What has happened to the National Unity Monument in memory of Walter Rodney?

Dear Editor,

Now that an Inquiry into the circumstances leading up to Dr Walter Rodney’s death is to be undertaken I wish to express my concern for the National Unity Monument – a Walter Rodney memorial which the ruling People’s Progressive Party/government has desecrated and has since made inaccessible to myself and the public following the construction of the National Intelligence Centre on the lawns of Castellani House.

A few weeks back, I went to check out the monument. I was approached by a member of security who asked me whether I was looking to spend some “jail time.” I asked him how so? He responded that I was in the process of committing an act of treason. When I responded to him he started cursing me.

So walking on the lawns of Castellani House is now an act of treason? Editor, I am a law-abiding citizen.

I have made repeated requests for a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon since 2011 to have some clarification about what would become of the National Unity Monument on the lawns of the National Gallery now that the National Intelligence Centre has been built there.

In earlier letters to Dr Luncheon I stated that the National Unity Monument was built as a consequence of an independent initiative by myself, and partly financed from the sale of my works of art. My friends – businessman Hemraj Kissoon, Colombian Ambassador Dr Hildalgo May Garcia and the late Gobin Dwarka – supported this initiative. The monument was declared open on the 15th anniversary of the death of Dr Walter Rodney, one of Guyana’s most illustrious sons.

The late Dr Dale A Bisnauth, the Minister of Education, Social Development and Culture in declaring open the monument said – “A better day could not have been chosen for the handing over of the monument. It is a day which commemorates the sacrifice of one of Guyana’s greatest sons. A man who lived for racial harmony, struggled for peace and justice and who paid the price for these fine human endeavours with his life.” Dr Bisnauth expressed the hope that the monument launched on the anniversary of the June 13, 1980 death of Dr Walter Rodney would also inspire Guyanese to live and struggle for the things he did.

The ceremony was attended by President Cheddi Jagan, United States Ambassador to Guyana Mr George I Jones, Canadian High Commissioner Mr Simon Wade, Ms Philomena Sahoye-Shury, members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and artists. The National Unity Monument was endorsed by the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, a man who spent his lifetime advocating national unity.

The Castellani lawn was given over to the artists by the late Chairman of the National Gallery, Mrs Janet Jagan, to beautify with outdoor sculptures. However, upon her death the then President Bharrat Jagdeo took possession of the lawns to build his institution, just a few feet away from the monument. And in the manner reminiscent of the barbarian horde the monument site was ravaged of its bronze plaques, clay bricks that made the walkway, and plants. Since people were aware of the significance of the monument the action was deliberate and well calculated. These people are hostile to the ideal of national unity, to Guyanese coming together to forge their own destiny.

The PPP rulers don’t know what it is to take your own money and do something for your country. They have constructed villas in Pradoville I and II, are given to ostentatious lifestyles, the acquisition of wealth, and a display of vulgarity hitherto unseen in Guyanese politics.

The cruel imposition of the 16% VAT has shown how hard-hearted these rulers have become; low income Guyanese have become paupers, people have nothing put aside for ‘rainy days.’ This 16% VAT has since had several sociological repercussions. Thousands of young men and women are without jobs or opportunities and their lives are ruined before they have begun. Others seek out devious ways of existence and are ensnared and criminalized by the authorities.

Now these PPP rulers shabbily dressed in the 1980 Burnham fraudulent constitution which Walter Rodney militantly opposed in his lifetime, have commissioned an inquiry into the circumstances leading up to Walter Rodney’s death at the request of the Rodney family.

The PPP claim that they are not motivated by partisan political interest, that they do not seek to use the Rodney family’s request to further their own political agenda, which has absolutely nothing to do with Walter Rodney’s ideals of a free, just and humane society.

Walter Rodney’s contribution helped to heal the open wounds of Guyanese nation. He should be so remembered.


Yours faithfully,

Desmond Alli

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