Thirty-eight years ago, today, Dr Walter Rodney was brutally murdered by the government of the day. Since June 13, 1980 supporters of Rodney and Forbes Burnham have sparred, mostly indirectly, over Burnham’s innocence in the matter. Did he know of the deed? Did he order it? Many Rodney supporters would answer those questions in the affirmative while most Burnham supporters would exonerate the founder leader. Some Burnham supporters who have had the courage to accept responsibility for the deed have charged Rodney with intending to violently overthrow the government and they justify his murder on those grounds.
Before Rodney’s murder, there were political murders and since June 1980 there have been other political murders in Guyana. I know many Burnham’s supporters who have condemned those political murders after 1980 and have rubbished the claims by the offending government—not their government, of course— that the victims were trying to violently overthrow them. The present government, which includes Rodney’s WPA’s in name but not in substance, rejected the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that found the Burnham government guilty of the offence.
How could the founder-leader, the god-like visionary of our independence be ever guilty of involvement in such acts, they ask. It is the contradiction of our Guyanese-Caribbean psyche that we are not ready to contemplate and accept. But it is one that we must inevitably confront not before long. Not even oil will spare us that historical task. I shall not cease reminding us of that task.
So, we remember Rodney today, not to glorify him as some would have us believe—who Jah bless no man curse. His glory lies in his undying contribution to Guyana-Caribbean, African and world civilization which directly enriches the minds of serious worker-thinkers and finds its way in policies that daily free humanity from the shackles of ignorance and unfreedom of all kinds all over the world. Where Walter Rodney walks and dwells he takes an honourable Guyana with him. Give Thanks.
We remember Rodney today to remind Guyana that our Guyanese independence is still a long way from the freedom we deserve. We remember Rodney to remember that public servants and other workers still can’t earn a living wage, that sugar workers still cry out for justice, that crime and violence still haunt our streets and our homes, that government still remains the personal property of the governors, that ethnic mistrust still is the rule.
We remember Rodney to remind Guyana that political fear is still part of governance, that political spite still walks the halls of governance, that governors still like power and its trappings more than serious policy, that the poor are still powerless, and that peoples power is still suppressed by dictatorship. And above all we remember Rodney to irritate and disturb the enemies of freedom for all and uplift the angels of hope, resistance and overcoming.
For me, freedom can only be attained by the overthrow of bad governance—it was so in Rodney’s time and so it is thirty-eight years after his murder. As Martin Carter wrote back then on Rodney’s murder: “Assassins of conversation/ They bury the voice/ They assassinate, in the beloved Grave of the voice/ never to be silent.”
Believer that Walter Rodney was
murdered by the Government