Jun 03, 2014 News
By Latoya Giles
In 1978, it was Robert Corbin (Former Opposition Leader for the People’s National Congress) who allegedly supplied six 9mm pistols to the House of Israel religious body to protect themselves against the Working People’s Alliance.
This is the claim of former member of the House of Israel and the Peoples’ National Congress Joe Hamilton. Hamilton who is now a Member of Parliament for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) took to the witness box yesterday as the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry continued.
According to Hamilton who joined the House of Israel body in 1977, Corbin was at the time in charge of the youth arm of the then governing People’s National Congress and had coordinated violent activities between the two bodies.
He said at the time of him joining the organization was led by Rabbi Edward Washington also known as “David Hill Junior”.
Hamilton recalled yesterday that in 1978, the PNC government had sought support from the House of Israel because agitation by the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) was very much part of daily life in Guyana.
He told the Commission that soon after the House of Israel began organizing marches for the then government based on the mood of the population. Hamilton further stated that in that same year they would “disrupt” WPA meetings on behalf of the PNC government. One such meeting Hamilton recalled was held in Tiger Bay.
Hamilton alleged that he could not recall the exact person from the leadership of the Party who actually called and gave the command for them to disrupt that meeting. He said that about 12 to 15 persons descended on the meeting to disrupt it. Hamilton said that all of the persons were clothed in African attire.
Hamilton was asked by the Commissioner lawyer Latchmie Rahamat as to the ways in which the House of Israel would disrupt the meetings. The witness explained that they would “act clumsy….attempt to seize the public address system or clip wires” Hamilton said.
He further said that the methodology aggressively became more suppressive with assault and physical violence to disrupt marches organized by the WPA.
“We would beat people with objects such as batons, sticks etc” Hamilton told the Commission.
Hamilton said that in 1978 he suspects that the WPA became aware of their activities and what they were doing and there was the concern that they would retaliate. He said that there was a request by the House of Israel to the Government of the day (PNC) for them to be supplied with weapons.
Hamilton alleges that six 9 mm pistols were handed over to them at Barima Avenue. He further alleges that the PNC had taken the position that Georgetown was their “bedrock” and no other political party could hold meetings there.
As such Hamilton said that the PNC saw the holdings of meetings by the WPA as an act of “eye-pass”. Moreover, Hamilton alleges that he along with other members of the House of Israel was instructed that there were two persons that they should never harm.
These were Former President Cheddi Jagan and Political Activist Eusi Kwayana. According to Hamilton the two were referred as “sacred cows” because of the conflict harming them could start.
According to Hamilton, harming Jagan could have invoked racial conflict in Guyana. He said that if Kwayana who was seen as a “respectable black leader” was harmed it could have caused the PNC supporters to shift towards the WPA.
Hamilton further alleges that they were never given orders to not harm Walter Rodney, which according to him fell into the “basket to get harmed.
The witness was further questioned about the pistols his religious sect had allegedly received from the PNC. According to Hamilton, the guns were periodically rotated within the sect.
The witness recounted that on July 7, 1979 when Father Bernard Darke was killed he had taken a camera from him. According to Hamilton it was the same day that Walter Rodney and Rupert Roopnarine were charged with arson.
Hamilton said he remembers that the trial was conducted on a Saturday, something which he found strange. He said that the environs around the Georgetown Magistrates Court were filled with people. Within minutes of him arriving at the courts, Hamilton said he heard a “clanking” sound and saw people running.
He said that there was much confusion when he saw a “white guy” whom he later learnt was Father Darke. According to Hamilton, Darke had a camera and was taking pictures of what was happening.
Hamilton said he remembers seeing Darke collapse to the ground and said he immediately collected his camera which he thought could have contained incriminating evidence against the House of Israel.
He further told the Commission that the camera was taken and set aside and he never looked at it. Hamilton said that at some point the camera was sold by a member of the House of Israel to the mechanic who used to work on Rabbi Washington’s vehicle.
He further told the Commission that several months after the camera was sold, the mechanic brought several pictures to Washington.
“It was developed and he brought the pictures several months later and included the negatives” Hamilton explained.
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