Former House of Israel priest Joseph Hamilton yesterday suggested that either the PNC government or agents of the state were responsible for Dr. Walter Rodney’s death even as he maintained that his testimony about meetings with top PNC leaders to discuss the disruption of WPA meetings and other matters were factually-based.
Under questioning by attorney Keith Scotland, who is representing Rodney’s brother, Donald at the public hearings hosted by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into Rodney’s death, Hamilton yesterday said Rodney’s death was an act of terrorism because it was an orchestrated plan against someone who was against the state. It was either high ranking officials or the military arm of the state, he said, who had to have been responsible.
At the conclusion of testimony that stretched into a third day, Hamilton, who is now a PPP Member of Parliament, apologised to all the persons who have been affected by his actions/activities while he was a member of the House of Israel. He had told the members of the commission that he was among the members of the religious organisation that, under the directive of the PNC, would terrorise members of the WPA and use violence in attempts to break up the party’s public meetings.
As he had done on Tuesday, PNCR lawyer Basil Williams attacked Hamilton’s credibility and asked that the commission “strike out” all the evidence that he had given implicating persons because “it has no importance and is destroying the characters of persons who have served this country with distinction. It has no evidential value to the Terms of Reference.”
The CoI was set up to probe the death of Rodney, the co-leader of the WPA, who was killed after a walkie-talkie given to him exploded on June 13, 1980,. The ruling PNC has long been accused of his murder but has continued to reject any responsibility for the killing. The commission is also tasked with specifically enquiring 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.
Williams yesterday continued to challenge Hamilton’s testimony about the activities of several persons, including former leader Robert Corbin and head of the GGG party Hamilton Green but Hamilton held fast to his statements about their activities between 1978 and 1980 and that they were among four PNC persons who coordinated the disruptions of the WPA meetings.
Responding to questions posed by Williams, Hamilton said that to move from student priest to King, which was the highest position attainable in the House of Israel, would take between two to six years. Hamilton, who was a student priest during the latter half of 1978 into early 1979, said that despite his status he could have had meetings with the hierarchy of the PNC.
“The PNC was a disciplined organisation. You could not engage in conversations with the hierarchy just like that. I am saying that you were too low down the ladder to be at any meeting or to speak to any of the members of the hierarchy of the party,” Williams asserted.
In response, Hamilton said, “I am saying yes that I did attend several meetings with the PNC hierarchy.” He insisted that all the evidence he gave about the relationship between the House of Israel and the PNC was based on his personal knowledge and his experiences.
Williams then sought to put questions forth about Corbin’s position within the PNC. He suggested to Hamilton that during the time frame in which he referred to and suggested that Corbin was not the head of the cadet corps of the Young Socialist Movement (YSM), the youth arm of the PNC. Hamilton said that at the time Corbin was known personally to him.
Asked about the “sacred cows” he had named earlier in his testimony—late president and PPP leader Dr Cheddi Jagan and Eusi Kwayana, who Hamilton said the House of Israel was directed to not harm—the witness said that he heard this mentioned during a meeting that he attended during 1978. He later said that he would have heard those words uttered during meetings with Corbin, Green, Robert Williams and Emerson Simon. He dismissed Williams’ suggestion that he was not at meetings where those words were said.
Asked if he was aware of the serious allegations he had been making against prominent persons, Hamilton responded in the affirmative and added that he was stating a fact and was attempting to explain only what was happening during that time. Williams mentioned the name of an attorney and a judge. The judge is now deceased.
Hamilton added that he had no problem with the persons whose names he had called and that he was not attempting to degrade their character. He again stressed that he was just stating a fact.
Hamilton also said that based on what he knows, the WPA was not a violent party. He said that he was unaware of PPP breaking up meetings during 1978 to 1980.
Asked if he was giving this testimony because the PPP are his masters, Hamilton responded, “That is not so… I am doing this because I thought it was my moral duty to do this.” He also denied that he was now “drinking soup from the PPP.”
During his testimony, he also spoke of vote rigging by the PNC, abuse of the judiciary and party paramountcy.
Hamilton said too that he was unaware of families of persons who have crossed over from PPP to the PNC being subjected to terror or had bombs thrown at their homes.
The COI continues today with the testimony of former army chief Norman McLean.