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GDF can’t find William “Gregory” Smith’s personnel file

Lt. Col. Patrick West displaying pay-sheets at the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry

A Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant fingered in the death of Guyanese politician and historian, Dr. Walter Rodney is dead but his status in the army remains a mystery because his personnel file cannot be found, according to testimony provided to a Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Patrick West said records show that there was a 4141 William Smith, not Gregory Smith, and he became an active soldier in 1975. That regimental number and surname correspond with that of Gregory Smith who was accused of supplying a bomb-in-walkie-talkie that exploded and killed Rodney on June 13, 1980.

While Smith last received a salary of GUY$383.93 from the GDF on 28th June, 1979, West said there were no records showing that he was discharged, absent without leave or deserted. He said there were also no record about Smith’s tenure in the Maritime Command.

West denied that there was a concerted effort by the GDF to erase or remove any record about Smith’s military tenure.

West explained that after the Inquiry Commission requested the GDF’s assistance, a search was made for Smith’s personal file. He said after the file was not found, a report was made to the Intelligence Unit of the GDF.

He said that he did not see any record showing that Smith’s personal file was among those that were destroyed by the 2005 Great Flood.  He added that he was unaware of instructions being given for personal files to be deliberately destroyed.

The GDF officer said efforts were made to contact persons who might have been associated with Smith in an effort to reconstruct that personal file. “I did not get into contact with any of them. We looked to see of there was any name there we could have recognized,” he said. He also said there was no written record that William Smith’s file was given to the Chief of Staff at that time.

This is the second time that the Commission of Inquiry has been saddled with missing files, the first being the disappearance of several sets of police intelligence files on activities by Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) between 1978 and 1980.

Former GDF pilot Gerry Gouveia has already testified that he believed that he had transported Smith, a female and several children to Kwakwani, Upper Berbice River less than one week after Rodney was killed.  Smith died in 2007 in French Guiana where he had been living and working under the name of Cyril Johnson ever since the incident.

Lt. Col. West added that he found no records showing who was in charge of the Air Corps in 1979, but the now deceased 9121 Harry Hinds was responsible for the Maritime Corps in the 1978-1979.

Smith was said to have been a member of the GDF Maritime Command up to the time the explosive device was provided to Rodney.