Jan 17, 2021 Letters
An Open Letter has been sent to the Chancellor of the Judiciary concerning the cases of Donald and Walter Rodney which are pending for the past 40 years. Justice delayed is justice denied! The signatories are representative of the many persons in the Caribbean, from the Diaspora and Guyanese at home who continue to take a firm stand for Justice for Walter & Donald Rodney and who have raised their collective voices again at the start of 2021. The contents and signatories of the Open Letter to the Chancellor are in the text below.
“With the recent launch of the campaign to strengthen public trust in the judiciary, we the undersigned, write to acknowledge the efforts of the Supreme Court of Judicature, along with JURIST, to continue to dispense justice in Guyana. We are heartened by the opening remarks of Your Honour: “Whenever anything changes the ability of the courts to reach the needs of its citizens, steps must be taken to respond quickly, safely and efficiently.” Hence we are inspired to write this open letter at this time.
One concern we have is about the progress through the courts of the connected cases of Donald Rodney, and the late Dr. Walter Rodney who was killed in 1980 in highly publicized circumstances. The latter as a scholar is distinguished internationally, and has placed Guyana on the world map as an origin for erudite achievement. We can add without fear of contradiction that as an activist he has also won the admiration of all democratic forces in Guyana. In 1988 an inquest, delayed eight years after his death, concluded that Rodney died by “accident or mis-adventure” [Guyana Chronicle February 16, 1988– verdict copy not even provided to family] using the conviction of Donald Rodney six years prior as a basis, even though an appeal was outstanding.
However, later there has been much authenticated information in the public domain that Rodney’s death was a deliberate act, including the 2016 report of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) which concluded unequivocally that Walter Rodney was assassinated with knowledge of State officials: thus found three Caribbean Commissioners who are all Queen’s/Senior Counsel, and who heard evidence over several months. We quote three particular findings of the COI:
“We have no hesitation in holding that Gregory Smith was responsible for Dr. Walter Rodney’s death on 13 June, 1980 and that in so doing he was acting as an agent of the State having been aided and abetted so to do, by individuals holding positions of leadership in State agencies and committed to carrying out the wishes of the PNC administration.” [Paragraph 8.22 page 102 COI Report].
“We find on the balance of probabilities that Walter Rodney had intended the walkie-talkie to be a communications device which would have permitted him to be in relatively easy contact with fellow WPA activists and for no sinister purpose.” [Paragraph 8.4 page 102 COI report].
“We find, further that Donald Rodney, whose testimony we accept, was on the night of 13th June, 1980, doing no more than accompanying his brother, Walter, to collect what they thought would have been a walkie-talkie. There is no evidence before us to suggest that the reason for collecting the device was other than indicated by Donald.” [Paragraph 8.5 and 8.6 page 102 COI report].
The full report can be found at https://radar.auctr.edu/islandora/object/coi:rodney_report.
Donald Rodney is a professional in the fields of quantity surveying and law. Forced to obtain asylum in the UK for his own safety and to survive abroad after trial, he never renounced his homeland and has kept his Guyanese citizenship. At the time of his conviction in 1982 he was a senior officer in the Guyana government service. Apart from his conviction under the National Security Act, special legislation which did not observe the accused’s right to presumption of innocence, he has claimed in the appellate court that his defence statements made in open court were removed from the trial court’s records (see SN of 21 May 2019). Yet to date, staggeringly, Donald Rodney’s appeal is still outstanding.
Considering the foregoing, our concern is that these two cases, in dire need of justice, have not been dealt with quickly, safely and efficiently. We believe the court record should reflect the true findings in the case of Walter Rodney. We believe too that the Donald Rodney appeal should be concluded and his innocence proclaimed without further compounding the astonishing delay of 40 years.
Honourable Chancellor, we trust you would understand our deep disquiet until these two anomalies are resolved in the interest of justice and for the benefit of all Guyanese.”
Dr. Hubert Devonish, Professor Emeritus, Linguistics, UWI
Anne Braithwaite, Social Justice Activist, Guyana/UK
Dr. Edward Greene, Chancellor, University of Guyana
Prof. David Dabydeen, Director, Ameena Gafoor Institute
Sir Hilary Beckles, Caribbean public intellectual & historian
Ian McDonald, Writer
Pauline Melville, Writer, Royal Society of Literature
Isabelle de Caires
Stanley Greaves, Artist
Clem Seecharran, Emeritus Professor of History, London Metropolitan University
Nigel Westmaas, Clinton, New York
Rohit Kanhai, Independent Activist, Guyana/USA
Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth
Karen de Souza, Coordinator, Red Thread
Vanda Radzik, Rights & Justice
Bonita Harris, Educator
Jocelyn Dow, Businesswoman
Alissa Trotz, Professor, Guyana/Canada
Charlene Wilkinson, Lecturer, UG, Languages
Ali Majeed, Independent Activist
Leila Jagdeo, Citizen
David Johnson, New York University
Vidyaratha Kissoon, Taxpayer
Danuta Radzik, Human Rights Activist
Wazir Mohamed, Professor, Indiana University East; &
Coordinator Justice for Walter Rodney Committee
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