The Mongoose Gang was a private army or militia which operated from 1967 to 1979 under the control of Sir Eric Gairy, the Premier and later Prime Minister of Grenada, and head of the Grenada United Labour Party.
Officially, Mongoose Gang members were called Special Reserve Police (S.R.P.) or Volunteer Constables. Therefore, the terms "police aides" and "Mongoose Gang" were sometimes used synonymously and interchangeably; although it should be added that the names of certain persons were unmistakably identified as members of the Mongoose Gang as distinct from also being police aides. At the 1975 Duffus Commission of Inquiry into the Breakdown of Law & Order, and Police Brutality in Grenada, Nugent David, a former Commissioner of Police, confirmed that a group of men known as the Mongoose Gang were among the police aides. To his knowledge, Moslyn Bishop and his brother Willie Bishop were reputedly leaders of the gang. Ironically, the brothers were cousins of Maurice Bishop, Gairy's nemesis.
According to David the police aides were under his jurisdiction because they assisted the police with their duties although they were not recruited normally as policemen who were required to undergo tests for educational and physical fitness; but they were paid through the office of the Commissioner. David said he did not know how or by whom the recruitment of police aides was done except that he knew the recruitment took place in St. George's and that after he assumed the post of acting commissioner of Police he heard from policemen that the men were selected by the Premier, Eric Gairy. As he understood the functions of the police aides, their main duties were guard duties and at times they assisted the police in searches, but they were subject to no discipline or control similar to that of the Police Force nor were any regulations ever made with respect to them. He added that in his knowledge none of the police aides was issued with firearms although he knew that some of them possessed and carried firearms on guard duty. A news report from 1974 confirms that the "Mongoose squad" sometimes carried rifles, but generally carried "thick pieces of wood". Mongoose Gang members also tended not to dress in any distinctive way.
The Mongoose Gang was responsible for silencing critics, breaking up demonstrations and murdering opponents of the Gairy regime, including Rupert Bishop, the father of Maurice Bishop in January 1974. Maurice Bishop himself was beaten by members of the Mongoose Gang two months previously, in November 1973, and jailed. The violence of the Mongoose Gang and the Grenadian police became a more important factor than the state of the economy in generating unrest. MI5 intelligence reports at the time referred to the Gang as being "ruthless", and "an un-uniformed and undisciplined body... many of them have criminal records.”
In November 1974, 10 months after Grenada's independence from Great Britain, Bishop's New Jewel Movement issued a People's Indictment calling for "power to the people" and declaring that "the Gairy Government was born in blood, baptized in fire, christened with bullets, is married to foreigners, and is resulting in death to the people".
In the 1976 Grenadian general election, the Grenada United Labour Party won nine of the 15 seats, whilst the opposition People's Alliance (a coalition of the New Jewel Movement, the Grenada National Party and the United People's Party) won the remainder. However, the elections were marred by fraud (and branded fraudulent by international observers), as the Mongoose Gang had been threatening the opposition.
By 1977 Gairy began receiving advice from General Augusto Pinochet of Chile on how to deal with civil unrest. His police and military also received "counter insurgency" training from the Pinochet regime. The New Jewel Movement retaliated by developing links with Fidel Castro and his Marxist government in Cuba.
The Mongoose Gang was used against protesters during the 1977 General Assembly of the Organization of American States hosted by Grenada.
In 1979, a rumour circulated that Gairy would use the Gang to eliminate leaders of the New Jewel Movement while he was out of the country. In response, Bishop overthrew Gairy in March of that year while the latter was visiting the United States. The Mongoose Gang then ceased to operate; the Gang's leader, Mosyln Bishop, a taxi driver, was subsequently sentenced later that year to fourteen years in prison for attempting to murder three people in November 1973.
The name 'Mongoose Gang' originated in the 1950s, when the local health officials sought to eliminate the mongoose as a pest, and paid people who brought in mongoose tails as proof of killing the animals. The men who were employed in such work became known as the 'mongoose-gang'. Later, the name shifted to refer to gangs of political thugs on Grenada. In fact, it was Gairy himself who got jobs for a number of men and women on the mongoose-eradication project in the 1950s when he was a representative of the Colony of Grenada's Legislative Council. For Gairy's part, in a 1984 interview with New York magazine, he denied employing thugs or any kind of secret police.
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