It could be another six months before the Com-mission of Inquiry (CoI), set up to answer the many lingering questions about the death of Dr Walter Rodney, concludes its work, according to commission lead counsel Glen Hanoman.
Today marks 34 years since Rodney, the co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), was killed in a bomb blast allegedly engineered by the then PNC government and lines have been drawn by both the current ruling administration and the main opposition APNU—of which the PNCR is the main constituent—about the mandate of the CoI.
The Commission began holding public hearings during the latter part of April and so far only a handful of persons have testified. The hearings will resume on June 23 after which there will be a break before another session begins.
Hanoman, when contacted yesterday, told Stabroek News that the three commissioners—Sir Richard Cheltenham, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, Q.C. and Seenath Jairam, S.C.—are among the persons on the commission who are on four-month contracts. He said that those contracts will expire shortly and he anticipates that extensions will be granted.
Since the commissioners took the oath of office in February, there has been no indications as to when the COI is expected to end, although the gazetted terms of reference (ToR) for the Commission states that it “shall tender its report, findings and recommendations to the president within four months or within such time as may be directed by the president.”
Stabroek News had been told that given the amount of persons who are expected to testify at the Commission’s public hearings, it could end in about a year.
Hanoman said while no deadline for completion has been set, he averages that the hearings will last until December.
He indicated that the witness list is uncertain as the Commission may have to call persons whose names have been mentioned during testimony. He said that at the moment the commission is preparing summons to send out to persons. He indicated that while no one else has been subpoenaed, this is an area that the commission has to “rethink.” So far, two persons, Major General (retired) Norman McLean and Captain Gerry Gouveia have been subpoenaed.
While Hanoman said that this action is a last resort, McLean had said during his testimony that he was not contacted before being subpoenaed to appear.
Stabroek News had previously been told that the secretariat has written to several persons and they have indicated that they will not be coming before the commission. Those persons, this newspaper was told, will be subpoenaed.
Then crime Chief Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts is among those who are down to testify before the commission. Roberts currently resides in the United States.
On June 13, 1980, Rodney, a renowned academic and political activist, died in a car near John and Bent streets after a walkie-talkie, given to him by now deceased Guyana Defence Force member Gregory Smith, exploded. His brother Donald Rodney who was with him at the time, escaped serious injury. The PNC administration, then headed by late president Linden Forbes Burnham, whose reign had been opposed by Rodney, has long been blamed for the murder. The party, however, has continuously denied any responsibility. The current PNCR has publicly said that it will not be cooperating with the CoI.
According to the February 8, 2014 Official Gazette, the Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, at the time of and subsequent to the death of Dr. 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 Dr. Rodney died, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so who were the perpetrators.
Further, the Gazette said that the Commissioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which 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.
It also stated that the Commissioners are to examine and report on the actions and activities of the State, including state agencies, such as the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana National Service, the Guyana People’s Militia and those who were in command and superintendence of them, to determine whether they were tasked with surveillance of and the carrying out of actions and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.
Additionally the Commissioners are to examine, review and report on earlier investigations and inquiries done on and into the death of Rodney.