Jun 11, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News –
Sunday will make the 41st anniversary of the death of Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney. In the wake of the June 13, 1980 death of Rodney, the poet Martin Carter wrote about what essentially the point of the killing of the great scholar and politician was, the murder of words:
“Assassins of conversation
They bury the voice
They assassinate, in the beloved
Grave of the voice, never to be silent.”
There is of course good political poetry and bad political verse. In the middle of the Cold War, one particularly cynical verse gained popularity in the United Kingdom, drawing upon the image of the revolutionary Communist, the Bolshevik (or ‘Bolshie’), a limerick that went:
“A Bolshie, the world’s very worst
For everyone’s gore was athirst
So he set off a bomb
With Satanic aplomb
And went off, but the bomb went off first”
In the wake of Walter Rodney’s assassination, what followed on the morning of June 14th was the distribution of a similar, cynical, mocking piece of ‘literature’, shared via pamphlet around the streets of Georgetown. It read:
“Hickory Dickory, Doc
Appointment at 8 o’clock
We wouldn’t need no bail
And this walkie-talkie start talk!
Rockabye Rodney now lives in the past
Dispatched to his master so quick and so fast.
T’was never the intention
That his fiendish invention
Would choose his own lap for the blast.”
It was not enough that Rodney’s death was mis-labeled and propagandised as being his own fault, a result of what was portrayed as both seditious malice and gross incompetence, what would follow was to heap petulant insult upon fatal injury. In addition to the official cause of his death being listed as ‘misadventure’, in what was clearly designed to be the final insult to his memory, his death certificate would also read that the greatest scholar to have emerged out of Guyana – a man whose work is still as relevant today as when it was written, if not more so – as merely ‘unemployed’.
It is against this backdrop therefore that the announcement made in Parliament yesterday by Attorney-General, Anil Nandlall has to be considered. The initiative can be summarized simply by stating that after 41 years, the state is going to officially recognize the death of Walter Rodney for what it was, a political assassination carried out by the government of Guyana under the Presidency of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, leader of the People’s National Congress reform; and that Rodney’s scholarship will officially be integrated into the national education system. According to Nandlall, this came about after Rodney’s widow, Dr. Patricia Rodney, reached out to President Irfaan Ali, to bring final closure to one of the most shameful incidents in our political history.
No doubt, the intention of a PPP government will be called into question – after all, four PPP Presidents seemingly had zero interest in correcting the record on Walter Rodney. Between 1992 and 2011, Cheddi Jagan, Sam Hinds, Janet Jagan, and Bharrat Jagdeo had no apparent zeal in holding any sort of inquiry into the truth behind his death. It was only in 2014 that then President Donald Ramotar initiated a Commission of Inquiry, and considering that he was a minority president facing a No Confidence Motion in a lame duck parliament, his motives for what was no doubt a politically sensitive inquiry could be called into question.
That said, no such pressure is facing the Ali administration. Not only does he have a one-seat Parliamentary majority over the combined opposition but enjoys a comfortable buffer in that the LJP-ANUG-TNM single joinder seat currently occupied by Lenox Shuman is likely to vote in favour of the government. Additionally, we are years away from an election meaning there will be at best fading political capital from the Rodney initiative by the time 2025 rolls around.
Walter Rodney was, as every great man is, a flawed man. He was perhaps foolhardy in not recognizing the direct danger the environment entailed. But he deserved more than his assassination and the crude and crass attempt at erasure that was to follow. It is time he received the recognition and consecration he deserves and for his legacy, his life’s work, to be put to the use of the people whose freedom he fought and died for.
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