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House of Israel broke up meetings, received guns from PNC-led administration- says fmr cult leader Joseph Hamilton

Joseph Hamilton

Former senior member of the House of Israel, Joseph Hamilton – now a parliamentarian for the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)- on Monday admitted that he and other members of that African Guyanese cult had broken up a number of Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) meetings.

He began his testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Guyanese historian and WPA co-founder, Walter Rodney in 1980 when a bomb-in-walkie talkie exploded in his lower region while he was sitting in his brother’s car on John Street (nearer Hadfield Street), Georgetown.

Describing the House of Israel as a “tool of oppression”, Hamilton said that well-organised religious organization which had about 2,000 members, had been instructed not to hurt then PPP member, Dr. Cheddi Jagan or WPA Co-Leader Eusi Kwayana. “Any other member of the WPA, the opposition parties could have been harmed or assaulted,” said Hamilton, now Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health. He reasoned that if Jagan was hurt, there could have been racial/ethnic conflict, and if Kwayana was harmed, PNC sympathizers could have shifted to the WPA because he was widely respected in the Black community.

While the House of Israel never received instructions in relation to Walter Rodney, he said “Walter Rodney would have been in the basket of persons who could have been armed.”

In what appears to corroborate testimony given by other witnesses including Walter’s brother, Eddie, and Kwayana; Hamilton said the House of Israel had been recruited by the then Peoples National Congress (PNC) administration to break up political meetings and beat activists.

“Suppressive methodology because it moved into assault and physical violence,” he said, adding that he was beating people. Asked by Counsel for the Commission, Latchmie Rahamat what objects were used to beat people, he said batons and sticks were the weapons of choice.

He also recalled the House of Israel working very closely with a wing of the PNC’s youth arm, Young Socialist Movement (YSM), at a building on Barima Avenue, Bel Air Park. There they received instructions from YSM functionaries, he said.  “Some of the activities with the House of Israel-disruptions and whatever- were coordinated with that group of persons,” he said.

Fearing that the WPA might have eventually retaliated, Hamilton said in 1978 the House of Israel had asked the government to provide guns for protection purposes.  Hamilton recalled then YSM functionary, Robert Corbin, had given the House of Israel six 9MM pistols at the building at Barima Avenue.

Repeated efforts by Demerara Waves Online News to speak with Mr. Corbin were futile. On two occasions, when he answered calls from land and cellular numbers he said “hello, hello” and when the journalist identified himself the calls were terminated. Hamilton said 9MM were rotated among members of the leadership at one point he had carried one of those handguns.

Hamilton named Hamilton Green, Robert Williams and Emerson Simon as PNC points of contact with the House of Israel.

Throughout the inquiry so far, WPA activists have maintained their historic position that the then Forbes Burnham administration had used Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert Sergeant Gregory Smith to deliver the device to Walter’s brother, Donald.