If press reports of his statements are accurate, (‘No extension for Rodney COI’ Kaieteur News, December 8; and ‘No more extension for Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry’ Demerara Waves, December 7) Guyana’s Attorney General is not only disregarding the rules of conflict of interest, but as Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, attempting to intimidate persons holding office under Guyana’s laws, and to assume a role from which his office should bar him until a report from the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry has been delivered. More than that, he is attempting to alter testimony given during his cross examination to justify his political analysis. Here is an excerpt of the verbatim report of the cross examination of Mrs Rodney by Mr Williams:
Mr Williams: Did you object to the participation of the WPA in the setting up of the inquiry?
Dr Patricia Rodney: I did not object to the participation of WPA, I said I wanted to have people on the Commission who were neutral. Those were my words. I did not say I did not want to have the WPA be a part of what was going on.
Mr Williams: No, in terms of the setting up of the Commission, Terms of Reference, etcetera. Did you expressly say that you did not want them to be involved in the…?
Dr Rodney: Not in the Terms of Reference. I said I wanted the Commissioners to be people who were neutral.
Mr Williams: So, equally, did you object to the participation of the People’s National Congress in the setting up of this inquiry?
Dr Rodney: Did I object to them?
Mr Williams: Yes.
Dr Rodney: They were never mentioned to me. I did not object to anybody.
Dr Patricia Rodney did not in her testimony deny her request for an inquiry. She denied requesting that the PNC and the WPA be excluded from participation in the setting up of the inquiry. She said she asked for a non-political inquiry.
The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee shares an interest in all incomplete and unheard testimony referred to by the Attorney General in his press conference on Monday, December 7, 2015 at his Carmichael Street office. But it accuses him of shedding crocodile tears. He advised the closing down of the Commission knowing full well what he now laments and for which he must blame himself. Under the Commission of Inquiries Act Chapter 19:03, procedure is the Commission’s right legally and this seems to include the order in which witnesses are called. Since the President has the right to fix dates and places of meeting and the Commission has the right of procedure, it is clearly clumsy for him to exercise the power of closing the Commission without consulting the Commissioners, unless the motive was suspect.
Finally, the Attorney General surely has evidence that the last government’s reliance on carrying the testimony from the sittings on live TV did not help its unpopularity. It is likely that while noting the violations of human and civil rights by the government in power from 1968 to 1985, that is by the unreformed PNC administration of those years, as those violations were alleged and tested by cross examination in the inquiry, voters cast their votes in response to the effects of current policies on their lives.
Although this Committee has been concerned with justice for Walter Rodney it warns that justice has also been denied to others. Will those who conspire to deny justice to an eminent international figure like Walter Rodney, have the moral strength to guarantee justice to the average victim such as Ronald Waddell, Crum Ewing, Blackie, George Bacchus and others? (When an inquiry is mounted it would help if all concerned find ways of supporting it. It should be recalled that the Chairman of the Gajraj inquiry remarked in his report that those who had been demanding an inquiry had not submitted any evidence to the commission. This avoidance of investigation does the population no good.)
Our concerns about an official record are ongoing. The concern over the absence from the public domain of the full submissions of counsel at the COI to the last sitting is now greater than ever. Since the final submissions before closure are of vital public interest, we call on everyone interested and committed to transparency in all associations to ensure the preservation in print of all words spoken by counsel on all sides and their availability to the public without delay. So long as these submissions remain secret, the proceedings of the final day remain or can be viewed as a secret sitting.
For Justice for
Walter Rodney Committee