Days after the final report was handed in, Opposition member and former Attorney at law, Anil Nandlall,
has called on members of the government to rise above partisan politics and officially make the findings of the report into the death of Dr Walter Rodney public.
Rodney, historian and founder of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), was killed more than 34 years ago after a bomb exploded in a car in which he was an occupant. He was 38 years old at the time.
Following the explosion it was widely believed that he had been assassinated by way of a set-up by then President Linden Forbes Burnham. No one paid any attention to the words of his brother, Donald, “There has been an accident.”
In 2014, a Commission of Inquiry, (COI) into the death of Dr Rodney was set up by former President Donald Ramotar. The former Head of State had appointed prominent Barbadian Attorney Sir Richard Cheltenham of Barbados, Queens Counsel from Jamaica Jacqueline Samuels, and Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam of Trinidad and Tobago to oversee the public hearings.
After two years of public hearings, a number of hindrances and delays, the finding of the report was finally completed and dropped off at Attorney General, Basil Williams’s chambers last week.
According to the reports on the Commission of Inquiry, the team of international jurists found that Dr Rodney was in fact a victim of State organized killing.
In the 155-page report the Commissioners outlined that the prime suspect, Gregory Smith was not acting alone but had the active and full support, participation, encouragement and or was aided by members of the disciplinary forces and the Political powers of the day to kill Dr. Rodney.
It was reported that Smith planted the bomb in a walkie-talkie that blew up on Rodney’s pelvic region while he was on John Street, Werk-en-Rust, between Hadfield and Bent Streets, less than 100 metres from the Camp Street Prison.
His brother, Donald Rodney, who suffered injuries during the explosion, alleged that a former GDF electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith, had given the politician the bomb that killed him.
Smith died of cancer in French Guiana where he had gone to live, after he had fled Guyana. The document released last week further detailed that Dr Rodney could have only been killed in a State organized assignation since Guyana at the time was a controlled society and that then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham had detailed knowledge of whatever was being done by the State and its agencies.
Burnham was founder and leader of the then People‘s National Congress (PNC) Government, a party which is a large component of the current APNU/ AFC Coalition government.
Members of Rodney’s political group (WPA) also make up the Coalition Government. The Coalition Government had promised to release the finding of the COI to the public but to date has not done so.
However, given his role in establishing the Commission, former Attorney General, (AG) Anil Nandlall has joined voices of the Opposition including the former President in appealing to President David Granger to officially make the findings of the report public.
Nandlall also called on Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo to have the finding laid over in the Parliament.
The former Attorney General said that the finding should be made public since the Commission was a publicly funded one.
“It was open to members of the public and had live streaming,” Nandlall stated in an invited comment.
He held that given that the nation is celebrating in its jubilee and celebrating its 50th Independence Anniversary, it would be a good way to respect the contribution and legacy of a great Guyanese.
“This nation is enjoying many things which we did not enjoy as a colony. Dr Rodney is one of the persons who made significant contributions to Guyana‘s independence and many of the things which we enjoy.
“He fought for democracy, struggled for national unity and worked tirelessly to secure constitutional rights and freedom for Guyanese from every walk of life. And for that he paid the ultimate price,” Nandlall added.
The attorney noted the COI was promised decades ago.
He asserted that “Guyanese as well as people who admired Rodney in Africa, Europe, North America and around the Caribbean had called for a COI into the death of Dr Rodney for years.”
Now that this finally happened, the PPP/C Member of Parliament noted that the ultimate injustice will be done to those persons if the report is not officially made public.
Political and social activist Dr David Hinds welcomed the findings of the COI. “Although I had misgivings about the motives of the PPP for setting up the commission, once it started I fully supported it.
“We have been vindicated. Walter Rodney lives anew. And Guyana gets a chance to re-examine its politics.”
He opined that Rodney was not the first victim of the State—his comrades Ohene Koama and Edward Dublin and the Catholic priest, Fr Bernard Darke had met a similar fate in the preceding year— but he was the best known.
“Murder by the state had become part of our political veins.”
However, Dr Hinds pointed out that there are some lessons to be learned from the findings of the Commission.
“First, these findings are an indictment of our State. Some government officials have trivialized the act and in the process diminished Rodney in the eyes of many Guyanese. “
“The State in such circumstances became a tool of repression of dissent. It is a flaw that begs to be corrected.”
Dr. Hinds said that Guyana declined after Rodney’s assassination largely because in the Rodney case society (high and low) justified the brutal acts of the State in defence of the Party and the Leader.
“And in so doing we left in place the brutal State that would eventually devour Courtney Crum-Ewing, Ronald Waddell, the Linden Martyrs, the over 400 Black men and tried to devour Freddie Kissoon. What Rodney and all these recent martyrs have in common is that they have been victims of State Violence.”
“We are being hypocritical if we cry for Justice for Waddell, Crum Ewing, the Linden Martyrs and the victims of the Phantoms but try to justify Walter Rodney’s murder,” he said.
The WPA, Dr Hinds surmised, should not use the findings of the Commission to ridicule those to whom the accusatory finger is pointed. And the PPP should get off its so-called high-horse, for it too presided over political assassinations.
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