Mar 07, 2014 News
The long-awaited Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the death of Walter Rodney may not have started its hearings yet, but it is already on shaky ground, with the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday saying it will not be associating itself with the work.
GHRA’s statement comes even as Rodney’s party, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), has expressed unhappiness over the Commission and was up to yesterday in the midst of sending a letter of objection to President Donald Ramotar.
The CoI’s three members were sworn in last week by Ramotar following the announcing mid-last year of its establishment.
According to GHRA, it received an invitation to contribute to the inquiry into the death of Dr. Rodney, but after studying the Terms of Reference (ToR), it wrote the Administrator of the COI “indicating its unwillingness to associate itself with the work of the Commission.”
Several reasons were highlighted.
“The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is of the view that the proposed Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney has greater potential for reviving rather than healing ethnic division in Guyana. Should this indeed be the outcome, it would be a travesty of Dr. Rodney’s major contribution to Guyana. Moreover, failure to consult the Working People’s Alliance, Dr. Rodney’s party, on what may be perceived as opportunistic terms of reference for the COI, robs the initiative of credibility.”
A senior WPA official when contacted yesterday said a letter expressing concerns over the ToR and the CoI itself was being drafted and will be sent to President Ramotar before the day was out.
The official also said that further comments will be made after the administration would have had a chance to study it. Asked what happens if the Commission makes contact for cooperation, the WPA official insisted that the party will await Ramotar’s response.
GHRA, in its statement, said that numerous calls have been made over the past three decades for a COI into the circumstances of the death of Dr. Rodney.
“The closest this long-demanded Commission came to realization occurred in 1995 when the PPP Government invited a team appointed by the International Commission of Jurists to assess the evidence available for holding such an enquiry. The idea of the Commission foundered on the inability to go forward with extradition proceedings of the main suspect Gregory Smith (now deceased) from Cayenne, because Guyana could not meet the assurance required by France, that the death penalty would not be invoked against him.”
The association also noted efforts to mount an inquiry generated much acrimony and were resisted by the Government, the most persistent being in 2008 following a much-publicized protest by Dr. Rodney’s son, Shaka Rodney.
“This effort failure (was) due to an unprecedented Parliamentary manoeuver in which the PPP abstained from voting on its own motion to mount an inquiry.”
GHRA said it was puzzled by the ToR of the Commissioner which while suggesting the Commission was a criminal investigation, leaves out the possibilities of criminal charges.
“The COI states that all persons who may be found guilty of any kind of act related to Dr. Rodney’s death are to be granted ‘an absolute pardon’. The alternative rationale is that the COI is intended to strengthen a process of ethnic healing between the major races in Guyana.”
One particular clause of the ToR of the Commission is itself provocative, GHRA said.
“That clause requires the COI to investigate the extent to which the many quasi-political military organizations existing in Guyana at the time of Rodney’s death, were tasked with surveillance against the ‘political opposition’, rather than against the WPA.”
PROLONGING ETHNIC DIMENSION
GHRA believed that hearings, by the clause, will provide an “opportunity for inserting the ruling PPP into events in which it was marginal at the time and for generating a stream of horror stories from that era into the work of the Commission, with rich potential for stirring up Indo-Guyanese resentment against the PNC.”
Coming at a time of much speculation over General and Regional Elections, the proposed COI could be read as the worst form of electioneering, GHRA felt.
The association urged that at the present time, a more appropriate priority would be an impartial investigation into the numerous extra-judicial killings of young men during the mid-2000s in circumstances which suggested involvement of the state.
“The reluctance of the GHRA to involve itself in the current enquiry comes against a background of the association having worked assiduously in previous decades to have an inquiry come into being. Dr. Rodney’s unique contribution to Guyana was the momentum he generated across the society to challenge the ethnic nature of Guyanese politics. The perpetrators of his death correctly calculated that it would ensure the survival and continuance of a system sustained by ethnic insecurity.”
The statement made it clear also that GHRA feels that the proposed initiative has more to do with prolonging the ethnic dimension of Guyanese politics, than laying to rest controversy over who was responsible for Rodney’s death.
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