The Burnham Foundation’s initial disposition, to the announcement of the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney, was one of optimism. The Foundation envisaged that the issue of Rodney’s death would be finally put to rest, although it was and is the view of the Foundation that many lives pre, peri and post 1978 have been lost in circumstances that warrant an Inquiry, into the country’s political culture, practices and consequential strife, mayhem and lost of lives and property, for the period 1961 – 2013.
It seems that such an Inquiry should be held and aimed at national self examination, revelation, healing and reconciliation a la South Africa and Ireland.
As the preparation for the establishment of Commission unfolded and the actual work of the Commission commenced the Foundation has experienced disappointment and dismay at the manner of establishment and the apparent ulterior motive for the establishment of the Commission.
This pessimism is founded on the following facts and acts
- The complete sidelining of the constituents of the National Assembly from the establishment of the Commission. It was those constituents who in 2005 unanimously voted for the establishment of such a Commission. To sideline the National Assembly reeks of contempt for the highest decision making forum of the country and completely undermines and questions the sincerity of the President’s call to the said National Assembly for them to work with him in the national interest. Apparently they should work with him but he needs not work with them. Their exclusion allowed for the Government to singularly determine the terms of reference for and membership of the Commission.
- The Terms of Reference tells a tale. Term of Reference IV states:” to examine and report on the actions and activities of the State, as such,the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana National Service, the Guyana People’s Militia and those who were in command superintendence of these agencies, to determine whether they were tasked with the surveillance of and carrying out of actions, and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the Political Opposition, for the period 1st January,1978 to 31st December,1980.”
This clearly focuses on an Inquiry into the relationship between the PPP and probably the UF, the political opposition at the time, and the discipline services.
- The selection of the Commissioners also manifested bias squared. Firstly, a person associated with the current regime, in the recent past, found himself unto the Commission in the person of Attorney-at-Law Jairam, who recently represented the Government in a case of the Government vs the Opposition, a major part of which is the former PNC. Then there is Sir Chelenham who had clearly articulated a disposition to Rodney and his death way back in 1978 to the extent that he participated at the Ursuline Convent in Barbados where he eulogised Rodney and pontificated on Rodney’s struggles and death.
For example, Advocate – News, Monday, June. 30, 1980 reported: ” A plea has been made for renewed effort of create regional institutions including a Code of Human Rights and a Human Rights Court to frustrate the growth of repression and violence.
This call has come from Parliamentarian, Mr Cheltenham who said that hopefully such institutions would prevent the wasteful and untimely slaughter of more Rodneys”
These gentlemen may well be the victims of cognitive bias or cognitive dissonance, hence potentially in at least subconscious states of conflict.
- The admission of Hear Say evidence also raises questions. What it will provide for is the best of propagandist to have a field day, rather than for the pertinent facts to be the focus of those paying attention to the proceeding of the Commission.
- The approach of NCN which feeds off of this Hear Say and continues to repeat it weeks after it would have been dished up to the Commission also points to another plank in the plot consisting of the four previous steps, all aimed at the psyche and minds of the populace rather than focusing on culpability for Rodney’s death.
Not involving the National Assembly was not only contempt but it cleared the way for the PPP to have a monopoly in setting the stage for the Inquiry. A stage which is paraded by a skewed term of reference, term of reference IV. Commissioners who in normal circumstances should have declared their past pronouncements and or association which have placed them in at least positions of perceived bias. To this scenario, created by the Government, will be added the bile of Tom, Dick and Harry by virtue of the admissibility of Hear Say and NCN’s broadcasts which feeds, the minds of the Nation, the bile. No wonder FM101 is the station of choice, thus targeting the young and the uninformed about the political environment of that period.
All of this reminds one of the attempt to hold an Inquiry in 1996, prior to the elections of 1997. That was thwarted by the WPA, who refused to give legitimacy to the attempted ruse. Now Lady Rodney and family have become the limbs for the legitimacy. Their concern is touted as being superior to that of the National Assembly.
Their healing is supreme. The Nation’s healing is secondary or all together of no import. Their healing would have otherwise been a natural subset of the Nation’s healing but alas the whole is sacrificed under the pretext of addressing the concern of a part.
The Burnham Foundation therefore calls on the Nation to maintain its commitment to the determination of what befell Walter Rodney and in fact what befell all who have fallen as victims to the politics, tribalism and criminality that has affected the Nation at large and many of its sons and daughters, in particular. Let there be a Truth Commission; no holes barred and a climate of confession, remorse, healing and reconciliation kindled.
A careful study of Rodney’s thoughts may well lead to this call.
The actions of Burnham, and Jagan on the eve of Burnham’s death were certainly leading us in that direction. They were engaged in the search for unity and a national approach to the Nation’s problems.
Where are the true successors of Burnham, Jagan and Rodney.
Let their thoughts guide us rather than their deaths divide us and put death to their thoughts; and the Nation’s hope for a united and bright future.