Kaieteur News – Three things I have reflected on as this month draws to a close and as I am getting to that term that the world has used since time immemorial – “an old man.” The first one was yesterday. I got a book I wanted to read. It was sent from Florida.
In my column of Monday, November 9, 2020, “The horrific, horrible revelation of Fareed Zakaria on the US election,” I mentioned the communist revolutionary, American woman –Elaine Mokhtefi – who went to Algeria after its liberation from France and became a popular person with the revolutionary government.
In that column, I mentioned a passing remark Mokhtefi made about Arab racism in the sixties against African people in an article she wrote many years ago for the London Review of Books. Her autobiography was published recently, but I was not in possession of it at the time. It came yesterday. I have completed it and it makes for depressing reading.
If you want to see how fiery liberation fighters can descend into selfish autocrats then Mokhtefi’s book – “Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers: Algiers, Third World Capital” – is an excellent source. My reading of the book comes at a time when there are two anniversaries that fell in the same week this month. And there is a part of Mokhtefi’s book that connects to these two anniversaries – it is about the decisions that humans make that they must accept responsibility for.
The first one is exclusive to Guyana – the Jonestown massacre. The other is the Nuremberg Trial. In her book, Mokhtefi describes how she was intimidated by state security just for being a close friend of the wife of the deposed president, Ben Bela after he was ousted in a coup by his fellow liberation fighter, Houri Boumedièné, the defence minister.
The very people Ben Bela with whom he fought the French for Independence were taking orders to jail him and harassing his wife. The point is why do people not refuse to carry out orders that involve the committal of heinous crimes? Jonestown occurred in 1978 because at that time, President Forbes Burnham sat at the apex of power and did whatever he wanted in Guyana. In 1978 when the massacre occurred, two years earlier, Burnham decreed that his party, the People’s Nation Congress will have political and legal power over all state organs frameworked in the doctrine of the paramountcy of the party announced as part of a policy direction named the Declaration of Sophia, Sophia being the district in Georgetown where his party head office was located.
Two years after the Jonestown tragedy, Walter Rodney was assassinated. The Commission of Inquiry into Rodney’s murder ruled that President Burnham was involved in the conspiracy that led to Rodney’s death. Boumedièné is dead. Burnham is dead. But many of those who were involved in the plan to overthrow and imprison Ben Bella and murder Rodney are still alive today and the anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials this week brings into sharp focus the obligation of those ordered to commit murder to refuse to do such dastardly acts.
The Rodney Commission named two former military men who were involved in the plot and the post-plot arrangements. Time is going and I guess with the horrible degeneracy that now surrounds the surviving circle of close comrades of Rodney, we will never hear from these two men. We may never hear from two other military officials who were at the apex of the army who were also at the apex of the last government – President David Granger and Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.
The former president was high up in the army hierarchy (de facto second in charge) at the time of Rodney’s death. Harmon was chief of military intelligence at the same time. You cannot reply on Dr. David Hinds of the WPA leadership to make corrections to historical mistakes. He is refusing to. He and I discussed a situation where then President Granger raised his voice tempestuously at Dr. Clive Thomas during a dialogue between the PNC and WPA. He has denied such a conversation ever occurred.
A well known but currently disgraced trade unionist told David and I that former army chief, Godwin McPherson admitted to him that the army was involved in planning the logistics for Rodney’s assassination. David will write to deny such a meeting between the three of us ever took place. People ought to take responsibility for their action and not blame superior personnel. The Nazi war criminals used this as their defense at the Nuremberg Trial which was rightfully rejected and they were rightfully hanged.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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