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PNCR worried about fate of named persons at Rodney Commission of Inquiry

Chairman of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, Sir Richard Cheltenham

Despite concrete assurances that witnesses at the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney would not be prosecuted if they admit to having played any part in killing him, a lawyer for the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) said he is worried about the fate of other persons whose names might be called.

Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams’ reaction came minutes after Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham stressed that “Simply put, you have nothing to fear from testifying. No prosecution can follow from your testimony,” said Cheltenham at the opening session of the Commission of Inquiry.

The Chairman noted that President Donald Ramotar has sought to encourage all persons having information/knowledge even if they think that that information or knowledge may in some way implicate them either directly or indirectly, by offering an unconditional pardon.

But Williams was hardly convinced about the fate of third parties who might be fingered by witnesses. “We haven’t heard anything about if a person who testifies and who, therefore, ipso facto be pardoned- what if he fingers a third party. He gets protection but what about the protection of a man who is fingered,” asked Williams, a practicing criminal lawyer.

Meanwhile, the PNCR backed down from its original position on April 18, 2014 that it would not have participated in the Commission of Inquiry. “The People’s National Congress Reform has taken a decision not to participate in the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney. This decision was arrived at after a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Party.”

But eight days later, that party late Sunday night announced that it was fielding a legal team made up of Williams and Joseph Harmon to look over its interest at the inquiry. “We must protect put interest as party, participating in the conduct of the inquiry to represent the interest of the Peoples National Congress Reform,” said Williams.

The lawyer explained that the PNCR had taken a decision not to cooperate with the three-member commission because of concerns about the impartiality of Commissioner Seenath Jairam and one of the terms of reference that mandates the inquiry to determine whether any of the state security agencies had engaged in systematic surveillance of Rodney and other Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) activists.

Williams hoped that lawyers representing the interests of organisations would be allowed to examine witnesses.

Rodney was killed on June 13,1980 when a bomb-in-communications device exploded while he was sitting in his brother’s car on John Street near the Georgetown Prison.