June 13, 2018, marked 38 years since that dark day for Guyana when Walter Rodney was brutally assassinated on a street corner in Georgetown. Since that day, the family, the Working People’s Alliance, friends, colleagues, and working peoples in Guyana and around the world have clamoured for justice for Walter Rodney. At the time of writing, we are waiting on the coalition parties in the government of Guyana to acknowledge the role the state of Guyana played in this brutal act. The collusion between the Guyanese State and the assassin, Gregory Smith was uncovered in the recently concluded commission of inquiry report. Evidence from the forensic experts employed by the government of Guyana to examine the bomb fragments and the crime scene pointed to the fact that the device which exploded in the lap of Dr. Walter Rodney was remotely controlled from a radio frequency normally used by state security agencies.
The Working People’s Alliance Overseas Associates is astonished that this government of which the WPA is a constituent, is yet to implement the recommendations arising out of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry Report. The mental acrobatics and linguistic manoeuvres of the coalition government makes no sense. Why is this matter not yet put to rest, and why the family and close relatives are not allowed the rightful decency and dignity of closure? The human and decent thing to do, is for the government to bury the hatchet. Why continue the assassination of Rodney?
In this statement to mark 38 years since the assassination we use two examples to make the point that Walter Rodney’s legacy and vision is as relevant now as the time before he was killed. Not recognizing this fact would be to the detriment of the future of Guyana. Guyana will move forward when we recognize our mistakes, when we are grateful for all our human and material resources, when we become united, and when we empower our working people to create innovative change.
When the WPA led the push to organize the APNU, and later when it gave up its second-place position in the government to accommodate the coalition with the AFC, its primary aim was to facilitate the long-awaited process of national healing and reconciliation. The magnanimity of the WPA is not disconnected from Walter Rodney’s vision. Walter Rodney is a national resource and should be recognized as such. Very early on Walter Rodney had maintained the view that his vision should be used as a banner for transformation. Transformation is now required more than at any other time in the history of our country. It would be an understatement if we were to say that the coalition government is at the crossroads. This is witnessed in the very bad contract signed, it would seem, in the dark at night with transnational giant ExxonMobil. This contract not only gives away the store. It opens the country to neocolonial takeover in the worst possible form since independence.
This reminds us of the role of foreign companies today in the Congo, a region that boasts 80% of the world’s Coltan, without which there would be no smartphone and no global giant such as the Apple Corporation. We would like to see our working people benefit from the oil find, but we are certain that the current arrangement would not allow for a level playing field. Walter Rodney would have recommended a practical
and fair approach to foreign investment in Guyana. The WPA had always argued that a united people would be in a better position to bargain with foreign capital. From the time Rodney re-entered Guyana in 1974, Rodney tirelessly campaigned, argued and grounded with the working people on the question of national unity. This is captured in WPA’s proposals for a Government of National Unity and Reconstruction (GNUR). And even after he was killed, the WPA did not abandon the vision of unity. This vision is captured in WPAs proposal for a caretaker government in 1990, which though acceptable to President Hoyte, did not find favour with the PPP.
On the issue of the sugar crisis, Walter Rodney and the WPA would have argued for a people centred approach to the modern crisis of sugar. Having said that we are cognizant that the crisis of sugar is not new. The modern crisis began with the closure of the Leonora sugar factory in 1986, which among other things introduced the hardships for small cane farmers of the Canals Polder. It continued with the closure of the Diamond factory in 2010. The problem of sugar is not a political problem, it is an economic problem. We believe that the people can be involved if there was managed diversification.
Oil and sugar should not place us in the crossroads in the same way as bauxite and the IMF arrangements of the 1980s, it is time for innovative approaches to national decision making and national development. In this light, the WPAOA invites the government, opposition, and all stakeholders in Guyana and the Guyanese diaspora to recognize the need for and to push for a national dialogue on the future of the sugar lands and how best to approach the oil finds and our relationship with ExxonMobil. We can do much better as a nation, Walter Rodney believed that we can.