PNCR alarmed at revelation of Sir Richard’s tribute to Rodney in 1980

The PNCR says the disclosure by the media of an article in the Barbados Advocate newspaper dated June 30th 1980 in which Sir Richard Cheltenham paid tribute to Dr Walter Rodney will raise questions about his impartiality as he is now the Head of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the historian’s death.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PNCR, which is boycotting the CoI, said the disclosure is “cause for grave alarm concerning the impartiality of the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney. It is clear from the report in the Advocate News, that Sir Richard Cheltenham not only knew Dr. Walter Rodney, but was an admirer and was inspired by him”.

On Tuesday, when Stabroek News asked Sir Richard about the report he said no inference of bias should be drawn from this as the two did not share a close relationship.

When told of the article, dated June 30, 1980 and which was published in the Barbados Advocate, he said that it was brought to his attention on Monday. He said that he did not have any immediate recall of it but eventually did.

He said that he could have gone “wholly oblivious of that had it not been for someone bringing it to my attention.” He said that he hopes that no none will draw any inference of bias.

Sir Richard Cheltenham
Sir Richard Cheltenham

According to Sir Richard, it is a historical fact that he had spoken at the memorial service. “I don’t think that it should be an issue,” he said before adding that the article states nothing about any close relationship between himself and Dr. Rodney.

He said that they did “overlap” one year at the Mona Campus, in Jamaica. “We were students in different halls…..we were not close. We were not roommates. That is a fact,” he said adding that the tribute that he did was based on published records and the fact that he knew him and his reputation. “I don’t know what reasonable inference can be drawn from that…. For me it should not be an issue and no inference of bias should be drawn from it,” Sir Richard said again, stressing that his contributions at the memorial service were based on public records.

“It is a naked fact. No inference of bias should be drawn…given the length of time,” he added.

In the article, headlined “Cheltenham pays tribute,” Sir Richard was reported as saying that Dr. Rodney was a Caribbean man and a Third World Man who believed that the Third World and Caribbean countries because of their colonial past had similar problems which called for a related if not similar strategy.

“In Rodney’s death, the Caribbean has lost one of the finest minds of his generation. God blessed him with a richness of intellect, a power of conceptualisation, a clarity of thought and an ease of expression which was the privilege of few. In this and other respects, he had abilities beyond the reaches of most men,” the article quoted him as saying.

The PNCR says it feels that prior disclosure of such an acquaintance, though not impugning the Chairman’s impartiality, could have forestalled public misperceptions. The PNCR is boycotting the CoI over its objections to one of the terms of reference and to the presence on the panel of Trinidad-based attorney Seenath Jairam. A panel of lawyers is however attending the hearing on its behalf.

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