President has chance to establish fairness in Rodney inquiry

-Justice for Walter Rodney Committee

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee yesterday urged President David Granger to be fair and suggested that by prematurely closing the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the slaying of Dr Walter Rodney, he could be accused of “civic assassination” of the Commission’s findings.

“…the new President has a chance to establish for himself a record of fairness. Despite the allegations of the PPP, his name was not implicated or compromised in any testimony, oral or documentary, in the public sessions. Having to date not been smeared by the events and manoeuvres of the bloody and felonious assassination of 1980, it is the wish of fair minded people that he is not by his exercise of his authority to close down the Commission, suspected of the civic assassination of the Commission’s findings,” the committee said in a statement yesterday.

Monday is the deadline for the completion of the report by the CoI into the assassination of Rodney. Since assuming power the APNU+AFC government concluded the CoI, citing excessive spending.

Chairman Sir Richard Cheltenham had warned that owing to the imposed and sudden end of the CoI the terms of references may be incomplete.

The CoI began in April 2014 and continued early this year. According to the Terms of Reference, the commissioners were to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, 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 were 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.

The then PNC government had been accused of engineering Rodney’s assassination on June 13, 1980.

In a statement yesterday authored by longtime WPA member, Eusi Kwayana, the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee said that the time has come for direct challenges on the issue of Walter Rodney’s unnatural death which international as well as Guyanese police experts determined from material found at the crime scene was caused by an electronically triggered device.

The committee argued that the issues are crucial and highlighted the Working People’s Alliance – Rodney’s party – inclusion in the governing APNU+AFC coalition and warned that it cannot be seen as undermining the CoI.

“The Working People’s Alliance is not now a major political party. Because of its record, however, many will be concerned how it is treated within the Coalition,” the statement said.

“Those still alive who cherish Walter Rodney’s living call for all time, “People’s Power, No Dictator!” and use it as a measure of political health may number more than five thousand, the Coalition’s slim majority. Its consultants will advise it that even for no higher motive than self-preservation it cannot directly or indirectly be seen as undermining the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry,” the statement warned.

The committee said that government’s principal legal adviser, Attorney General Basil Williams, “the main anti-Rodney protagonist in the Inquiry,” belongs to a learned profession many of whose members are dedicated to the upholding of ethical governance.

“Clearly he cannot allow these events to go by without a statement on the quality of the earlier trial of Donald Rodney (the brother of Walter), a trial which would be a stain on the most backward judicial system. He will be failing in his duty and his professional ethics if he does not move to quash Donald Rodney’s mistrial and conviction. The withholding from the court and the defence of evidence favourable to the defence is a feature of dungeon democracy and must be denounced at the highest level of a democratic legal system and government,” the statement said.

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee had recalled that in 2013, the PPP/C, “not caring to hide its partisan interests inside Guyana,” went through the motions of yielding to Rodney’s family and established a Commission by law “in such a manner as to provoke non-cooperation by some parties and individuals.”

 

Highest level

The committee said that for 68 days over the period April 28, 2014 to July 28, 2015, the highest level of transparency possible in an Inquiry was ensured as it took place in open, public, adversarial session and was broadcast live.

“Any observer of the issues would know that the delay of 30 years, shared between the PNC and the PPP, would reduce the speed of such an inquiry and add to its cost,” the committee said.

It recalled the May 11 general elections and the change of government.

“After revealing a series of suspected financial irregularities of an alarming nature by the former PPP/C government, the new government turned its focus on the Commission and the Secretariat which had been appointed by the PPP/C. Government figures mounted a campaign to discredit the Commission using innuendo to place it alongside the suspect money launderers of the PPP administration,” the statement said.

“The upshot of these developments was a presidential order, made after consulting only one side, and apparently without hearing the Commission’s opinion both as good practice and as a courtesy, that the Commission close down after two further days of public hearings, devoted to lawyers’ submissions and that it submit its report by the end of November 2015. The government gave out that the Cabinet supported the decision without dissent. No one seemed alerted to its prejudicial nature,” the statement said.

The committee noted that government did not announce whether or not the Commissioners were to be assisted by the Secretariat in the period up to November 30 or left to manage for themselves.

“The Government’s clear hostility to the Commission may be a reflection of the failure of the PNC to lead any evidence against Rodney but rather to place its faith in a book claimed to be written by the fugitive suspect in the crime, Gregory Smith, and published twenty-five years after his death in Cayenne. One witness accused Rodney of planning an act of sabotage with no suggested relation to the date, the place, or the circumstances of his death,” it said.

As it urged Granger to be fair, the committee pointed out too that Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman, “a stranger to the climate of 1980,” described the inquiry as “embarrassing,” without any elaboration.