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Acts could be committed without knowledge of party leadership- Kwayana

Eusi Kwayana

Co-founder of the Working Peoples Alliance, Eusi Kwayana on Thursday conceded that anyone could have committed acts without the knowledge of the leadership of Guyana’s two major political parties.

Testifying under oath at the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry for a third straight day, the 89-year old veteran Guyanese politician, however, insisted that the then Peoples National Congress (PNC) administration led by Forbes Burnham was responsible for Rodney’s killing on June 13,1980 on John Street closer to Hadfield  Street, Georgetown.

Under cross examination by PNC lawyer, Basil Williams, the United States-based WPA executive member rejected suggestions that he had no evidence to prove the PNC’s involvement in Rodney’s death.

“That’s not true.  Since the PNC was in charge of state machinery including the ministry of defence and held all the ministries capable of giving direction to intelligence officers and the light of all the remarks made by the leader of that party, the leaders were PNC people as distinct from the rank and file who cannot escape responsibility. One of the ways of exercising responsibilities for the right to life is vigorous investigation after the crime. This was totally absent,”  said Kwayana.

He was referring to, among other remarks, which had been made by Burnham in address at the close of the 3rd Biennial Congress in 1978.

Pressed on the suggestion that that “acts could be committed without any knowledge whatsoever from the leadership of either of these two both mass-based parties,”  Kwayana said “Yes”.

Kwayana dismissed Williams’ suggestions that he was drawing conclusions based on rhetoric by the PNC Leader in response to Rodney’s to the effect that the PNC Must go and go by any means necessary as well as the burning down of the PNC’s headquarters allegedly by senior WPA members at the time. “In the light of all that I have out to you that President Burnham was merely indulging in rhetoric to appease the supporters of the PNC … that the PNC was under siege,”  said Williams.

Kwayana, for his part, said the WPA had been challenging a government that had destroyed the constitution. The activist dismissed a number of Williams’ related assertions and maintained that “from all the circumstances “I am convinced that the ruling party of the day was implicated in that crime.”

While Kwayana acknowledged that the PPP appeared to feel threatened by the WPA’s inroads into support-base, he did not believe that that party played a role in Rodney’s demise.

Saying that the “possibility of violence was very remote”, Kwayana remembered that the WPA tried as much as possible to mobilize peacefully to “get the dictatorship out”. He said he was unaware that the WPA had a military wing and had been acquiring weapons. He said the police had laid weapons possession charges against David Hinds, a case that remains under appeal since 1980. Kwayana also remembered that WPA activist, Ohene Koama was shot dead after police claimed that he had pulled a weapon from the trunk of his car.

Against the background of the fact that the bomb that killed Rodney was placed in a walkie-talkie allegedly by PNC agent and Guyana Defence Force electronics expert Sergeant Gregory Smith; Kwayana said the WPA had been acquiring walkie-talkies to communicate among themselves about the  movement of police during protests because there had been no telephones. He said he had used a walkie-talkie once. “Gregory Smith was not a political person. He was an agent, a member of the Guyana Defence Force…I do not think he was acting on his own. My opinion for what it is worth is that he had to received orders from someone he was bound to obey,” he said.

Among the reasons for agitation by the WPA against the Burnham administration was the refusal by the University of Guyana (UG) to appoint him a History Professor- a position that had been for decades held by that party and the PPP. But Kwayana on Thursday said that for the first time he was learning, through Williams’ cross-examination, that Rodney had not been appointed because then Vice Chancellor Dr. Dennis Irvine’s appointment had not been ratified by UG’s Council because he (Rodney) had failed to attend an interview with a sub-committee on the advice of WPA executives Professor Clive Thomas and Dr. Maurice Odle. “I can only I am most amazed at this disclosure all these decades  after thus incident was hotly contested and no such explanation ever made or ventured,” said Kwayana.

Kwayana also admitted having initial contact with then American fugitive, David Hill alias Rabbi Edward Washington, who had later founded the House of Israel. That religious cult, according to testimony by other witnesses, had been used by the PNC administration to break up opposition political meetings and otherwise harass Burnham’s opponents.