WPA salutes the memory of our brother and comrade, Walter Rodney, who was senselessly assassinated thirty-nine years ago. This anniversary comes on the heels of the death of another party stalwart, Andaiye. Together, they represent the best of our country’s and region’s radical tradition. We remember Walter Rodney on June 13th every year not just to pay homage to his legacy, but also to remind Guyana of both its transformative and traumatic past. As we navigate our independence journey, it is imperative that memory stands at the very centre of our trajectory.
So, on this June 13, we use the opportunity to remind Guyana of Rodney’s place in our recent history and to recommit our party to its founding ideals which were at the core of Rodney’s activism. In remembering Rodney, we also remember other soldiers of the revolution who were cut down by the vicious hand of the regime of the day. We remember Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin and Fr. Bernard Darke.
This year we also mark the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rebellion of 2019 when over a period of approximately six months the WPA, with Rodney as the chief inspirator, inspired sustained mass demonstrations and other related forms of protests that rocked the foundations of the country’s post-colonial order. The Civil Rebellion was the culmination of a decade of public education, resistance and political mobilization by the WPA and others which simultaneously sought to shape an alternative independence order and to dismantle the post-colonial authoritarian state that had gone out of control. For the WPA, there could be no true independence within the context of party paramountcy and dictatorial governance.
During his six years of activism, 1974-80, Walter Rodney etched his name in the annals of Guyanese history as an apostle of self-emancipation who exhibited the rare capacity to absorb the revolutionary energies of the masses of people. He gave leadership to the emerging multiracial and multiclass energies and, along with the WPA, channelled them into a decisive movement for change and liberation. That intervention forever changed Guyana as it reintroduced the revolutionary praxis into the mass consciousness. It is why Rodney continues to live in the hearts of those who were touched by his sacrifices and example. He still stands today as a pillar of hope for a better Guyana in which all its citizens regardless of ethnicity, social class or sex are guaranteed an equal place and equal opportunity to live with dignity.
It was this pursuit of equal justice that would push the maximum rulers of the day to resort to state and para-state violence which eventually led to Brother Walter’s assassination. That assassination brought our country face to face with its ugly political side which has remained a central feature of our politics. Although the use of state violence against political opponents has abated in recent years, the violent nature of the State has not been obliterated. In this regard the memory of Rodney still haunts the conscience of our nation.
For the WPA, the current government’s non-treatment of the findings and recommendations of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry was short-sighted. Despite the imperfections of the COI, its findings should have been better engaged. The government missed a great opportunity to demonstrate to the country and the world that it has transcended the crippling politics of old. It means, then, that as far as the WPA is concerned, the Rodney affair is unfinished business.
Therefore, as we remember Walter Rodney, WPA recommits itself to continue the fight for the dismantling of the authoritarian state. As it was forty years ago, so it is today—there can be no genuine democracy and development without a State and a governance praxis that centres respect for dissent and for human dignity.
On this day and in honour of Rodney’s legacy, WPA draws attention to the need to arrest at all levels the dangerous descent into zero-sum ethnic fear-mongering. While such an approach may bring short-term benefits to the perpetrators, the long-term consequences for all ethnicities are devastating. As Rodney taught us, our historic ethnic problems are best engaged when our people struggle together in pursuit of their just rewards. Unwarranted ethnic hostility is one of the most potent forms of underdevelopment in societies like ours.
In this regard, WPA pledges on this Rodney anniversary to expend more energies in the search for national reconciliation. We reiterate our commitment to a Government of National Unity as a necessary vehicle for such reconciliation and regrets that the government of which we are a junior partner has not been more forthright in working for its realization. Our party continues to believe that no single party regardless of its electoral might could successfully manage this country. WPA therefore lends its voice again to the clamour for constitutional reform aimed at bringing our political arrangements in line with the needs of the country.
As we enter the electoral season and the political anxieties that come with it, WPA takes this opportunity to categorically state that it is vehemently opposed to electoral malpractice as a route to power. This is a fundamental principle of our party that is non-negotiable—WPA will not be part of any overt or covert plan or action to rig elections. To do so, would be a dishonour to the legacy of Walter Rodney and the other stalwarts of our party who gave their lives and sacrifices for free and fair elections that are free from fear. Towards this end our party is vigorously opposed to those in the opposition and other circles who are spreading false alarms about intentions to rig elections. WPA sees or knows of no plans in that regard.
WPA is conscious of the feeling in many quarters, including among government supporters, that the current government has not satisfactorily discharged its promises. As a partner, we take our fair share of responsibility for such acts of omission. In the coming months, WPA will present to the public its assessment of the government’s tenure. For now, we wish to state that given the challenges it has faced, the government has performed creditably. There is much to be applauded even as we acknowledge that mistakes were made, some of which could have been avoided.
Finally, as we approach “First Oil,” WPA is clear about its priorities in that regard. Whatever economic benefits come our way must be invested directly and indirectly in lifting the material circumstances of the citizens, especially the working poor. It is with this in mind that our party has proposed cash transfers to households as one direct way of ensuring this outcome.
We also believe that direct and indirect investment in education from nursery to university must be a priority. Elimination of fees at university is a good start, but the university itself should be targeted for a complete overhaul to bring it in line with similar institutions in the region and beyond. Equal priority should be given to the lower levels including upgrading remuneration for teachers along with improvement of skills. School buildings should be modernized and equipped with modern facilities. WPA is adamant that this is the most effective path to economic liberation.
Finally, WPA challenges the youth to step forward and claim their rightful place in the struggle for change. Young people must demand the mantle of leadership—not beg for it. Walter Rodney and most of his comrades in the 1970s would be deemed youths by today’s standards. Yet they were leading a defining movement for change. WPA stands ready to support any youth movement aimed at social and political transformation.
For WPA Executive
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