The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has retained civil rights lawyer Selwyn A Pieters, to represent its interest on the Walter Rodney Commis-sion of Inquiry which begins today.
The GTUC had expressed a number of concerns with the Terms of Reference (ToR) when it met with the commissioners during their exploratory visit.
“Dr. Walter Rodney remains a national and international figure and in the present circumstance cannot be looked at as the property of a specific family or group, for he belongs to all of us, and consultation as to the way forward in arriving at the truth should have involved everyone,” the GTUC said in a press release.
The group strongly holds the view that the ToR should have the input of all the Members of the National Assembly since this was the forum that authorised and approved the decision for an inquiry.
Apart from that, the GTUC considers the Inquiry an important factor in the nation’s activities, for Dr Rodney’s death has been used as a wedge in dividing families, friends, associates, political aspirants and communities.
The Trades Union Con-gress says it is conscious of its role as a national organisation and guided by historical developments has taken a decision that it will not stand idly by and allow a national commission of this nature to commence and conclude without labour making its position known.
Prior to Dr Rodney’s death the GTUC had addressed issues surrounding him as a worker, historian and citizen, and on his demise called for an inquiry into his death. At this juncture, while there are understandable concerns about the absence of consultation and the ToR upon which the Commission will deliberate, “the GTUC union owes this society a duty to assist in arriving at the truth.”
“Guyana is advised by history,” the group said. It noted that in 1965 the Burnham administration commissioned the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to address the accusation of racial imbalance in the disciplined services made by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The PPP boycotted the commission. The ICJ said it was also guided in its deliberations by examining the press releases and public statements made by the Party which assisted in informing its recommendations, which led to changes in recruitment policies such as height, size and other established requirements inherited from the colony authority. The Rodney Commission is on record saying it will be examining documents in the public domain.
Consistent with the foregoing, the union cannot afford to have any person or group apply interpretation to any statement made by labour in the past “without having the opportunity to ensure the use of our statements is consistent within the context they were made. Our non-participation would be an abrogation of our responsibility and contribution to this society on the matter and more so denying the country an opportunity in arriving at the truth.”
The GTUC is mindful of the various claims about how Rodney met his death, but no one has been brought before a judicial authority to answer to and/or justify any of these. In the circumstance, there is no statute of limitation barring indictment or inquiry and this can be described as a cold case. This is not unusual and happens throughout the world, resulting in constant examination and re-examination and even judicial review, the group said.
Dr Rodney’s – as a national and international figure – name continues to be used in various pursuits and deserve closure, however long it takes. “Guyana and Guyanese deserve closure to this chapter of our history and an end brought to use of Rodney’s name as a wedge. The GTUC is prepared once again to play its part to the achievement of this end,” the press release said.