Four days before the Commis-sion of Inquiry (COI) into the death of political activist Dr Walter Rodney is due to begin, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has announced that it will not be a participant in the proceedings.
In a brief statement last Friday, the party said that it has “taken a decision not to participate in the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney.
“This decision was arrived at after a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Party.” No reason was given as to why this position has been adopted.
The PNCR is seen as key to the success of the inquiry as it was under the then PNC government that Rodney was killed when a walkie-talkie given to him by now deceased army officer Gregory Smith exploded. Rodney died on June 13, 1980.
The then PNC government had been accused of engineering his assassination and then trying to cover its tracks.
Following the announcement of the inquiry and the swearing in of the three commissioners, APNU of which the PNCR is a major component along with the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) of which Rodney was a co-leader, had signalled its discomfort with the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the COI. Both parties also had an issue with the composition of the commission.
PNCR executive member Joseph Harmon in an invited comment on March 25 had told this newspaper that at that time the party would not be submitting a statement.
He explained that the party had written to the president advancing serious concerns about one of the terms in the TOR which has to do with investigating the actions and activities of the state and whether it carried out actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.
He said that for his party, “It [this term of reference] was obnoxious.” According to Harmon, this concern was raised during a meeting with the commissioners, as well as in a letter to the president.
He said that the commissioners indicated that what was being highlighted was not within their remit to change. He said that his party understands this.
According to the TOR, the commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior to, 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 inquire 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 commissioners 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 “counselled, 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.
Additionally, all persons shall be granted an absolute pardon in respect of or incidental to all acts or things done, including offences committed in connection with or in relation to the death of Dr Rodney.
Sir Richard Cheltenham, a Queen’s Counsel and Barbadian national is the Chairman of the Commission, which also includes Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Seenath Jairam.
They took the oath of office in February.
The COI begins on Tuesday in the bottom flat of the building which houses the Secretariat. The building is located in the High Court compound.
The deadline for the submission of statements has been extended indefinitely to allow for more persons to come forward.