretary to the Cabinet and head of the Civil Service. In 1973, he accepted the position of deputy director of the Commonwealth Foundation in London.
In 1978, former prime minister Sir Eric Gairy proposed to Sir Paul that he wished to lay his name before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for appointment as Grenada's governor-general to succeed Sir Leo de Gale. On Wednesday October 4, 1978, Sir Paul took the oath of allegiance and the oath of office as governor-general at York House in St George's.
Within months of his appointment, he was faced with the daunting reality of the overthrow of the constitutionally-elected government of Grenada by the New Jewel Movement led by Maurice Bishop on March 13, 1979.Bishop and his comrades established the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG), and their initial response to Sir Paul was one of hostility. Afterwards, they adopted a more conciliatory approach and allowed him to continue to serve as a governor-general devoid of authority.
That would ultimately prove to be a tactical blunder on their part four years later when a split emerged in the central committee of the PRG between loyalists of Bishop and those of Bernard Coard. Their differences were irreconcilable and the dream of their Marxist-Leninist Grenadian revolution collapsed in the face of violence and mayhem.
On October 12, 1983, Bishop was placed under house arrest but was released on October 19. He went to Fort Rupert to plan his strategy with some of his allies for re-establishing himself as head of the government. Instead, members of the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA) captured him and some of his ministers and they were executed by firing squad.
General Hudson Austin, the head of the PRA, then overthrew the PRG and proclaimed himself to be the chairman of a Revolutionary Military Council (RMC). In order to ensure that he could take control of the situation and also have the time to dispose of Bishop's body, he declared a 96-hour curfew.The ensuing civil commotion and disorder that descended upon Grenada in October 1983 led Sir
Paul to make a request for military intervention by the United States of America. Sir Paul asserted that he was the sole constitutional authority, and he claimed the doctrine of necessity as the basis for making his request.
There has been much controversy surrounding this request as no international bodies such as the United Nations or the Organisation of American States have any record of it. However, in his autobiography, Survival for Service (Macmillan Caribbean, 2003), Sir Paul recounts his meeting in the garden of Government House in St George's on Sunday, October 23, with David Montgomery, deputy British high commissioner in Barbados, as follows:
"Alarming thoughts like these were turning over in my mind when Montgomery, who agreed with my concerns about the risk attached to the sending of a written request on that day and who was due to return to Barbados that afternoon, suggested that I could perhaps authorise him to pass on the gist of my views to say, prime minister Adams, adding that I would not wish military action by friendly states to be inhibited by the absence of a formal request from me. That being so and having regard to the paramount need for secrecy, I would be content for the message being conveyed (by Montgomery) to be regarded as pro tem, as such a request with a formal written request from me to follow as soon as a secure, practicable means of communication became available." (pp.135-136).
This was obviously the means by which the request for a military intervention was conveyed. On Tuesday October 25, United States Rangers and Marines together with Jamaican and Barbadian armed forces started landing in Grenada. All armed combat came to an end on October 31.
Sir Paul had made a decision in the face of extreme disorder to act decisively to restore law and order. The United States accomplished three objectives with their intervention, namely (i) the rescue of hundreds of American medical students at St George's University, (ii) the restoration of law and order, and, (iii) the repelling of a Marxist-Leninist movement from Grenada.
The actions of Sir Paul in the aftermath of the crisis placed Grenada on a path back to democratic government through the appointment of an advisory council led by Alister McIntyre on November 8.Just over one year later, general elections were held in Grenada on December 3, 1984 and Herbert Blaize and the New National Party won handsomely. Parliament was opened later that month and Grenada had returned to a democratic way of life.
As a Commonwealth governor-general, Sir Paul faced far more challenging times than many of his counterparts whose lives would have been filled with more ceremonial and less executive actions.His careful and deliberate decisions at a crucial time in Grenada's history would place him in a category that will be reserved for someone who could be called "Grenada's saviour".