WPA says members should make own decision on taking part in Rodney probe

-says President has not responded to concerns

Noting that the party has not been officially acknowledged as a participant in the Rodney probe “by the powers that be”, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday said that it members should make their own decision on whether to take part in the Commission of Inquiry (CoI).

The party says that it has not yet received a response from President Donald Ramotar to a letter in which the party expressed its concerns over the Terms of Reference and composition of the Walter Rodney CoI.

At a news conference last Thursday, Ramotar had said that he would soon respond to the letter. In the letter, the WPA warned of “grave defects” in the impending CoI into the death of party leader Dr Walter Rodney, which it says runs the risk of poisoning the political environment.

Walter Rodney
Walter Rodney

The party had expressed concern about the scope of the inquiry, which includes examining the possible state surveillance of the political opposition, and the appointment of Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam on the commission.

In a statement yesterday, the party pointed out that it had formally written to President Ramotar since 7 March 2014. “To date we have received no response from the President.

Ignoring WPA’s ex-pressed concerns on so vital a matter is unworthy of the President and does not contribute to the development of a healthy political climate in Guyana,” the party asserted.

“It certainly is not conducive to the national reconciliation and political healing which had been the last position of the Rodney family and the WPA, as enunciated in a joint statement in 2005 on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary observations of Walter’s assassination,” the statement said.

Stabroek News had attempted to get a comment from the Rodney family and when contacted about two weeks ago in Barbados where he is residing, Rodney’s son Shaka Rodney said that the Rodney Foundation based in the United States would issue a statement “shortly” on behalf of the family. No statement from the Foundation has yet been sent.

Yesterday, the WPA reiterated that the party was not consulted on the creation of the Terms of Reference for the COI. “As far as we have been aware and based on the President’s pronouncements and on remarks of leading spokespersons of the PPP and the PPP/C government, the Terms of Reference was the creation of the Government of Guyana in consultation solely with the Rodney family. According to the government spokespersons, the Rodney family had insisted on the exclusion of political parties from the process. In the absence of any denial by the Rodney family to the government’s contention, WPA must accept the government’s position as factual,” the party said.

“WPA is not one of the organisations which the Commissioners saw fit to meet on their recent support building exercise, even though it has historically been for over three decades the leading voice calling for an inquiry into the assassination of Walter Rodney,” it added. The party recalled that it was the PPP which abstained on its own motion in Parliament in 2005 which sought to establish a COI into Rodney’s death. The motion was supported by the WPA and the PNC.

“After a careful assessment of the issues involved for and against participation in the work of the Commission, bearing in mind the family’s genuine pursuit of closure on this grievous matter, conscious of its responsibility to Walter Rodney, his family, the nation, the region and the international community, WPA recommends that each individual party member be free to engage the process of the inquiry as he or she sees fit, taking into consideration that the Party itself has not been officially acknowledged as a participant by the powers that be,” the statement added.

Last week, the commissioners indefinitely extended the deadline for the submission of statements in the COI. The scheduled start for the hearing is the day after the Easter holidays.

Sir Richard Cheltenham (Chairman), Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Jairam took the Oath of Office before President Donald Ramotar on February 25.

Government took a decision to establish the commission after decades of calls for closure.  Rodney, a renowned academic and political activist, was killed in a bomb explosion on June 13, 1980 after a walkie-talkie was handed to him.

According to the Terms of Reference (TOR), the Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, at the time of and subsequent to the death of  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 Rodney died, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so who were the perpetrators.

Further, the Commis-sioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which now deceased army officer 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 Rodney’s death.

The Commissioners are to examine and report on the actions and activities of State organisations 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.

Since the commission was established both the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) of which Rodney was a co-leader and the PNCR which has been blamed for the death, have raised concerns about the TOR as well as Jairam being a commissioner because of his appearance in the budget case on behalf of the government.

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