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GDF pledges to help Walter Rodney Inquiry Commission

In picture Deputy COS Kemraj Persaud , Hugh Denbow (facilitator), S.C Seenauth Jairam Q.C Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, Sir Richard Cheltenham and COS Brigadier Mark Phillips at Defence Headquarters (GDF photo)

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) on Tuesday pledged to help the Walter Rodney Inquiry Commission in its probe into the killing of the politician-historian in a bomb-blast near the Georgetown Prison more than 30 years ago.

During discussions, COS Brigadier Phillips and his team, which included Deputy COS Col Kemraj Persaud and other senior officers, presented a synopsis of the intelligence apparatus of Guyana, and, to this end, assured the members of the commission of the Force’s assistance and co-operation,” said the GDF in a statement.

The commissioners met with the army’s to brass shortly after they were sworn in by President Donald Ramotar at the Office of the President.

Testimony by former and current members of the GDF could be instrumental in assisting the commissioners in forming opinions about who was responsible for Rodney’s killing and what the motive was.

Then GDF electronics expert Sergeant 4141 Gregory Smith alias Cyril Johnson was accused of giving Rodney the bomb-in-walkie to test on John Street, Georgetown outside the metal fence of the Georgetown Prison. It exploded on his lap while he was seated in his Mazda car. His brother, Donald, was injured. At one point, the GDF had vehemently denied that Smith was a member of the army until the Catholic Standard had published his photograph in military headdress.

Smith was eventually charged in absentia with Rodney’s murder but he was never extradited because France does not send back persons to countries that have the death penalty. He had, however, offered to return to testify at a probe on condition that an amnesty would have been granted. That offer was never taken up and he died 10 years ago in French Guiana where he had fled to and worked under his alias.

Queens Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham from Barbados is chairing the commission and its other two members are Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam from Trinidad and Tobago and Queens Counsel Jacqueline Samuels- Brown from Jamaica .

The GDF said Brigadier Phillips congratulated the Commissioners on their appointment, citing that the Commission of Enquiry was long awaited by the Guyanese people.

The members of the Commission also highlighted their commitment to bringing closure to the matter.

Rodney was a leading member of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) that had called for a civil rebellion against the then Forbes Burnham-led administration of the Peoples National Congress (PNC).