WPA calling for government to drop non-existent charges against Donald Rodney is a smokescreen

Dear Editor,

I read in the Thursday, July 27, issue of the Guyana Times, a report of a press conference of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA). In it Dr David Hinds called on the government to withdraw the charges against Donald Rodney which were made in 1980.  He was charged in relation to the death of Walter Rodney.

When the Commission of Inquiry was set up in 2014 this matter was raised with me. I was ready to withdraw any charges. However, on the advice of my Attorney General Anil Nandlall, I was told that I could not do so. Mr Donald Rodney was not only charged, he was tried in his absence and convicted. Indeed, he was sentenced to a prison term. All this was done in the absence of Mr Donald Rodney. It meant, therefore, that Mr. Donald Rodney could have been arrested by the police once he arrived in Guyana.

The other option opened to me was to pardon Mr Rodney. That I did. That allowed him to come to Guyana and to give evidence to the CoI. Actually, there are no charges now against Donald Rodney that could be withdrawn.

I am also surprised that the WPA, and its most vociferous commentator, Dr Hinds did not call for the report to be made public. True, the report has been laid in the House after the PPP/C opposition made a tremendous push to get that to happen. However, the process has been stalled at this point.

The public is unaware of where to go to get a copy of the report. Neither the Parliament nor the government have put it online. Nor is it readily available at the Parliament’s office. As far as I am aware, it was not sent to the libraries. The University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies do not have this report, I am told. Even I, who as President established the CoI, was never given a copy of the report. Even out of courtesy.

The present leaders of the WPA only pay lip service to Walter Rodney. In practice, they treat him as dead and gone. He has become more of an inconvenience to them at this time. I say this because from all their actions in government, it is clear that the PNC/APNU has not changed.

We see them using their appointed speakers to stifle debate and discussions in the National Assembly. Opposition members to that august body can never speak without huge interruptions by the Speaker himself and, of course, the government members. We see the ongoing attempt to silence and cow some of the more vociferous and effective opposition Members of Parliament. Bishop Juan Edghill is a case in point. In my view there was no need to take him before the Committee of Privileges.

During this very Parliament, many government Members of Parliament have committed great abuse but are not hauled before this body. The Committee of Privileges has been turned into a kangaroo court to victimize members. The Parliament is now being used as by the PNC to oppress; not to promote but to stifle democracy.

The present leaders of the WPA are happy with the open racial and political discrimination that is being practised by a regime they are a part of. The destruction of the sugar industry, even though the CoI, which cost more than $80M did not recommend closure, is taking place mainly on political grounds. The seizure of lands from farmers is also being done on political grounds. This is marked in the Mahaica/ Mahaicony/Abary area.

If they consult Walter Rodney’s writings, they would know that he was against these things and further they would become aware that such measures do not only affect the group that is being targeted, but eventually all would suffer. That is the experience of the earlier PNC government (1964-1992).

They have said nothing of the ‘trial’ that is taking place now being used as an excuse to politicize the Guyana Police Force. The CoI to investigate the police is mainly to remove professional officers to be replaced by those who would be willing to carry out PNC diktats.

We hear high-ranking leaders of the regime like Basil Williams speaking about the judiciary in inappropriate terms. Not a word from the WPA! Their silence can be considered as their support for the discriminatory policy of this regime. There is no condemnation. Martin Carter wrote:  “the mouth is muzzled by the food it eats…” Those in the WPA now prefer to stay quiet because they are also enjoying heavy perks. Big cushy jobs with princely salaries. Their children are enjoying scholarships overseas and many other such benefits. They have taken a stand on the side of the growing dictatorship against the masses of working people of Guyana. Walter Rodney, therefore, has become a huge inconvenience to them.

Calling for the government to drop non-existent charges against Donald Rodney is just another smokescreen to hide their new anti-people positions that they have adopted. It is not the PNC/APNU that has changed. No. It is the WPA that has lost its way.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

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