Queen's Governor-General during US invasion of Grenada;
Born: July 4, 1935; Died: September 2, 2013.
Sir Paul Scoon, who has died aged 78, was Governor-General of Grenada when the former British colony, best-known for its beaches, nutmeg, mace and other spices, became the focus of the world during a few turbulent weeks of 1983. Grenada had been independent, though still a Commonwealth realm, since 1974 when all hell broke loose on the little group of seven Caribbean islands. Appointed as Governor-General by the Queen, his was a largely ceremonial role until October 1983, when US President Ronald Reagan ordered an invasion of the islands, reportedly at Paul Scoon's request.
On October 14 that year, a radical leftist faction within the Grenadian government, backed by the army, seized power in a coup. The Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was arrested and replaced by his deputy, Bernard Coard. A few days later, Mr Bishop was freed by supporters but soon killed, along with other cabinet ministers, by the local armed forces as mayhem reigned in the tourist paradise.
Citing the islands' independence constitution, Sir Paul made it known to British and other diplomats that, as the Queen's representative, he had the authority to take emergency charge. He, too, however, was placed under house arrest by the military - but not before his foreign diplomat friends had relayed a message from him to President Reagan. The former colonial power Britain was too far away to react quickly and anyway would scarcely see it in its interests to intervene in an independent country, albeit a former colony but not a British overseas territory like the Falklands which it had defended a year earlier. Sir Paul therefore appealed to Mr Reagan, through diplomatic channels, for help.
Fearing that Grenada could become the third leg of a Marxist-Leninist tripod in the Caribbean and Central America - after Cuba and Nicaragua -Mr Reagan was more than receptive. There were around 1000 Americans living or working in Grenada, many of them medical students at the University of St George's in the capital. What's more, the US Marines barracks in Beirut had been blown up two days earlier, killing almost 300 people, mostly US Marines. Mr Reagan's finger was very much on the trigger.
On 25 October 1983, with the codename Operation Urgent Fury, some 8000 US forces landed by air and sea in Grenada in the biggest US military operation since Vietnam. A US Navy SEAL team led by Wellington "Duke" Leonard freed Sir Paul and the shooting was over in little more than a week, albeit with fatalities including 19 Americans, 45 Grenadians and 25 Cubans who had supported the communist takeover. As acting head of government, Sir Paul appointed a council of advisors and democratic elections were held the following year, 1984. Thereafter, Grenada's most worrying assailants have been the annual summer hurricanes - notably Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
The son of a butcher, Paul Scoon was born in 1935 in Gouyave, a fishing village on the west coast of Grenada. Perhaps appropriately, as things turned out, he was born on the fourth of July, a fact he enjoyed sharing with Mr Reagan in later years. He had degrees from the University of Leeds, the University of London and the University of Toronto.
He was named OBE in 1970 and knighted as GCMG (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) at a private audience with the Queen in Buckingham Palace in May 1979, upgraded in 1985 to GCVO (Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order) by the Queen during her visit to Grenada that year.
A staunch catholic, Sir Paul suffered from diabetes and had been in poor health for some time. His wife Esmai predeceased him and he is survived by his three stepchildren.
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