Convict Robert Allan Gates yesterday testified that during the latter part of 1980 he was locked up for 30 days by police after being accused of working with the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as being sympathetic towards the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and it was only after the intervention of Hamilton Green that was he released.
Resuming his testimony before the Commission of Inquiry into the death of historian and WPA co-leader Dr Walter Rodney, Gates said his release came about a half an hour after Green, then the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Housing and Planning, made a telephone call to an unknown person.
Green, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News yesterday that he couldn’t remember the episode. He recalled that when he was a minister of the government people would regularly visit him with complaints of injustice meted out to them by the police. He said that in each case he would investigate and if he found that there was indeed an injustice, he would ask senior officers to address it. He stressed that while he held the office he sought justice for many people and while it is “quite possible” that Gates’ mother had approached him to intervene for her son’s release, he couldn’t recall the particular case.
Gates, an ex-policeman who is currently serving a prison sentence for obtaining money by pretence, had previously testified that he was part of a 13-man squad which was divided into three units – a patrol unit, an intelligence unit and a unit whose members executed people. He has said that after being threatened by a superior he was planted as an undercover agent in the WPA and was later promised a large sum of money and free passage out of Guyana if he facilitated the killing of Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine. He said he did not carry out the order and absconded.
During his second appearance before the commission, he testified yesterday that he had been blindfolded outside the office of the then Crime Chief Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts and taken to the compound of the Special Branch office opposite Queen’s College on Camp Street. He said he was placed in a cell for 30 days and threatened and interrogated, during which time it was put to him that he worked for the CIA and was sympathetic to the WPA.
He said he was blindfolded whenever he was removed from his cell and he was unable to see who his interrogators where. He recalled that on the 30th day, he was able to recognize some of the voices of the persons that came. He said that he recognised the voice of an inspector who asked him whether he knew Green. He said that when he did not respond, he was taken to the Roberts’ office, located at CID Headquarters, and he claimed Roberts told him he did not play a part in what had happen and that it was the doing of Laurie Lewis.
He was released sometime in November 1980 and he went to his mother’s home. He said his mother, who is now deceased, recounted that from the day after his arrest she had visited the offices of the then Commissioner of Police Lloyd Barker as well as the Minister of Home Affairs Stanley Moore but they were unable to help her as according to them they were too small to deal with the matter.
He opined that after hearing this, he concluded that the orders to have him arrest were coming from late President Forbes Burnham.
According to Gates, his mother visited Green’s office on the advice of a neighbour and she related what had transpired. Green, she later told her son, immediately picked up the phone and gave instructions for him to be released immediately.
He said that the morning after he was released he went to Green’s office. He saw Green, who apologised before taking the opportunity to offer him a job in the advance security section. However, he opted not to take up the post at that point and, according to him, Green in parting told him that the world was very rough.
Gates then proceeded to explain aspects of his stints at GEB Security Services and a local insurance company. His stint at GEB was terminated because Lewis wrote to officials at the company saying that he was a threat to national security. The other job came to an end after he heard that about 10 men dressed in shirt jacs visited looking for him and it was out of fear that he left.
He maintained that it was not the first time he was telling his story and he noted that he had written to newspapers over the years about his desire to testify at an inquiry. He said too that he had recounted his experience to many persons, including a close friend of Dr. Roopnaraine.
At one point, Lead Counsel for the commission Glen Hanoman proceeded to ask the witness about an appearance on a television programme that he was on in 2003. Attorney Basil Williams, who is representing the PNCR, objected to this line of questioning, saying it fell outside of the timeframe to be examined by the commission as set out in its Terms of Reference. He also indicated that a recording of that interview should be before the commission and noted that it would be easy to obtain this as the television station is still in existence.
Gates noted that he is telling his story because it was “something resting on my conscious… I wanted the world to know.” He said that open confession was good for the soul.
Under cross examination by attorney Keith Scotland, who is representing the interest of Donald Rodney, Gates was showed several disparities between statements he made and evidence given by Major General (retired) Norman McLean. However, he stuck to his story and maintained that those aspects of the evidence was based on his knowledge.
Gates stated that as it relates to the trial of Donald Rodney who was charged with being in possession of explosives without lawful authority, it was “crystal clear” that it was Roberts who was the person calling the shots even though someone else was the charging officer. He said that the officer would have been acting on instructions coming from Roberts.
He said that the WPA was a threat to the PNC administration and it was obvious that Donald Rodney was associated with that threat. He said that the various intelligence agencies would compile reports and submit them the Lewis.
According to Gates both Roberts and Lewis reported directly to Burnham and not the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner of Police, he said, would report directly to the Minister of Home Affairs.
For the first time since start of the public hearings hosted by the commission a prison officer was visible in the audience. The female prison officer, who was dressed in her uniform, took up seating in a section of the building where she could clearly see Gates. There had been concern that no prison officers were present during Gates’ previous appearances during the commission of inquiry.
Gates returns to the stand today, when Scotland will continue his cross examination.