Rodney CoI flawed – Henry Jeffrey

Columnist Henry Jeffrey says there are good grounds for concern over the Commission of Inquiry into the killing of historian Dr Walter Rodney and the process may conclude without delivering what was intended.

In a column to appear in tomorrow’s Stabroek News, Jeffrey noted the reservations of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) over the CoI and said “…in our political situation, consensus must be arrived at about both the process and personnel if the outcome of this kind of inquiry is to have the necessary level of acceptability”.

He pointed out that the WPA – which Rodney headed at the time of his death in 1980 – and the PNC – which has been accused of his killing – have objected to the appointment of one of the commissioners, Trinidad-based Seenath Jairam on the ground that he has taken legal work from the PPP/C government and may therefore be biased in favour of that party. More recently, he noted that the PNC has also stated that chairperson of the Commission, Sir Richard Cheltenham is in a conflict of interest position as he failed to disclose that he knew Rodney and spoke at a memorial service held for him in Barbados in 1980. Jeffrey said that he believes that there are good reasons for concern on both counts.

“Firstly, this inquiry is not simply a matter of taking a legal brief and presenting before a judge as some would have us believe. It is about carrying out an investigation into a very controversial historical issue in a highly charged ethnic/political situation where the perception of party allegiance is based on race and connections.

“Secondly, I believe that too many foreigners, even from the Caribbean, misconstrue Guyana’s unique political situation. Here we live in at best what I called last week a democracy without the other political virtues. Unlike other Caribbean countries, first autocratic rule and now ethnic voting mean that regime change has been extremely infrequent, and before the 2011 elections, governments hardly paid attention to the opposition. As a result, all our governments since independence have had very limited legitimacy, which has now been exacerbated by the minority status of the present regime.

“Therefore, in our political situation, consensus must be arrived at about both the process and personnel if the outcome of this kind of inquiry is to have the necessary level of acceptability”, Jeffrey, who has had a long association with both the PNC and PPP/C said.

The columnist also said that the PPP seems to have fast-forwarded the inquiry for purely political and propaganda purposes.

The CoI is to resume taking testimony later this month.

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