Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Co-leader Rupert Roopnaraine has admitted that the party was accumulating weapons long before the murder of Dr Walter Rodney—the first admission of the kind by any member of the party leadership.
“We were accumulating weapons… we were accumulating equipment of various kinds. A certain amount of that was coming from the, from the military,” Roopnaraine said during an interview included in a recent documentary film, W.A.R Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney.
When contacted by Stabroek News, Roopnaraine, who is currently overseas, confirmed his remarks and said he was speaking about activities the party was engaged in well before June 13, 1980. He also said he would not retract anything he said in the film.
The documentary, made by Guyanese Clairmont Chung, was first screened here publicly by him two Saturdays ago at the Theatre Guild Playhouse. He said it is clear that the WPA was never in a position to overthrow the state by weapons and he noted that while no one was killed by the activities of the party, the same could not be said of the actions of the state at the time.
Rodney, a historian and co-leader of the WPA, was killed in mysterious circumstances on June 13, 1980. The PNC, the party in government at the time, has long been accused of assassinating Rodney, in a plan hatched by the Forbes Burnham-led administration, but it has denied all responsibility. Rodney’s political agitation had been seen as a threat to the PNC’s rule.
Roopnaraine’s comments have, in part, prompted the Rodney family and the Walter Rodney Foundation to issue a notice and disclaimer. “Both the Walter Rodney Founda-tion and the Rodney Family disagree with statements made by one or more of the interviewees and the inferences and conclusions that are or can be drawn therefrom,” they stated in the disclaimer, which they requested be, either in whole or in part, noted and reproduced whenever and wherever the film is promoted, reviewed, shown or shared.
Additionally, they say that the views expressed in the documentary are solely and respectively those of Chung and those of the individual narrators and/or interviewees. Further, they point out that notwithstanding the film’s credits, the Walter Rodney Foundation did not collaborate on the project and has requested that the producer/ filmmaker cease and desist from using the name of the foundation and remove its reference therefrom. “The Rodney family, in part, was interviewed during the earlier phase of the film’s research, but did not review, edit, accept or release the final product,” they state. “The statements made by the family within the production are clear and limited in both time and context. The inclusion of interviews of the family does not infer, presume or conclude that the family concurs, agrees or otherwise supports the film, in part or in its entirety.”
Rodney died in a car near John and Bent Streets, after a walkie-talkie—given to him by Gregory Smith—exploded. His brother, Donald, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, escaped serious injury. Donald Rodney later explain-ed that an acting sergeant in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had given his brother the walkie-talkie and instructed him to test it near the perimeter of the Georgetown Prison, in order to observe whether the extensive metal wall would interfere with the transmission.
Smith, believed to be responsible for Rodney’s death, died in 2002, after a prolonged illness in French Guiana. He had fled Guyana soon after Rodney’s death and later surfaced in French Guiana. How Smith left the country and the army’s role in Rodney’s death remain unclear. However, in 1987, in interviews with Stabroek News and CANA Radio, he said Rodney’s death was the result of an accident. He did not offer any evidence in support of the claim.
Smith was charged, in absentia, with Rodney’s murder in 1996, however the PPP/Civic administration never succeeded in extraditing Smith from French Guiana to stand trial, owing to the absence of an extradition treaty between Guyana and France. French law also prohibits the extradition of persons in French territories to countries where capital punishment is in force. The French government had, however, indicated that it would be prepared to return Smith if it were satisfied that the information on which the murder charge had been based, met the criteria of France’s judicial system.
In May 2005, the PNCR said it would support an international probe of Rodney’s death, giving the party’s first commitment to an international investigation.
Full text of Notice and Disclaimer about W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney
“The views expressed in W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney and related publications, communications are solely and respectively those of the Producer and Filmmaker Clairmont Chung and those of the individual narrators and/or interviewees as they so state.
On information and belief, the film’s credits note that the Walter Rodney Foundation collaborated on the film. The Walter Rodney Foundation did not collaborate on this project and has requested that the producer/filmmaker cease and desist from using the name of the Foundation and remove its reference therefrom.
“The Rodney family, in part, was interviewed during the earlier phase of the film’s research, but did not review, edit, accept or release the final product. The statements made by the family within the production are clear and limited in both time and context. The inclusion of interviews of the family does not infer, presume or conclude that the family concurs, agrees or otherwise supports the film, in part or in its entirety.
“Both the Walter Rodney Foundation and the Rodney family disagree with statements made by one or more of the interviewees and the inferences and conclusions that are or can be drawn therefrom. The Walter Rodney Founda-tion and The Rodney family have requested that this disclaimer, in whole or in part, be noted and reproduced whenever and wherever the film is promoted, reviewed, shown or shared, to the extent it is within the control of the producer/filmmaker, its agents, successors and assigns.
“In addition, the Walter Rodney Foundation and the Rodney family assume no responsibility or liability, direct or indirect, arising from the content of the film, its reviews, publications, communications and archives for any error, defamation, libel, slander, omission, falsehood, danger, or inaccuracy contained in any such information.”