A jailed fraud convict, who has been allowed to attend Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, on Friday testified that he had been part of a plot to kill co-leader of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA), Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and bug that party’s headquarters in the months leading up to Rodney’s death
Robert Gates said he was hired and paid more to become an undercover policeman and assigned to the WPA after he had told then Deputy Police Commissioner (Law Enforcement), Cecil “Skip” Roberts that he was going to resign. He accused remembered Roberts intimidating him and threatening him with treason after he had told the police officer that he had encountered Dr. Roopnaraine the night before.
He said Roberts, in his presence, picked up the red phone on his desk and told someone he presumed to have been then Prime Minister Burnham that “Comrade Leader, we have gotten the man”. Gates said Roberts then informed him that he would have been given a fake letter of release from the Police Force to show Dr. Roopnaraine and that he should advise that politician that it would take a few weeks to obtain the document. Gates said he was promoted to a sergeant and offered GUY$500 , making his salary as high as that of an Assistant Superintendent. He also revealed that he had been given allowances by another agent known as Chico and payment of no less than GUY$1,500 by Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine for body protection services.
In turn, Gates recalled paying at least two persons at the WPA headquarters for information about who had been visiting there and Roopnaraine’s movements.
While Gates said he never provided guns and explosives to the WPA, he told the probe that at one point he had had about 100 rounds of ammunition that were subsequently given to his superiors for a former KGB agent, Brazhned, to “do some stuff with them”. “I was told that the rounds would be over-packed so whenever they go to use it, there will be an explosion,” said Gates, adding that Roopnaraine had sent him to a soldier to collect the ammunition and keep them safely until he was ready for them.
Gates believed that the WPA had been arming itself to either defend itself or topple the then Peoples National Congress-led administration of Forbes Burnham. “Based on the intelligence gathered, they were planning some sort of action against the government at the time because they were being attacked and their meetings were being broken up by different elements and it could either be used to retaliate or overthrow the government of Guyana… I do not have the evidence,” he said.
The former policeman also remembered being given a G3 “submachine” gun with over-packed rounds. He said the gun was supposed to explode while Roopnaraine was undergoing weapon training. Gates, however, said he aborted the plan which would have involved luring him into live-firing while he was on a visit to Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) activist, Arnold Rampersaud. Gates said he would have fired the first seven normal rounds before giving the WPA activist the gun to fire while he stood about six feet behind.
“I didn’t carry out the instructions. I absconded. Dr. Roopnaraine was a good man so I couldn’t harm him,” said Gates.
After aborting the plan and escaping up the Berbice River to a densely forested area of Sand Hills, Gates said he eventually emerged and travelled to his mother’s home at 19 Hadfield Street, Lodge. Later on the night of his arrival, he said members of the police force’s Tactical Services Unit (TSU) circled his residence.
Prior to being hired as an undercover cop to specfically infiltrate the WPA, Gates said that he had informed Deputy Commissioner Roberts’ that he was leaving the job. Though Roberts told him that he was free to go, he said after leaving the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters building, five men dressed in civilian clothing blindfolded him and bundled him into a car.
Gates said he first encountered Dr. Roopnaraine while he was arrested and detained at a police station. During a conversation with the political activist, Gates said he became sympathetic to the WPA’s cause and he decided to leave the force and take up Roopnaraine’s offer to become his bodyguard.