…Will leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom – Chairman
By Latoya Giles
The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry is likely to begin sometime after the Easter Holiday weekend says Chairman Sir Richard Cheltenham (QC). The announcement was made yesterday at a joint press conference with the Commissioners. According to the Chairman, once there is enough material and witnesses available, the sittings will
begin the Tuesday after the Easter holiday. He said that the Commission would sit for an initial nine days before taking a break for about two weeks and resuming again.
The Chairman said that because the event which they are investigating goes back some 33- years and a lot of people below the age of fifty do not know much about it, several questions may surface such as “why go back? Will you have any witnesses and will there be evidence that would allow them to actually find out what happen”.
Cheltenham said that the circumstances surrounding Rodney’s death weren’t fairly investigated and made known to the world, so it’s an unresolved issue for his family. “There has been no clear answer from any investigation to determine this” the Chairman said.
Cheltenham said that they intend to “dig deeply” in relation to the facts and come to a conclusion as to who was responsible and why it was done. He said that to get an answer would be good, especially for the family, which is mainly the purpose for the inquiry.
Who they met with since being appointed ….
Since being appointed and on their second visit to Guyana they received their instruments with which to work. He said they have been building support for the Commission which is necessary when dealing with an incident that goes back so far.
He noted that they have had several meetings with various stakeholders in Guyana. He disclosed that they have met and held discussions with the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips, the Commissioner of Police Leroy Brummel, the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Trade Union Congress, and the Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman.
Political parties were not left out of the loop; Cheltenham said that they have held meetings with both the People’s Progressive Party Civic along with A Partnership for National Unity.
The Chairman went on to explain that lawyers appointed to the Commission would help possible witnesses to craft their statements, since they need to be guided to capture everything that is relevant to the Commission. The lawyers identified by the Commission include Latchmie Rahamant, Nicola Pierre and Glen Hanoman.
No one should be fearful…
Cheltenham made it clear that no one should have any fear on coming forward and testifying. He made reference of a recent Commission of Inquiry which was held in Trinidad and Tobago with regards to the 1990 coup d’état. He said that persons who were even a part of the coup came forward and testified at that Inquiry.
Another issue raised by the Chairman was witnesses who prefer to remain anonymous. Cheltenham said that for good reason some people who wish to testify would want their identities kept from the public. “Sometimes we don’t know why a person, although they want to be helpful would want their identity out of the public domain and it’s within our competence to allow their evidence to be taken in the presence of the Commissioners alone” the Chairman explained.
He added that even when they are reporting the evidence their identity would not be disclosed by the Commission. Further, he said that some potential witnesses who would want to give evidence in the matter but aren’t living in Guyana would also be welcomed. As such, the Chairman said that they are expecting to use modern technology of audio visual link so that the testimonies could be taken. He noted that the Commission has already made attempts to acquire records from Atlanta.
British expert ….
Meanwhile the Chairman highlighted that although they have heard about a report from British expert Frank Skuse they are not in possession of it. “It has been identified as a report that should be before us” the Chairman said.
Skuse is a forensic scientist for the North West Forensic Laboratories based in Chorley, Lancashire, England.
The Chairman pledged that the Commission will explore every reason and realistic link to make sure that they get to the bottom of the issue “We aren’t here to do a superficial job, plus we have our professionalism to protect” Cheltenham posited. He asserted that they will be following the evidence. The Chairman also disclosed that Donald, the brother of Walter Rodney, has signaled his intention to be a part of the Commission. Other family members have also hinted their participation in the Inquiry.
The Chairman explained that the Commission is expected to go as far back to 1978 to 1980. Cheltenham made it clear that in relation to concerns regarding the Terms of Reference (TOR), those should be addressed with the relevant authorities. He said that anyone with a problem should put their concerns with the sponsoring authority, which is the Government. Both the Army and Police have also signaled their intention to be a part of the Commission. Both entities have archives on the incident and they have said that they would make it available.
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