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GTUC to participate in Rodney Commission of Inquiry

Dr. Walter Rodney

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) will be participating in the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Guyanese politician, Dr. Walter Rodney because that organisation is interested in bringing closure to the more than 30-year old incident, a senior official said Saturday.

“Regardless of what we may think, this enquiry will go ahead and our positions before and after he died need to be taken on board. We can’t throw it away. We can’t do otherwise,” General Secretary of the GTUC, Lincoln Lewis told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR), whose administration has been blamed for Rodney’s “assassination”, has said it would not participate in the probe. Rodney’s Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) has opted to allow its members to testify as individuals at the hearings. They are concerned that Commissioner Seenath Jairam’s selection could result in bias because he had represented the government in a ‘budget cut’ case against the Opposition. They are also objecting to the Commission being mandated to examine and report on whether commanders and superintendents of state security agencies had been  tasked with the surveillance of and the carrying out of actions, and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the Political Opposition, for the period 1st January, 1978 to 31st December, 1980. They believe that to do so will be to revive old ethinic and other tensions at a time when the society needs healing.

Lewis said the GTUC would be preparing a brief for submission to the three-member team of legal luminaries under the Chairmanship of Barbadian Senior Counsel, Sir Richard Cheltenham.

Prominent Canadian Civil Rights Lawyer Selwyn A. Pieters has been retained to represent the GTUC in the inquiry. Pieters,  said: “I feel honoured to be asked to appear in this important inquiry on behalf of workers. Walter Rodney made significant efforts to promote the liberation of the working class in the Caribbean and North America and to promote equity, equality and human dignity for all people.”

Pointing out that the GTUC is not a political party, Lewis said the GTUC had made public utterances before and after Rodney died on June 13, 1980. He said the labour organisation has always maintained that there should be an inquiry to bring closure to the incident. “It is important that we take on board that this is national and legal enquiry into this man. The GTUC’s position is that an enquiry will bring closure because for too long the nation has been divided,” he said.
Lewis said his labour organisation had never taken a position on the reason for Rodney’s death.

The WPA, the then opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and several other organisations and individuals had maintained that Rodney was assassinated by a bomb-in-walkie-talkie.

The device had been given to Rodney by then Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith who subsequently left the country with a Guyanese passport bearing the name, Cyril Johnson. He died almost 10 years ago in French Guiana where he had been working since leaving Guyana.

Public hearings are scheduled to begin on April 28 at the Supreme Court Law Library. The inquiry is billed to cost GUY$112 million.

Dr Walter Rodney’s book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” 1972 remains an essential reading on Africa and its past relationship with Europe. His book Grounding With My Brothers also remains a significant work on oppressed Africans in the Caribbean.