Despite reports that an extension has been granted to the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI), the parties involved are yet to be officially notified of this.
Yesterday was the deadline for the submission of the commission’s report, based on the instructions of President David Granger.
However, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was quoted by online news agency Demerara Waves as saying that an extension sought by a commissioner was granted and that the commissioners now have up to December 15 to submit the final report.
Contacted yesterday, attorney Christopher Ram, who represented the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), of which Dr Rodney was a co-founder, noted that the proper thing ought to have been to officially notify the counsel for the various parties involved in the CoI.
“I think that if a request had been made for an extension, out of courtesy the counsel ought to have been notified. That is the proper thing to do. I haven’t been told anything,” he said.
Asked what’s next for him, he said that he was at a loss as to what to do because as far as he is concerned he had received no official communique that the commission has been granted additional time in order to complete its report.
Stabroek News attempted to make contact with several CoI officials but was unsuccessful.
Nagamootoo, meanwhile, was said to be in a meeting and up to press time his office had not returned a call to this newspaper. Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman also could not be contacted. Secretary to the Commission Hugh Denbow was out of office all day and he too could not be reached.
The PPP had previously warned the government not to delay the public dissemination of the commission’s report, while saying such an act would be viewed with “deep suspicion.”
The reported extension has come just days after a petition with over 1,000 signatures was handed over to Trotman by rights activist Karen de Souza on behalf of the UK-based Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign. Similar action was taken at Guyana’s Washington DC embassy and its Jamaica High Commission.
The Campaign petitioned the government for the commission to be allowed to sit for two more weeks so as to complete its work. In a press statement issued last Friday, it said a proper investigation of Rodney’s death was at various times avoided and frustrated by the PNC under the leadership of the late Forbes Burnham and then by the PPP/C under four presidents.
“The refusal by the Granger-led coalition government to allow the commission to complete its work now threatens to undo more than one year’s work and to deny Guyanese the opportunity to finally establish the truth of the death of one of Guyana’s great sons,” it said, before criticising the present coalition government for attempting to “undermine and discredit” the CoI within days of entering office and without proposing a better alternative.
The CoI was set up by the former Donald Ramotar government, which said it wanted to clear up all outstanding questions surrounding Rodney’s death.
Dr Rodney was killed in a bomb blast on June 13, 1980 and the then PNC government had been accused of engineering his death.
One of the main objectives of the CoI was to enquire into the cause of the explosion, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so who were the perpetrators.
In April last year, the CoI, led by Barbadian Sir Richard Cheltenham, Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam, began its work and the hearings continued during the first half of this year. At least two dozen persons had testified before the commission.
The cost of the CoI, which came to an end on July 28, was pegged at least $324 million, including a US$7,300 monthly fee paid to freelance journalist Shaun Samaroo to report on the inquiry and produce a book and documentary on the findings.