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WPA wants govt lawyer removed from Walter Rodney Inquiry Commission

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 Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) is said to be upset about the composition of the presidential commission set up to probe the bomb-blast death of its leader, Dr. Walter Rodney more than 30 years ago.

But Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has dismissed such assertions, saying that Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel, Seenauth Jairam is a professional who has not taken a cent from the Government of Guyana for work done on the National Budget cut case.

A WPA source said its executive has decided to write President Donald Ramotar about Jairam’s inclusion on the three-member commission on grounds that it could compromise the probe.

“We are concerned that one of the commissioners, who was a legal representative for the State on the matter of the budget case, could project the impression that this thing is not going to be an impartial inquiry,” said the WPA source.

The party member said he was unsure whether the WPA could persuade the President to remove Jairam but contended that it was important that the party warned Guyanese about the potentially adverse impact of that lawyer’s selection. “You may very well find that the whole work of the commission will be compromised by that fact. You could be putting the whole work of the commission in jeopardy,” said the WPA long-serving member.

The Guyana government has not consulted the WPA on the setting up of the probe but has instead engaged Dr. Rodney’s family and at least one interest group.

Attorney General Nandlall defended Jairam’s selection and assured that there was no need to worry about whether the former Judge would assist in conducting a fair inquiry. “I believe that that criticism is unfounded. This man is a professional. The government has no interest to protect or to advance in this commission. The government wants the truth. That’s the whole purpose of the commission,” Nandlall told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

The other commissioners are Chairman, Queens Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham from Barbados and Queens Counsel Jacqueline Samuels- Brown from Jamaica.

Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980 while seated in his Mazda Capella car, PBB 2349, on John Street outside the Georgetown Prison.  His party and other anti-government critics at the time had accused former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert 4141 Sergeant Gregory Smith of giving Rodney a bomb-in-walkie-talkie.

At that time, the WPA had been in the forefront of leading a civil rebellion against the then Peoples National Congress (PNC) dictatorship led by Forbes Burnham.

Shortly after the incident, Smith went to French Guiana with a Guyana passport issued in his alias – Cyril Johnson. Prior to his death from colon cancer several years ago, he had publicly offered to return to Guyana to tell the truth about the incident if an amnesty was granted.

France does not extradite persons to countries like Guyana where there is a death penalty.

Long before Smith’s demise, an assessment by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had found that there was sufficient evidence for an inquiry to be held.