Rodney didn’t harbour personal hatred for Burnham, Kwayana says

-during grilling over ‘King Kong’ reference

Despite the use of derogatory statements and accusations directed at the late LFS Burnham during one his speeches, slain historian Dr Walter Rodney did not harbour “a personal hatred” for the then leader of the People’s National Congress (PNC), veteran politician Eusi Kwayana yesterday said.

Kwayana continued giving evidence for a fourth day at a public hearing hosted by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) set up to probe the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney, a co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

During cross-examination, one of the PNCR’s lawyers, Basil Williams explored many parts of one of the tendered documents – “The struggle goes on. A speech by Walter Rodney.”

Kwayana during questioning yesterday in the Supreme Court library said that the `King Kong’ that Rodney was referring to in his speech was Burnham.

”King Kong has decided that he wanted to build a palace to his own ego and a monument to his own stupidity. So that he could sit inside and be a monument inside a monument. One of the brothers in the audience, when we were at Grove yesterday suggested to us that what was required was to extend the zoo to take in the Residence and then we would have one of the most prized exhibits of any zoo in the world. People would come from all over the world and pay money to see King Kong”, Williams read.

He continued “…to say that if there ever was such a thing called Midas touch which was the touch that made everything turn into gold, then we will have a new creation in this society – the Burnham touch where everything he touches turns to shit.”

Kwayana accepted the parts that Williams read. After one of the paragraphs was read, he agreed that Rodney recognised that supporters of a party can take matters into their own hands without the leadership’s knowledge.

He said that he did not agree that Rodney harboured a personal hatred for Burnham. “It was political disagreement and rejection of the Burnham regime,” he said.

Even though Williams read paragraphs from the book which contained statements directed at Burnham, Kwayana insisted that he was not convinced that Rodney had a personal hatred of Burnham.

He later said that he would not dispute that Rodney was being resolute about his declaration of getting rid of Burnham and the PNC.

During the cross-examination Williams introduced “Walter Rodney and the Question of Power”, written by CLR James, a revolutionary Marxist.

“…Walter saw that his WPA had many good things about it but he realized that Burnham was ready with the police and the army. He had them to use against the revolutionary movement and against the people. And Walter became too nervous, too anxious about it. He did not wait for the revolutionary people and the revolutionary class to be in conflict with the government before he could start the question of the insurrection,” Williams read from it.

“…that is why Walter found himself in a car with a member of the Burnham army making some arrangement about some gadget that turned out to be an explosive. He never should have been there. No political leader had any right to be there….” Williams continued.

Asked if he was aware that James had accepted Gregory Smith’s versions of what had happened and not the version of Donald Rodney, Kwayana said that he doesn’t know that he (James) had heard Smith’s version. He added that James had never addressed the question of Smith being in the car. He said that this information only came up when Smith’s sister published a book of the events. This was long after James died in 1989. Kwayana said that he too was not aware of this before then. Kwayana said that he was not aware that James was very critical of Dr. Rodney’s action and activities in Guyana and he added that he disagreed with the assertions made.

Williams was asked by the Chairman of the CoI, Sir Richard Cheltenham, about the relevance of his line of questioning to the Terms of Reference. Williams said that James was introduced in earlier testimony and added that everything being said was “pure speculation and opinion.”

Kwayana was also questioned by attorneys Andrew Pilgrim, who represents the Rodney family, Keith Scotland, who represents Donald Rodney, and Christopher Ram, who represents the WPA.

Pilgrim focused his attention on clarifying a number of issues, including extrajudicial killings, the right to life and the equality of the races. Scotland made aspects of the 1966 and 1980 constitutions one of his focus areas. He then moved on to the timeline from when the killing occurred to the movements made by Smith before he left the country.

According to Kwayana, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) would have had to authorise the use of the plane that Smith reportedly left Guyana in. He added that another factor would be the involvement of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Head of the COI Secretariat, Hugh Denbow, addressed the Commission briefly in his capacity as the chairman of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority. He explained that this body deals only with commercial flights and that military aviation is a “different kettle of fish”. He said too that a witness who was part of the wing arm of the GDF would be testifying at a later stage about the flights made on June 14 and 17, 1980. The commission had previously heard that Smith boarded a flight on June 14, 1980 from Ogle to Kwakwani and then another on June 17, 1980.

Ram partly focused on ethnic insecurity.

Kwayana will return to the stand on Monday when the cross-examination will continue.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of yesterday’s hearing lawyers complained that they were not getting statements in a timely manner.

Williams said that he only received Kwayana’s statement when he was going into the witness box. The Rodney family lawyer, Pilgrim, stressed that the statements are needed in a timely manner so that the lawyers can go through them before the witness gets into the box.

The chairman, in response, indicated to the members of the secretariat that as soon as they get the statement, it should be sent out to all the parties even if the witnesses are not testifying in a particular session.

Former GDF head Norman McLean, who was summoned by the commission, was unable to give his evidence yesterday due to the continuation of the cross-examination of Kwayana. He was informed by the chairman that Tuesday has been set aside for him to give his evidence and as such should return on that day.

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