Opposition leader David Granger on Friday accused the ruling PPP/C administration of seeking to damage the reputation of the PNCR through the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dr Walter Rodney as elections potential loom.
At a press conference at the Office of the leader of the Opposition on Friday, Granger, who is the leader of the PNCR as well as APNU Members of Parliament Basil Williams and Joseph Harmon reiterated their criticism of the inquiry, saying that the motive behind it is not that of seeking the truth but rather destroying the reputations of their members and public servants who served at the time of the Rodney’s death.
Rodney, who was the co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and an activist who had openly opposed the PNC government at that time, was killed in a car near John and Bent streets on June 13, 1980, after a walkie-talkie given to him exploded. The PNCR has long been accused of killing Rodney despite repeated denials over the years.
Granger reiterated the party’s agreement with inquiring into Rodney’s death as well as its objection to the extension of its scope to include examining and reporting on the actions of the state and its arms to determine whether they were tasked with the surveillance of and political opposition for the three year period of 1978 to 1980.
He charged that the objective of the PPP/C administration is seeking to gain a political advantage by unashamedly provoking resentment against the PNCR rather than pursuing the truth. He further contended that the administration has deliberately waited on the onset of local government elections to divert public attention from the prevalent problems of crime, corruption, incompetence and conflict within the PPP/C itself.
After years of delay, the administration’s decision to establish the commission without input from the wider society has attracted criticism, including from the PNCR and the WPA. The parties have also sounded concerns over terms of reference of the commission as well as members of the commission.
Harmon, citing the damning newspaper headlines, specifically “PNC killed Rodney” as published in the Guyana Chronicle, and the bludgeoning coverage of the inquiry by the state media, contended that the inquiry is a calculated effort to get to young people. “It is a PPP/C dictatorship that is seeking to take the people back, rather than outlining a programme for the future. After their blood on the hand approach was rejected by the people in the 2011, they are now seeking to use this going for local government and fresh elections,” he said, while opining that the approach will fail.
Meanwhile, Williams, who is an attorney and is a member of the legal team being fielded by the PNCR at the inquiry’s public hearings to look into its interest, reiterated his misgivings about the acceptance of hearsay evidence. He said such statements by witnesses are speculations and should not be accepted by any legal setting. “To allow them to do so opens the flood gates for all manner of accusations and damage to reputations since it is aired publicly and repeatedly,” he said, while adding that he hoped the commission does not invoke the rules of evidence when the shoe is on the other foot and individuals make potential accusations against the PPP, whose strongholds were being infiltrated by Rodney.
During a recent public hearing, Sir Richard Cheltenham, who chairs the commission, stated that the rules allowed for flexibility given the nature of the inquiry.
While Williams sought to impress upon the commissioner the “politically charged atmosphere” the inquiry was being conducted in, Commissioner Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, however, stated that Guyana’s laws give the Commission the right to make its own rules. “You have said the rules of evidence can be relaxed and adjusted for the Commission of Inquiry and the rules may be relaxed… so while your caution is accepted, when you raise these objections you should be specific as to the matter you are referring and not give a wide-ranging objection,” she said.