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WPA welcomes inquiry into Walter Rodney’s death

Walter Rodney

Guyana on Thursday announced that an International Commission of Inquiry would ne held into the bomb-blast death of Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) co-founder Dr. Walter Rodney 33 years ago.

WPA executive member, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon but said it would be an “uphill struggle” for the commission to come to a conclusion because several suspected key players are no longer around.

“I think it’s going to make the work of the commission more difficult, not just Gregory Smith but there are other witnesses who would have been able to assist the commission but I don’t know whether or not you are going to be able to find any of them for one reason or the other,” he said.

They include former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert Sergeant 4141 Gregory Smith who had allegedly planted the bomb-in-walkie-talkie that blew up on Rodney’s pelvic region on June 13, 1980 on John Street near the Georgetown Prison.

Smith died of cancer several years ago in French Guiana where he had gone to live under the name of Cyril Johnson a few days after the incident.

Government has not yet named the commissioners. Roopnaraine hoped that the WPA and Rodney’s family would be consulted by government about the terms of reference for the probe team. “It’s long overdue and I wish it well and I hope that there will be action following the announcement,” Roopnaraine added.

Rodney’s wife, Pat, has already expressed a desire for a commission of inquiry would result in healing and reconciliation rather than entrenched disharmony.

The WPA, which is now part of an opposition coalition with the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR), had blamed that party for Rodney’s assassination at the height of a planned civil rebellion against the Forbes Burnham-led PNC administration.

Except for Roopnaraine’s reaction to government’s plan to hold an inquiry, the WPA has been muted on Rodney’s death. Roopnaraine and fellow parliamentarian Desmond Trotman have declined to comment on whether Burnham should receive South Africa’s Oliver Tambo Award because of his alleged role in Rodney’s death.

Smith, who had been charged with Rodney’s murder in absentia, had expressed a willingness to return and testify at an inquiry on condition that amnesty would have been granted. France does not extradite persons to countries like Guyana where there is the death penalty.

An assessment done by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) more than a decade ago had identified the need for a thorough international probe.

Rodney was a well-respected historian and left-leaning political activist in Tanzania, Jamaica and other countries.

He had been banned from Jamaica and prevented from taking up academic appointments at the University of Guyana where a chair in history has been since established in his honour. The National Archives is also named after him.