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Groundwork begins for Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry; WPA says stick to rules

President Donald Ramotar addressing the meeting. He is flanked by Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (left) and Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh

A day after President Donald Ramotar announced in New York that preparations have begun for the International Commission of Inquiry into the death of Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) co-leader, Dr. Walter Rodney 33 years ago, that party on Friday called on government to follow the rules in getting the probe off the ground.

Addressing at least 140 persons at Woodbine Caterers, Church and Bedford Avenues, Brooklyn; Ramotar said the Commission of Inquiry into Rodney’s assassination was being “set up right now.”

“At the moment, we are establishing the office in Georgetown, employing the staff, accumulating all the documents and so forth,” he said.

The Guyanese leader said he was in contact with Rodney’s widow, Patricia, to establish the Presidential Commission to investigate and “try to put this tragedy to bed”.brooklyn donaldmeeting

He announced that he would be meeting with the Rodney Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday as part of efforts to get the commission’s work off the ground.

But the WPA on Friday expressed concern that it only knew of a Commission office being set up after three current and past party members were over the last week approached by persons purportedly associated with the Commission of Inquiry to provide statements. The party said it has also been formally requested in writing to allow the Commission access to documents that could assist in the inquiry.

“When the government in June announced its intention to set up the Commission, the WPA said it welcomed such a commission and expressed its willingness to cooperate with it.  But we view the soliciting of statements in the absence of a properly constituted Commission highly improper,” the party added.

The WPA said it was unaware of any formal announcement of the Commission by the President in keeping with the legal requirements prescribed by the Constitution. It is required by law that a Commission of Inquiry has to be announced and gazetted and accompanied by the Terms of Reference and the names of the Commissioner or Commissioners, the party said.

The WPA urged the Ramotar administration to take the necessary steps to have the Commission formally constituted before proceeding with its business. “Failure to do so would only fan the flames of intrigue and conspiracy which in the long run could compromise the integrity of Inquiry,” said the party.

A bomb-in-walkie exploded in Rodney’s lap while he was seated in his brother’s car outside the Georgetown Prison where he had been told to go and test the device near the jail’s metal fence.

Then electronics expert, Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant Gregory Smith, who had given Rodney the device, fled to French Guiana where he lived under the name of Cyril Johnson until his death several years ago.

The GDF, at the time, had denied Smith was a member of the military organisation until pictures of him in uniform were published.

Twenty five years after the incident, Smith was charged with murder in absentia. He had said that he would have returned to Guyana for a trial or inquiry only if amnesty would have been granted. France does not extradite persons to their native countries where there is the death penalty.