By Latoya Giles
The Rodney Commission of Inquiry yesterday managed to conclude the testimonies of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Karen De Souza and Tacuma Ogunseye. Both witnesses had begun to give evidence earlier but were unable to conclude.
Yesterday, they both held on to the belief that it was the military forces back in 1980, under the then People’s National Congress, that had something to do with Rodney’s death. Ogunseye’s testimony was very concise compared to DeSouza’s.
DeSouza, who said that she was not a witness for the WPA, recalled that she was one of the first persons to arrive at John and Hadfield Streets, minutes after the explosion which killed Rodney.
According to the witness, upon arrival at the scene she immediately saw that there were several ranks from the ‘Death Squad,’ who stood around and did nothing to help, except trying to prevent the crowd that had gathered from getting close.
The woman told the Commission that she later left the scene to return home to find a wounded Donald Rodney still at her home. DeSouza said that she did not question Donald but instead tried to treat his wounds.
“I saw small injuries…..I don’t remember his face but on his arm there were lots of small bloody spots,” DeSouza told the Commission.
She said that Rodney’s sibling was later taken away from her home by WPA affiliates. She said presumably he was taken to a private institution for treatment due to the fear that health workers at the public hospital might refuse him.
She recalled too, Rodney’s brother, Donald Rodney, who visited her home and told her to go check on Rodney because “there was a terrible accident.”
During the cross examination Attorney at Law Basil Williams took De Souza to task with the statement. Williams asked De Souza to define “a terrible accident”. De Souza said: “something that was unexpected.”
She was then asked whether she had questioned Donald Rodney about how this “terrible accident” happened. De Souza said that at the moment she was not interested in what happened.
“I did not inquire….I did not address my mind to inquiring….I was in shock and Donald was in shock” De Souza told the Commission.
Williams quizzed the witness on whether she would agree that Donald had to pass the Brickdam Police Station to reach her residence. She denied this suggestion by Williams.
She was also asked whether she would agree that if such an event occurred, the normal thing would have been for Donald to remain on the scene until police arrived. De Souza again disagreed with Williams and said that the police were not friends of the WPA and for Donald to remain there was “suicide”.
De Souza was then asked whether Donald was a WPA member, to which she replied in the negative but did say that he attended public meetings that were held by the party. “Donald left the scene to get help from friends,” De Souza said.
That response from the witness prompted Williams to suggest to her, that Donald’s state of mind therefore was, that a crime had not been committed. Further, Williams suggested to De Souza that the two Rodneys were in an “exercise” that went wrong.
Williams accused De Souza of trying to distort the role of the police in relation to what had happened as he cited several inconsistencies in her statement, oral testimony and testimony she had given to a Coroner’s Inquest several years ago.
De Souza however, denied the allegations, which also claimed that she changed her testimony to match the theory of the WPA that Rodney’s death was engineered by the security forces.
She said the PNC was the only Party at the time that posed a physical threat to Rodney and the WPA executive.
She also denied that she had any knowledge that the WPA was acquiring arms and ammunition, something which several former members have admitted to the Commission.
De Souza recalled the 1979 arrest of Dr. Rodney for a fire at a government facility. Arrested also were WPA’s Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Bonita Harri, and her four-year-old son.
The activist was detained after she went to the CID headquarters to visit her colleagues. She was later taken to court on a larceny charge for a kit belonging to the Guyana National Service. That matter ended in 1985 with no conviction.
De Souza recalled a 1979 meeting in Campbellville, Georgetown, where police allegedly charged the WPA members and supporters, beating many of them. She said the hand of Moses Bhagwan, a senior official, was broken while Dr. Rodney managed to escape. De Souza said she escaped a possible beating by sitting down. She said Burnham later joked of sending Rodney to the Olympics for his speed in running.
Speaking of June 13, 1980, the day of Rodney’s death, De Souza said she was at her Croal Street home with another colleague, Andaiye, when she heard an explosion. Within minutes, she heard a banging on her door and found a bleeding Donald Rodney, the brother of Dr. Rodney, outside. He told them that a “terrible accident” had happened to Dr. Rodney.
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