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Police Special Branch files on WPA, Rodney vanish

Head of the Criminal Investigations Department and former Head of the Special Branch, Senior Superintendent Leslie James tendering Special Branch files on the WPA and Rodney to the Commission of Inquiry.

Possibly key secret police files about the activities of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) have apparently gone missing and so were not presented to the Commission of Inquiry into the bomb-blast death of Dr. Walter Rodney in 1980.

Former Head of the Special Branch, Senior Superintendent Leslie James – now Chief of Criminal Investigations- presented only three of 10 files to the three-member probe team on Day One of their public hearings.`

Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980 at the height of a civil rebellion against the then Peoples National Congress (PNC)-led administration of  Forbes Burnham.

Questioned by the Commissioners, James said Special Branch files were only stored at the Headquarters and told Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham that it was almost impossible that they could have been stored at the National Archives but he would be willing to check there if a request was made. “We do have a National Archives but I am sure that those files would not be in te National Archives…I am sure because of all of the files pertinent to Special Branch activities are kept at Special Branch,” he said.

The police officer acknowledged that the Rodney files were of “continuing interest” but he was unsure where else were those files could be found. “I would say it would be a matter of continuing interest…they should be available logically speaking,” he said.

The police officer said some files were usually destroyed if there was no longer any use for them.

Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham appeared concern about the status of the files 1 to 8 as they could have dated back to his activities on his return from Tanzania or one or two years prior to his  death. Cheltenham said he wanted to ensure that the Commission could find the files or a good reason why they were not available. “I want to ensure we can find them or find some good reason why they are not available,” he said.

The Commission plans to dispatch to the Crime Chief so that he would be properly prepared for a next round of questioning.

The Crime Chief could not say why there was “some sort of a paralysis” in concluding the investigations into Rodney’s death. He reflected on aspects of the Criminal Investigations Department’s findings that revealed that there had been an explosion. Commissioner Seenath Jairam queried why it would take 16 years for the police to conclude that former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant Gregory Smith should have been charged with murder in 1996, particularly if the police is independent of the political directorate.