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“Recklessness” probably caused Rodney’s death; State’s involvement inconclusive

Former Police Intelligence Chief, Senior Superintendent Leslie James on Thursday said Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Co-leader, Dr. Walter Rodney’s apparent recklessness might have been partly responsible for his bomb-in-walkie-talkie death 34 years ago rather than state-sponsored terrorism.

Walter’s brother, Donald, has said in a statement that back on June 13, 1980 he had collected a device from then Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant, 4141 Gregory Smith from him at his home on Russell Street, Charlestown.

“The closest in my mind was that Dr Rodney was negligent. They apparently knew that that this person was an electronics expert…or involved in electronics,” James told a Commission of Inquiry into Rodney’s death on John Street, stone’s throw from the Georgetown Prison. He opined that perhaps some more background checks should have been done on Smith.

WPA executive members have previously testified that Rodney had been actively pursuing the acquisition of walkie-talkies to communicate with activists.

James, now Head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) said that based on the files Donald gave Walter the package and there was an explosion during an attempt to operationalize and test it at that location. Examining those facts, it may be reasonable to surmise that there was some degree of perhaps recklessness but in terms of fault, I am not at liberty to say so,” he said.

Under cross-examination by lawyer for the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Basil Williams, the police officer told the Commission that based on the files he did not think that Walter knew that a bomb had been planted in the walkie-talkie.  “ I don’t think he would have known that it was an explosive device,” he said.

The Police Officer acknowledged that the WPA was under surveillance but disputed whether the State was responsible for Rodney’s death based on the evidence gleaned by investigators at that time. “What is clear to me is that the WPA was indeed under surveillance but to state that the State was indeed responsible for the death of Dr Rodney from reading the file, I in my humble opinion wouldn’t be able to come to such a conclusion,” he said. WPA executive members have already reiterated in testimonies to the Inquiry that the then PNC-led administration, House of Israel cult and the State’s security apparatus had targeted. The WPA executive members have pointedly blamed the Forbes Burnham administration for using Smith to kill Rodney at a time when he was advocating a civil rebellion to remove the government by any means necessary.

James effectively ruled out that Rodney was killed by colleague members of the WPA. “From my reading there is nothing indicating that there was movement against Dr Rodney by members of his party,” he said.

The Police Officer acknowledged that some elements of the investigations were tardy and he could not conclusively link the appointment of Smith’s girlfriend to a diplomatic post in New York and the disappearance of his photos and jewellery from an office drawer of hers.

The Commission of Inquiry has been hampered by missing files about Smith’s status in the GDF and his movement to Kwakwani aboard a GDF aircraft less than one week after Walter Rodney’s death.

Sergeant Smith subsequently left Guyana for French Guiana where he lived and worked under the name of Cyril Johnson until he died in November 2002.