Gregory Smith’s book intended to excuse him from guilt in Rodney’s death – Kwayana

Veteran politician and rights activist Eusi Kwayana yesterday said that the book written by suspected assassin Gregory Smith about the death of Dr. Walter Rodney was filled with inconsistencies and fiction.

Kwayana, 89, took the witness stand for a second day to continue his testimony when public hearings hosted by the Commission of Inquiry set up to probe the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney, continued yesterday.

He testified for more than four hours and he will return to the stand today when he is expected to conclude his testimony before answering questions from the lawyers who are representing a number of persons and organisations during the hearings.

Eusi Kwayana
Eusi Kwayana

Rodney, a historian and co-leader of the WPA, was killed in a car near John and Bent streets on June 13, 1980, after a walkie-talkie reportedly given to him by Smith exploded. The PNC, the party in government at that time, has long been accused of killing him despite repeated denials over the years.

Asked if he had a chance to analyse allegations made in Smith’s book, ‘Assassination Cry of a Failed Revolution: The Truth About Dr. Walter Rodney’s Death,’ Kwayana said that from the time it was published he wrote several articles on it in the Stabroek News and an online media entity, Dayclean Global, which was edited by a WPA member. He said that he made reference to some things which he “felt exposed the falsity of the narrative ventured by Gregory Smith in this book” in the 20-page statement that he had submitted to the Commission.

Asked by Commission legal counsel Glen Hanoman if he agreed with Smith’s allegation that he was in a conspiracy with the WPA and that the WPA had knowledge of the existence of an explosive device in the package given to Rodney, Kwayana said that he thought Smith was specifically responding to the statement of Donald Rodney, who was the person he had seen on June 13, 1980 and who he had given instructions on the handling of the package. “What he said was that he did not hand over a package with an explosive…,” he said, adding that Smith had to respond to Donald’s statement, which had opened up the possibility that Smith had given him a loaded package.

Kwayana said Smith went into a long narrative to explain that what he gave to Donald was harmless and to imply that after he left them they must have armed the device. “I think this was the purpose of the book. It was a book of excusing himself from guilt…,” he said.

He stated that Smith “escaped” in 1980 and died in 2002, but his sister only published the book in 2007. While noting that there is a five-year gap between when he must have closed the narrative and when the book was published, Kwayana stressed that Smith’s whole intention “was simply to come to the very persuasive story told by Donald Rodney. He could not remain silent because it pointed directly to one person… so he introduced a lot of conversation with Dr. Walter Rodney, which to us who knew Rodney was very unreal… ‘the revolution this and the revolution that.’ Dr. Rodney does not talk like that about politics and so this is the fiction in the mind of the ghost writer, perhaps, that they hired.”

He maintained that there were inconsistencies in the book that “don’t stand up to scrutiny”. Kwayana first spoke of the meeting between the Rodney brothers and Smith. He said that the public seems to accept that Dr. Rodney had gone to Smith’s house and met Donald later in a car parked on the street. He said that Rodney accepted a package based on some preliminaries from Smith and the two brothers left.

Kwayana told the inquiry that Smith instead claimed that he took the package out to the car, got into the vehicle and “virtually opened an electronic school, teaching these brothers how to handle the package.” He pointed out that there was a vast distinction between the two explanations given but what struck him was that there was no contradiction that Donald was driving and Dr. Rodney was in the passenger seat.

He said that if Smith went into that vehicle, he would have had to be seated in the back seat. “How is he going to hold this device which he describes from where these two men sitting in the front seat can look back… and crane their necks and focus their eyes on knobs and little things that he was showing them?” he questioned.

He expressed the wish that the commission could experiment with the situation that occurred in the car. “I found this (the situation) very strange and these are the things that give away falsehood,” he said.

He also noted that Smith would have to account for his movement on the night that Dr. Rodney died. Based on what Kwayana said, Smith’s book failed in this regard. He said Smith recounted that he had told Dr. Rodney earlier that he hadn’t time to make the adjustment to the device. He said that at the time of the explosion, Smith claimed he was in the Empire Cinema and after that he went home and found two brothers waiting for him to give him the news of the explosion. He said according to Smith, this was the first time he heard of the fatal incident.

After that, he said Smith said he was taken away from the scene and eventually in a car to an airport at Ogle, from where he was flown to Kwakwani, where his father lived. “There are inconsistencies there…,” he said, later suggesting that the persons who moved Smith were persons from the state machinery or police or army.

He said that according to Smith’s story, the people who he did not name “arose out of the earth and came to his rescue and spirited him away to Kwakwani.” He made the point that when the WPA heard of Dr Rodney’s death, “we had no time to get anybody out of the way.”

Kwayana recalled that someone went to the WPA office and told him that Smith was in Kwakwani and that person gave a signed statement to that effect. He said that it was through this man that the WPA came to know where Smith was.

Continuing to narrate what was in the book, he said according to Smith, after a few days he was told to go to the waterside because persons had come to take him away. “He doesn’t say that these were soldiers or angels or anything but he is again on the move,” Kwayana said, adding that Smith was flown again to Ogle Airport, from where he took a car to the Alberttown/Queenstown area, where he encountered the mysterious Mr. Fowler.”

According to Kwayana, Smith said he and Mr. Fowler talked about the revolution. He, however, maintained that people in Guyana did not talk like that and in fact what had been stated by Smith was fiction. “The word revolution does not come up like that. This is fiction,” he said, while adding that the names Maurice and Fowler which were mentioned by Smith were not those of WPA members.

Smith, he said, wrote that the WPA had people in the upper bracket of the police force and this was the reason he did not want to go to the police.

“So the fiction is his explanation of how he got to Kwakwani, how he returned. Trying to implicate the WPA in his exit to Georgetown was the beginning of that part of the fiction,” he said adding that it is absurd to think that the WPA could have anticipated what would have happened and made all the preparations to get Smith out of town.

Responding to a question from Hanoman about who would have had access to planes, Kwayana said that a number of people had private planes but the difficulty that was pointed out to him was taking off from the airport at midnight without the involvement of civil aviation. “It is a little rare and to this date no issue has been raised about the whereabouts of that aircraft which was making an unauthorised flight,” he said, adding there were very few owners of aircraft back then. He said that surely the Guyana Defence Force had an aircraft at its disposal.

According to Kwayana, dates were absent from Smith’s book. He said that the most bizarre thing was Smith’s claim that he was taken to Cayenne, French Guiana as a results of arrangements made by the WPA. He said that ‘Mr. Fowler’ was mentioned in this arrangement and what transpired at the airport where an immigration officer gave him a false passport–provided by the WPA, according to the book–in the name of Cyril Johnson and an envelope with $300.

He said that he attempted to investigate this aspect of Smith’s narrative and he learnt that the flight that Smith allegedly boarded did not pass through Timehri Airport on the date that Smith had claimed.

Earlier, he testified extensively about how his political life evolved. He spoke of his name change, his cross over from the PPP to the PNC and the eventual formation on the WPA.

During yesterday’s proceedings several documents, including the Assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney and the Report of the Third Biennial Congress of the People’s National Congress and Dayclean Global were tendered as evidence. Kwayana also answered questions on these documents.

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