I never accepted a pardon from Donald Ramotar

Dear Editor.

Please refer to the letter by former President Donald Ramotar in SN of July 29, 2017 headed ‘WPA calling for government to drop non-existent charges against Donald Rodney is a smokescreen’, which concerns me directly.  The letter has fundamental inaccuracies, based on advice to the former president, or otherwise, and is an example of public miscommunication where private communication would have been of better effect.

Mr Ramotar stated that I was tried and convicted (in 1982) in my absence.  This is not true, and the mistake could have been avoided if police, court or prison records had been consulted, not to mention the files of the Office of the Attorney General itself.  He also said that I could have been arrested once I arrived in Guyana for the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry CoI) in 2014-15.  Though this element is true and remains so today, for the benefit of Mr Ramotar and your reading public, I must state that having ‘jumped bail’ pending appeal in 1982, I later gave up political asylum in the UK in 1989, returned to Guyana and since then I have been living here continuously.  From time to time I have had to travel abroad to work for years at time, not ever having been reinstated in the senior public service post from which I was dismissed, following the false conviction in 1982.  At all times from 1989 to now I have held a Guyana passport and travelled through official ports of entry.  I state this to point out that there was ample time for the police to arrest me, upon arrival, or whilst living in Guyana, prior to the CoI.  Mr Ramotar’s concern about my arrest is clearly based on his inaccuracies surrounding my movements.

The former President categorically states that he granted me a pardon.  I remember as if it were yesterday that I received an unsolicited offer of a pardon through the then Attorney General, Mr Anil Nandlall.  And I remember equally well politely refusing the pardon, citing the fact that the pardon as drafted failed to state that I was innocent in the first place, and that I had faced an unfair trial.  This was on 24 and 25 April 2014, and that was the last I heard from Mr Nandlall, or the former President, until the referred-to public letter of Mr Ramotar, last week.  Even before the unsolicited offer, on April 2, 2014 whilst trying to follow up my appeal I stated to the Attorney General that a pardon would be a further injustice to me (and the legacy of Walter Rodney).  The circumstances of that injustice still exist, and so I have no option but to now publicly reject the pardon now publicly referred to by former President Donald Ramotar.

To place the rejection in context:  in 1980 I was charged with unlawful possession of explosives under the National Security Act.  The state, controlled by the PNC government, was well known for flouting the rule of law and ignoring the human rights of citizens who opposed it. The charge, then as now, was a cover up for the assassination of Walter Rodney, which remains a watershed in Guyana’s modern history, and to which I was the main eyewitness.  The intent of the charge was to show that I was on my way, with Walter, to bomb the Georgetown prison, as disseminated by the then Ministry of Information, and to portray that I lied in identifying Gregory Smith and implicating the Guyana Defence Force.  At the ensuing Magistrate’s Court trial in 1982 a guilty decision was guaranteed by special legislation denying me the right to a presumption of innocence.

A pardon is effective based on the culpability or guilt of the convicted, and if there is no such guilt the pardon is futile.  My position is that I am innocent, hence a pardon is not only unnecessary but is an affront when, as here, the perpetrators go free.  And I also reject the pardon as being an affront.  But the situation deteriorates.  From my court file released during the CoI (or at least part of file) it became clear that the presiding Magistrate choosing to go further, erased my statement from the dock and instead inserted words stating that I said I was on my way to bomb the Georgetown prison, except that the bomb exploded beforehand, killing Walter.  I never said this.  It is hard to see that this is not deliberate, implying as it does, that coming from a main eyewitness, Walter Rodney was on his way to bomb the Georgetown prison, and matching exactly the statement of the Ministry of Information.  This is a further outrage and, as far as I can find out, such substitution, involving  tampering with a statement from the dock, is without precedent in the courts of Guyana, the Commonwealth, or elsewhere.

Other parts of Mr Ramotar’s letter deal extensively with the WPA.  That party too, like the PPP/C, has overlooked this aspect of the attempted desecration of the legacy of Walter Rodney by the PNC.

Contrary to what Mr Ramotar states, my accepting a pardon, rather than removing the charges, would mean me reconciling to guilt, and thereafter it would become more difficult to point out the false conviction and fabrications inserted in my statement from the dock.  I would appreciate if the SN gives my public rejection equal coverage to Mr Ramotar’s letter.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Rodney

(Editor’s note: Mr Rodney sent the following attachments with his letter –

  1. Email of April 1, 2014 from AG to D Rodney indicating that no file information available on the conviction or appeal, but Presidential pardon is possible.
  2. Letter of April 2, 2017 from D Rodney emailed to AG stating amongst other things, that a pardon would be declined.
  3. Email of April 24, 2014 from AG offering D Rodney pardon.
  4. Letter of April 25, 2014 from D Rodney emailed to AG declining pardon.
  5. Extract from Case Jacket No 7634/80 of Magistrate Norma Jackman showing ‘confession’ statements inserted in unsworn statement, sheet 17 last paragraph, and sheet 18 first.)

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