The main opposition APNU has voiced concerns over the composition and terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) recently set up to determine how political activist Dr. Walter Rodney was killed.
The coalition’s concerns were highlighted yesterday by APNU executive Basil Williams, who suggested that government has stacked the deck to achieve a specific outcome from the CoI.
Williams, who is also Chair-man of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), which is the largest constituent of APNU, also revealed that the executive of the party has not yet decided on its participation in the COI.
“We would therefore make that assessment as to whether it is necessary for us to participate in such an inquiry which seems to be loaded in the first instance,” he said at an APNU press conference.
Last week President Donald Ramotar appointed the three-member commission. Sir Richard Cheltenham, a Queen’s Counsel and Barbadian national is the Chairman of the Commis-sion, which is also made up of Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Seenath Jairam.
Williams yesterday questioned the appointment of Jairam, in light of the fact that he was a lawyer for the PPP/C administration in its court challenge to the opposition-led 2012 budget cuts.
“Given the very sensitive political nature of this Commis-sion, the Partnership would have hoped that the PPP/C Adminis-tration would have selected Commissioners that are politically neutral, and individuals with no links to the PPP/C Govern-ment so as to at least give the perception of impartiality,” Williams said, while reading from a prepared APNU statement.
Williams also questioned government’s motives behind a number of the Terms of Reference for the Commission, which he said seem skewed to give a PPP/C outcome and also discounts the fact that Rodney might have been responsible for how he met his demise. “We have some difficulties with the Terms of Reference…,” he said. “When you look at the Terms of Reference, it seems that they already know the answer…it seems government desires a specific outcome,” he said.
According to the February 8, 2014 Official Gazette, the Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, at the time of and subsequent to the death of Dr. Rodney in order to determine as far as possible who or what was responsible for the explosion resulting in his death. The Commissioners are to enquire into the cause of the explosion in which Dr. Rodney died, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so who were the perpetrators.
Further, the Gazette said that the Commissioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which now deceased Guyana Defence Force member Gregory Smith played in Rodney’s death and if so to inquire into who may have “counseled, procured, aided and or abetted” him to do so, including facilitating his departure from Guyana after Dr. Rodney’s death.
It was also stated that the Commissioners are to examine and report on the actions and activities of the State, such as the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana National Service, the Guyana People’s Militia and those who were in command and superintendence of these agencies , to determine whether they were tasked with surveillance of and the carrying out of actions and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.
Another area of concern highlighted yesterday was that persons who were a part of the killing could turn CoI witness and would be given immunity. The Commission has been advertising for members of the public who are interested in testifying before the Commission to submit witness statements.