PNC decides against Rodney Commission of Inquiry

The People’s National Congress Reform yesterday said that it has taken a decision not to participate in the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney.

In a terse statement, the PNCR said this decision was arrived at after a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Party. The long-awaited Rodney Commission of Inquiry is expected to begin next week but it has already been marred by several controversies over its composition and terms of reference.

The PNCR is seen as key to the success of the enquiry as it was under its then PNC government that Rodney was killed under controversial circumstances in 1980. The then PNC government had been accused of engineering his assassination and then trying to cover its tracks.

The PNCR is the main component of the opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which also includes the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which was headed by Rodney at the time of his death. APNU while critical of the composition and terms of reference of the inquiry has not taken a final position on the inquiry. The WPA which has reservations about the enquiry has said that each of its members should make their own decision on whether to take part.

The inquiry is headed by Barbadian Sir Richard Cheltenham QC. APNU and later the WPA had warned of the perception of bias created by the inclusion of Trinidadian Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam on the commission in the light of him having served as lead counsel for the government in its court challenge to the opposition-led cut of the 2012 national budget.

Asked about the Jairam issue during a press conference here, Sir Richard said the attorney general had already dealt with that matter and he did not care to add to it. However, he ventured that the arguments of bias being put forth made no sense.

The third member of the commission is Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jacqueline Samuels-Brown. The trio took their oath before the president on February 25.

The Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior to, at the time of and subsequent to the death of Rodney in order to determine as far as possible who or what was responsible for the explosion resulting in his death. The Commissioners are to enquire 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.

Among other things, the commissioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which army officer Gregory Smith played in Rodney’s death and if so to inquire into who may have “counseled, procured, aided and or abetted” him to do so, including facilitating his departure from Guyana after Rodney’s death.

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