Senior army, police officers aided in killing Walter Rodney -prisoner testifies

Former policeman and current prisoner Robert Allan Gates yesterday said he believes senior members of the army and police aided and abetted serviceman Gregory Smith in killing Dr Walter Rodney.

Gates, who also maintained that a police death squad killed between 25 and 30 persons on the instruction of a senior member of the force, yesterday concluded his testimony to Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI).

For three days, he has given evidence before to commission, which has been set up to among other things inquire into the June 13, 1980 bomb blast death of Dr. Rodney, a historian and co-leader of the WPA.

Robert Allan Gates
Robert Allan Gates

Under continued cross-examination by attorney Keith Scotland, who represents Donald Rodney, brother of the deceased, Gates told the commission that he is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the brothers were deceived by Smith into believing that the explosive device he gave to them was a walkie-talkie.

Asked, who may have aided and abetted Smith in the role he had played in Dr. Rodney’s death, he identified late Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis as well as a former senior member of the army.

He stated that it was reasonable to conclude that Smith tricked the Rodney brothers and that based on the charges subsequently laid against Donald Rodney, he was made a scapegoat.

Gates, who is currently serving a prison sentence for obtaining money by false pretence, has testified that he was recruited by key personnel within the police force to be a double agent. Part of his duties, he said, was to infiltrate the WPA and gather intelligence on the operations of the party and Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, a co-leader. He also testified that he was part of a 13-man police 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. Roopnaraine. He said he did not carry out the order and absconded.

Lawyer for the Ex-GDF Association Joseph Harmon quizzed Gates about his training in intelligence gathering. He said that he completed the basic recruit course before attending the Criminal Investigation Department induction course sometime in early 1978, where topics such as surveillance, information gathering, interrogation and interview, report writing and national policy were covered. He also said that he attended the Rouse School of Special Detective Training, located in California.

Credibility

Gates yesterday faced questions about his decision to appear before the commission and denied suggestions that it was part of a deal for an early release from prison.

PNCR attorney Basil Williams, during his cross-examination of the witness, attempted to hammer away at Gates’ credibility with suggestions that he did not come before the commission voluntarily. For more than an hour tempers flared and Gates got furious as Williams continuously targeted his alleged criminal past and even suggest that most of his testimony was based on heresay.

Gates is an inmate of the Georgetown Prison, where he is serving a prison sentence of 48 months.

Asked if he was a regular visitor to the George-town Prisons within the last 15 years, he said he would not say that. “I have been hounded by outside forces,” he said.

Williams then sought to put convictions to Gates, who almost immediately got upset and said that he had two documents from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecu-tions (DPP) which address-ed the discontinuation of prosecutions against him. Informing those gathered that he was the prisons’ librarian and had been identified to mentor, he denied that he was a career criminal.

The companies he owned, according to him, were the Confidential Investigation Bureau, the Central Bureau of Intelli-gence, Security, Strategic Advisory Services and International Collections. He said that had he been doing well he would not have been in prison. Under questioning, he admitted that despite the many businesses that he once owned he did not own a house, bank account or have money. He said that he lived off of donations.

At one point Williams told Gates that he was in prison because of greed. That comment did not go down well with the commissioners and attorney Andrew Pilgrim. Williams was told by Commissioner Seenath Jairam SC that as a cross-examiner he should be disciplined and act properly. However, Williams insisted that he was within his right and that Gates cannot be allowed to just go into the witness box and slander people. The attorney said that if witnesses cannot take comments being made, they should not come.

Gates later denied that he was motivated by greed.

He was grilled about his lumber exporting business, which later led to the intervention of the Securities Council, which had placed an advisory in the national newspapers to warn persons to stay away from him and two other named persons.

Gates told the commission that the council had approached him and that no one invested in the initiative and that he had taken loans from a few persons. When told that the council said that persons were claiming that they were fleeced of $50M, Gates denied this and told Williams that those persons should be brought to the commission. He said that he had been charged in relation to this matter but the DPP later dropped it because of false information.

Gates accepted that he had been charged with 12 counts of obtaining money by false pretence, which resulted in him being sentenced to four years. He had a lot to say about how he was sentenced. “The magistrate cowboy me. I wasn’t even served statements. Do you imagine that?” he said before explaining that the charges emanated from his non-failure to deliver vehicles to 12 persons.

According to him, he was sentenced in his absence in August, 2013, because he wasn’t notified of the court date. “The magistrate and court officials tricked me. I wasn’t aware that I was sentenced until I was arrested,” he said.

Gates said that he was arrested five months later and has been in prison since January 26 of this year.

He denied that he received a promise or a plea bargain to testify before the commission. “I received a promise from God that speak the truth and he shall set you free from prison not from the walls of the prison,” he said.

Williams told the commission that he was trying to show that Gates was a witness of convenience, given the fact that he was arrested five months after he was convicted and just a few months after the commission started its work.

Explaining how he came to testify before the commission, he said that a statement was submitted to the commission on his behalf and later the commission’s lead attorney Glen Hanoman approached him.

Pilgrim, during his cross-examination, had touched on this issue and Gates again insisted that his coming forth was his own doing. He said that he had written letters in the press indicating his willingness to testify. Accord-ing to Gates his scheduled release date remains September 27, 2017.

While Williams insisted that Gates was not in prison from April when the commission started its work, Gates said that since his arrest he had been an inmate of Cell 13. He added that the records will show that he was not given any special treatment to testify and was returned to the prison on every occasion.

Special assignment

He also answered questions about his role as a double agent, the trips he took with Dr. Roopnaraine to Corentyne, Berbice and his discussions with Smith about the possible overthrow of the government.

Reference was also made to retired Police Commissioner Winston Felix, who Gates had mentioned in his statement to the commission. He said Felix, who was his instructor in training school, cautioned him to be careful while on his special assignment.

He described Felix as someone he trusted and noted that he had conversations with him. He said that he had indicated to Felix that he was on special assignment.

Williams noted that Felix’s name had no business being called at the inquiry and he charged that the witness was trying to target the current leadership of the PNCR party, of which Felix is a member.

Gates had earlier testified that between 1977 and 1980 the special unit he had been a part of killed about 25 to 30 persons and that the members took their instructions directly from a senior member of the police force. He also said that he had personal knowledge about the unit’s operations. It was pointed out by Williams that in his statement he had said that he was in the intelligence unit and was not one of the persons who would go out and execute people. Gates explained that he had personal knowledge because persons who were shot were taken to CID headquarters at Eve Leary and kept there until they died before they were taken to the hospital. He also said that the death squad relied on the intelligence unit for information about wanted persons, among other things.

When the commission’s public hearings resume today, WPA member Tacuma Ogunseye will take the witness stand.

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