Rodney knew he was marked for death

Dear Editor,

For the final time here’s my take on the death of Walter Rodney. It was expected that any Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney once it is objective and genuine was bound to cause much commotion and unease because of the things that were going to be revealed. Let us not tear our shirt up about terms of reference. Moses Bhagwan in SN of May 7 got it spot on: there was a revolution in progress and for the commission to grasp properly what transpired the revolution must be examined to get things into context and proper perspective. The killing of a revolutionary involves the study of the revolution. Anyone wanting to deny that is simply being puerile or false.

Look, I’ve heard some of the weirdest, clumsy, plain silly and conscience-pricking comments in relation to this Rodney inquiry; some of them were the most nauseating, unfettered balderdash and unadulterated trash that left one flabbergasted. Forget the simpletons who merely parroted the poppycock that was bandied around; they can be excused. But when we come to see that these comments were spouted from the lips of our better educated and intellectual sons and daughters then it begs the question, what next? Just where are we heading?

Men have strangled their consciences without shame, cast aside truth and decency as if dropping a bad habit, so is it any wonder that our young people behave the way they do? That our nation is in a state of moral decadence? We come to see that many of the people who like to claim the high moral ground are frauds, hypocrites, wolves in sheep’s clothing – forget all the appellations they so proudly go by. You see people of a certain ilk, men and women of status, in positions of authority that you have come to regard and respect in different ways, often times because of their brilliance. Then you come to know the position they have taken which you know that they know is totally out of sync with all decency and integrity, and you are forced to view them differently in a not so good light.

Many of the comments and theories mentioned above were irrational and just didn’t add up, yet were spoken about convincingly as if they were gospel; most were baseless conjecture fed by those who were uncomfortable and opposed to Rodney.

Now it makes one wonder aloud that such a fine, outstanding, exemplary personality who was an inspiration to young Guyanese, young West Indians and young Africans and whom the world held in high esteem, is being repudiated, smeared and held up to the world like a fool, just for wanting to improve the lives of his people in the land of his birth. Tell me, who dares speak about Africa, about reparations without reference to Rodney and his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?

It is indeed troubling that Walter Rodney, such a profound and forceful spirit is being targeted by those who could not compare to him in any small way. They talk of a long time gone as if the passing years have transformed him into a villain and so the act of his killing is vindicated. Editor, the majority of people, both young and old who followed Rodney did so from being moved spiritually; from an inner feeling of commitment, from being touched by a positive and genuine vibration that radiated from the brother connecting and uniting all people – the masses – who started to believe in a new dawn, an approaching better and brighter Guyana. He moved people because he was for real, wasn’t taking anyone for a ride. It was an unmistakable mood, an unbeatable movement led by a man who trusted, respected and believed in the power of the people and had great faith in their judgment. Thus the dictatorship was threatened, the writing was already on the wall, ‘Tramping man’ was in control and he wasn’t playing, he had to be stopped and stopped he was.

Look, to thine own self be true. Many members of the police force who were on duty during WPA public meetings can testify to the electrifying and captivating experience generated by Rodney during his speeches; their families attended these meetings and they discussed them at home, those senior officers – all of them.

Now there are those who peddled the line of a personality clash between Burnham and Rodney, but as I saw it Rodney was opposed to a system he saw as being hostile to the people and which Burnham incidentally was head of. Rodney viewed the entire scene entirely from an objective standpoint, and of course he sought to destroy that veneer of aura and myth of greatness that Burnham shrouded himself in. It was Burnham who took it personally; if you need a job come see me – the Kabaka! From what I have seen and from all the stories I’ve heard about Rodney from the many people – friends, families, colleagues, political activists, buddies – who were very close to him, like a Messiah this brother knew he was marked for death, knew that it was only a matter of time before they were going to take him out. He saw it coming, and that is why against all warnings he didn’t bother and went on with his activism in spite of the warning bells that were ringing. I say again that he was too good for his own sake; thought very little of his own safety; and didn’t make saving his own skin stop him from doing what had to be done. It was a kind of destiny.

Rupert Roopnaraine was right: when the state makes a decision to kill you there’s nothing you can do; if they don’t get you today then they will tomorrow. Those close to him spoke of seeing tears in his eyes as he spoke of his coming demise and in turn moved them to tears also. The calmness with which he accepted it and vowed not to run and leave the young people who believed in the movement he was leading, leaving them alone to face the fire – no way! That was his choice and it stood him tall. I can personally attest to once hearing him within a small gathering, quite calmly in a kind of matter of fact way, talking about the consciousness of people and creating cell groups all around since “People like myself, Clive and others may not be around for long, at the rate the state is behaving we all will be soon gone.” And that was not mystifying but rather intuition, crystal clear.

No one, but no one after seeing the interview with Burnham and what he had to say on the death of Rodney and against the background of the political landscape during the WPA challenge to the PNC regime would have any lingering doubt that Burnham himself was the author of Rodney’s death. That snide expression along with an insidious smile as he swirled in his chair saying that Rodney was “fiddling with an illegal walkie-talkie they had obtained” in his own inimitable style. His entire mannerism conveyed an acceptance of guilt that even though not spoken, he wanted to get across to all and sundry. He was that audacious: ‘let others take heed we are the ones in control. Comrades we are now in the Roman amphitheatre, the lion and the gladiator can’t both survive, one has to go,’ and he did so again in his own inimitable Burnham style. Those trying to make Burnham into an angel are just pussy-footing, and unwittingly belittling him and destroying his stature, and that he would have resented; that was not the man and his style. What we will never ever know about, is that sign Burnham made to Rodney when their eyes met in Zimbabwe. That can only be revealed in the next order.

Yours faithfully,

Frank Fyffe


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