Kwayana to take stand when Rodney CoI resumes

Local political activist Eusi Kwayana will take the stand when the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry recommences on Tuesday.

It is unclear who else will be taking the stand in the days following but there are some persons from the initial list who are still to testify, among them an unnamed ex-policeman said to have been a member of the death squad. So far, Crime Chief Leslie James, activist Karen De Souza, Reverent Reuben Gilbert and Eddie Rodney have given evidence.

Concerns have been raised as to whether the commission has the power to subpoena persons if necessary. Stabroek News was told yesterday that they do have this power which is set out in the Commission of Inquiry Act.

Eusi Kwayana
Eusi Kwayana

Section 10 of the Act states that the commissioners have the power of a judge of the High Court to summon witnesses and to call for the production of books, plans and documents and to examine witnesses and parties concerned on oath.

This newspaper was told that so far persons have volunteered to give evidence and there has not been a case where anyone had to be subpoenaed.

Sir Richard Cheltenham (Chairman), Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Seenath Jairam took the Oath of Office before President Donald Ramotar on February 25.

Government took a decision to establish the commission after decades of calls for closure. Rodney, a renowned academic and political activist, was killed in a bomb explosion on June 13, 1980 after a walkie-talkie had earlier been handed to him.

According to the Terms of Reference (TOR), the commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, 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 enquire 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 organizations 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 carry out those actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.

Since the commission was established both the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) of which Rodney was a co-leader and the PNCR which has been blamed for the death, have raised concerns about the TOR as well as Jairam being a commissioner because of his appearance in the budget case on behalf of the government.

When the public hearings resume on Tuesday they will run for nine days. The hearings will commence at 9.30 am at the Supreme Court Library Building, Victoria Law Courts, Avenue of the Republic & Charlotte Street, Georgetown, Demerara.

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