…witness says it was necessary for them to conceal relationship
The transactions between then Working People Alliance (WPA) Leader, Dr. Walter Rodney and his suspected killer, Gregory Smith were ‘not normal’ and it was imperative that the two work in concert to conceal the relationship that they shared.
As such, their meetings between February and June 1980 occurred during the course of the night and were held at different locations, including a place in North Ruimveldt and the Stabroek Market wharf.
Lone eyewitness and brother to the slain political scholar, Donald Rodney yesterday returned before the Commission of Inquiry and under intense-cross examination, admitted that since Dr. Rodney was exposed to threats, having a relationship with someone who was ex-military might have been seen as intolerable by the ‘dictatorship.’
A walkie-talkie exploded in the politician’s lap on June 13, 1980, while the two Rodneys were sitting in a car on the corners of John and Hadfield Streets, purportedly to perform a test on the device.
Guyana Defence Force Sergeant Gregory Smith was suspected of Rodney, since he had earlier handed him the communication device which exploded.
Donald Rodney has testified that due to the political climate at the time, he had felt it necessary to act as a buffer for his brother and yesterday, his evidence was being tested by a several attorneys.
Basil Williams, the lawyer representing the interest of the People’s National Congress (PNC), asked the surviving Rodney whether he hadn’t grown suspicious during the six visits he previously spoke of that he and his brother had with Gregory Smith.
Though the visits he and his brother made to Smith’s house were by night, and the vehicle was never parked in front of the premises, the surviving Rodney claimed that the situation in the country was not normal and as such, neither was the relationship between the two.
But Williams asked if he was not suspicious of the transactions between Smith and his brother, to which the dead politician’s brother responded “Well I think that the situation in the country was not normal and in that sense the transaction was not normal.”
He claimed that when he and his brother dealt with Smith, he was an ex-army man and the PNC lawyer questioned whether having a relationship with an ex-army man was something that had to be hidden.
The lawyer asked “Are you aware that the WPA boasted about its ability to infiltrate the army?” but the surviving Rodney said “Oh, I’m not aware of that.” Williams asked if he had considered that the transactions with Gregory Smith were not lawful and Donald responded “Yes, because I understood that walkie-talkies were banned.”
Williams said “An innocuous transaction of making a walkie-talkie …why would that be against the law of the land?” and Donald said “That I wouldn’t know.” The lawyer went on to question “But making an explosive device, you agree is against the law of the land?”
“I understood that walkie-talkies were banned…it didn’t occur to me that making an explosive was against the law. But if you ask me then, I would say yes. I couldn’t see how it could not be,” Donald Rodney said.
“You must have had an idea that what this walkie-talkie would look like that you would have to get from Gregory Smith, the lawyer prodded, “ but Rodney responded “I can’t agree because I knew that Gregory Smith was building it…what he had built was only in the process of being a walkie-talkie or becoming a walkie-talkie”
Williams questioned too, whether a conversation could be carried on with a walkie-talkie in a bag but Donald Rodney said he didn’t know. He confessed that he never took the object out of the bag before he took it to Walter, and said that he assumed it was a walkie-talkie under construction.
Williams questioned the younger brother about his disinterest in knowing what was concealed in the bag, and later asked whether he considered that for him to have taken the object out of the paper bag was something that would have had to have been done in a very skillful manner.
But the witness said he didn’t know.
Williams suggested that the reason he didn’t take it out was because it would have required a delicate touch and that he could have triggered it , but the younger brother said that he didn’t open the bag because he had seen the box before.
When asked whether he hadn’t considered that the dealings of the walkie-talkie were surreptitious, Donald Rodney told Commissioners “Well as I said before, it was one to be hidden so to that extent it could be surreptitious.”
“After going to such lengths down the wharf, North Ruimveldt, New Market Street, going and test it in that manner ,you didn’t consider that you should take it out of the bag and say let me see what I am taking to my brother?” the lawyer asked.
But Donald insisted that he had seen the box before and he hadn’t considered that. He said he hadn’t considered whether Smith was untrustworthy or shifty at the time.
Williams suggested to Donald that was because he believed and knew it was not a walkie-talkie but a sensitive device and he couldn’t take it in his hands, but he said “Oh no sir.”
The lawyer asked whether his brother knew it was a sensitive device to which Donald said he didn’t know and would in fact be surprised if the deceased had known. He revealed that the instructions from Smith did not include removing it from the bag.
“If it’s a walkie-talkie then to test it you would have to talk into it to see if it would carry whatever you’re saying and you were supposed to hear him with the so called companion-set coming in when he talks in his,” Williams probed but the witness disagreed.
The witness stated that he understood the device to be something that was being constructed in sections. “If in fact you don’t have the section that would support the audio then you can’t use the audio.”
He went on to say that he isn’t sure whether it was the final collection or for testing but “when I arrived there I was told that it was for testing.”
“That’s why I am putting it to you that what you were collecting from Mr. Smith could never ever been a walkie-talkie” Williams suggested but the witness disagreed.
Williams further suggested that Dr. Rodney knew that it was an explosive and the instructions given to him by Smith were for his “ears” especially considering that his brother went past the prison, but the surviving Rodney denied this.
“Having disregarded this thing about the prison wall and all of that I would tell you that when Walter stopped to check in accordance with light and flash, he knew that that exercise was associated with danger,” the lawyer said.
“How would I know that?” the brother questioned. “If so, I wouldn’t say it was associated with danger because that would mean that he and I would be exposed to danger.”
Williams, who recalled that Donald had previously testified that his brother was muttering when the first test was conducted, said Rodney knew he was deceived. But the younger Rodney denied the claim.
The way the younger brother responded to the explosion too came under question. Williams suggested that his first thought was to flee the scene before the police came, because he knew that the explosion was caused by an explosive device handed by Smith, but his priority was to get help for Dr. Rodney.
He confessed that while he was at Croal Street after it was reported to him that his brother had died, he didn’t immediately think of what caused the explosion and he believed it could have been that someone stepped around the corner and threw something at the vehicle or it could have been the Death Squad or someone who followed the vehicle after being tipped by Smith.
The Death Squad, he explained, was a group of un-uniformed policemen assigned to deal with the political opposition.
According to court documents presented at the Commission, the search conducted at Donald’s home unearthed subversive material and explosives’, suggesting that he was part of a plot to overthrow the Burnham regime by violent means.
Meanwhile, during cross examination by Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram the witness said he was neither informed nor present while his South Ruimveldt Park home was searched.
However, Mr. Rodney rejected these claims as untrue and part of attempts by the then government to victimise him.
Donald told attorney Andrew Pilgrim who represents the wife and children of Walter Rodney, that the killing of Father Darke was a turning point in Guyana’s governance structure.
Attorney pilgrim highlighted to the Commission a letter written by “concerned citizens” who recognised the “deep political and economic crisis” in the country and as such, registered their support for a broad based governance structure.
This evidence concretized the view expressed by Mr. Rodney.
The eight round of public hearings of the Commission adjourned yesterday with the next round scheduled to be held from March 23 and 27, next. The younger brother has not completed offering his evidence.
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