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Rodney Inquiry: Weapons-transfer document probably bogus- GDF

FLASH BACK: In picture Deputy COS Kemraj Persaud , Hugh Denbow (facilitator), S.C Seenauth Jairam Q.C Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, Sir Richard Cheltenham and COS Brigadier Mark Phillips at Defence Headquarters (GDF photo)

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) on Tuesday appeared to suggest that a purported form showing the transfer of weapons to the People’s National Congress (PNC) is a bogus document.

Testifying before a Commission that is inquiring into the bomb-blast death of Guyanese politician and world-renowned historian,  Lt.Col. Patrick West said the regimental number on the document differed from that in official army records and that was not the form used for the transfer of weapons.

The document, which is part of the Guyana Police Force’s Special Branch files that have been submitted to the three-member Commission, bears the signature of a 9142 Major Mc Pherson but Lt. Col. West states that official records show that the regimental number of now deceased Col. Godwin Mc Pherson is 9129.

West, however, said he was not familiar with Mc Pherson’s signature. Questioned by Commissioner Jairam Seenath that the different regimental numbers suggest that there are two different Mc Phersons, he said “probably” and he only knew of one “Major Mc Pherson.” Former Chief of Staff, Retired Major General Norman Mc Lean has already told the Commission that the signature on the form did not appear to be that of Mc Pherson’s

Dated June 24, 1979, the document lists 19 G3 rifles, 19 G3 bayonets, several rounds of 7.62MM ammunition, 10 Browning pistols and five hundred rounds of 9MM ammunition has having been transferred from the GDF to the PNC and someone from the House of Israel signed for them. Former House of Israel member, Joseph Hamilton has already testified that arms had been provided to that religious organisation.

Lt. Col. West said the form that has been tendered as evidence was not the document used in issuing arms and ammunition. He explained that the form in evidence is used to process the loss of military kit or equipment so that the soldier could be surcharged.

PNC-Reform (PNCR) lawyer, Basil Williams objected to Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham attempting to have Lt. Col. West accept the contents of a document whose purpose and signature were being questioned. “I don’t think that the weight matters now. The document is a fraudulent document and with the greatest of respect, we ought not to address it. It’s a fraudulent document. It has nowhere to go. Just to entertain it is travesty,” he said.

Cheltenham responded by saying that the time has not yet come to determine the weight, if any, that should be attached to the form.

Fellow Commissioner, Jacqueline Samuels-Browne added that whether or not the form was a bogus document, it was still of concern to the Commission because it was tendered by the police force’s special branch files. “If it is genuine, it is relevant and if a document which is a forgery has found its way in the Special Branch file as part of its investigation into the death of Walter Rodney, then it is also relevant even though it may be a forgery and because it is a forgery it would be of significance,” she said.

A number of witnesses at the inquiry have reinforced that House of Israel members had been used by then People’s PNC-led administration to break up opposition political meetings and work as scabs during strikes.

The Commission of Inquiry is tasked with examining the political environment and the role of the security forces in conducting surveillance on the opposition in the 1970s and 1980s leading up to and around the time of Rodney’s death.