Amid a flurry of criticisms of the composition and terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dr Walter Rodney, Attorney General Anil Nandlall this afternoon issued a defence.
He addressed criticisms by the Guyana Human Rights Association and A Partnership for National Unity.
His statement follows:
Government is flummoxed at an impetuous outburst from the Guyana Human Rights Association in relation to the Walter Rodney Inquiry. That great doubt exists in the minds of a wide cross-section of the Guyanese society in respect of whom now constitutes this organisation, what causes they prosecute and upon whose behalf they act, are all matters, which though germane, will be put aside on this occasion.
The mysterious facts and circumstancessurrounding the death of Dr. Walter Rodney, have hovered over Guyana like a dark cloud since 13th June, 1980. Over the last 34 (thirty four) years, calls have come from many parts of the world for a credible Commission of Inquiry to be conducted into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney. Shortly after the incident in June, 1980, the PPP, the WPA and indeed, the then newly formed vibrant and focused Guyana Human Rights Association, echoed similar requests. When the PPP assumed Government in 1992, those demands were renewed by many, including, the immediate family of Dr. Rodney and the WPA.
Recently, Dr. Patricia Rodney, the wife of Dr. Rodney and their daughter Asha Rodney, made an appeal to President Donald Ramotar to commission such an Inquiry so that this tragic chapter in the life of their family can enjoy some closure. They specifically indicated that should the Government accede to their request, they would like to participate in settling the Terms of Reference of any such Inquiry and that these Terms of Reference and the composition of the Inquiry must not be made subject of a political process.
President Ramotar acceded to the request and agreed to respect the wishes of the Rodney family.
It is against the backdrop of that historical tapestry that Terms of Reference and composition of the Rodney’s COI must be viewed.The GHRA directed their attack to the Terms of Reference which they, bewilderingly, believe may have“rich potential for stirring up Indo-Guyanese resentment against the PNC.” This belie fis irrational at best and ludicrous at worst.
Like every Commission of Inquiry, this one is intended to bring forth the truth regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney. The Terms of References were carefully constructed to navigate the Commission to that destination. Dr. Rodney was a politician who openly challenged the governmental regime of the day. It is a matter of public notoriety that political opponents of that regime were subjected to various forms of violence, intimidation and surveillance by different groupings. The Terms of Reference are designed to permit, as far, as possible, the Inquirers to form a clear picture of the political situation, atmosphere and environment in which Dr. Rodney operated at the time of his demise. There is nothing ulterior about them.
It appears as though the GHRA accepts as factual that Indo-Guyanese were terrorised and targeted by the PNC. Assuming that this is so, why a human rights organisation would not want such information to be made public through whatever forum, speaks volume of the credibility and agenda of such organisation.
The contention advanced by APNU’s Mr. Basil Williams, in a statement made on 6th March, 2014, that because Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C. appeared in a singular case in association with and for the Attorney-General, infects Mr. Jairam with such a bias which renders him unsuitable to act as a Commissioner on the Walter Rodney’s COI, is hereby rejected as wrong in both principle and law. That it emanated from a lawyer is even more unfortunate.The principles concerning bias in judicial and quasi- judicial tribunal are well known.
For the record neither, the Government nor Mr. Jairam, S.C., as far as I am aware, has an interest in the outcome of this Inquiry.
Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C. has a long distinguished legal career at the Practicing Bar of many jurisdictions in the Caribbean and at the Privy Council, London, appearing for citizens, and governments alike. He has served on numerous tribunals. He acted as a High Court Judge in Trinidad and Tobago.I am attaching the resume of Mr. Jairam S.C. The Government regrets this unfortunate attempt at tarnishing Mr. Jairam’s … professional reputation.
Had Mr. Williams done his research, he would have learnt that Mr. K.V. Jairam, LLM, Barrister at Law, and brother of Mr. Jairam S.C., served as a Member of Parliament for the PNC when that Party was in Government.Also Mr. Williams appears to have forgotten that Mr. Keith Massiah,S.C. a former Attorney-General under the PNC administration, served as a member of a Commission of Inquiry established to investigate certain allegations made against then Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj. Is he now saying that Mr. Massiah, S.C. was biased? Over the years, I am aware that many lawyers have appeared in cases for the PNC but who are not members of the PNC. Is he now saying that all those lawyers are unsuitable to be considered to sit on any Commission of Inquiry involving the Government or worst yet, unfit for judicial appointment? Mr. Williams, himself, appeared for the Attorney-General of a PPP/Civil administration during the tenure of one of my predecessors while he was a member of the PNC, representing that party in Parliament. Is he now saying that he did not act professionally in that matter?
I hope the above vividly illustrate how reckless and unfounded the APNU’s contentions are.