by Zena Henry
The government is not too happy with the amount of tax dollars that have gone into the former Ramotar-Administration initiated Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry so it is giving the body one more sitting following which a report of their findings is to be handed over to President David Granger within one month.
This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon who told reporters Thursday June 11 that based on a presentation by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, “Cabinet considered, having regards to the amount of money spent on the inquiry, that it was prepared to allow for the inquiry to wrap up its work.” He said, “Cabinet gave approval for the inquiry to have one final sitting after which it will to submit its findings to the president within one month.” The Commission commenced its work last April and was supposed to wrap up its business by year end. Unable to do so, the former Administration had extended the Commission’s life.
To date, over GUY$300M have been spent on the inquiry with at least GUY$150M going to the three commissioners, while it was recently discovered also that Canada-based reporter was being paid over GUY$16M to cover the proceedings.
It was mentioned however that some employees attached to the commission have not been paid since March of this month. Harmon said mechanisms when put in place will ensure the payment of these persons and whatever bills are outstanding.
He said the life of the commission had expired and money could not be expended. However the President has to extend the life of the Commission, Harmon said. A date for the final sittings has not be set.
The Commissioners are Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C. of Trinidad and Tobago; the Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham, K.A, Q.C, Ph.D. of Barbados and Mrs. Jaqueline Samuels-Brown, Q.C. of Jamaica.
A pattern of evidence before the commission so far appears to have shown conflicting accounts about the circumstances leading up to Rodney’s death on June 13, 1980 on John Street, Georgetown near the Georgetown Prison.
With key files from the police intelligence, and the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) air corps and administration missing or unavailable; some credence is being given to claims by Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and several of its executive members that Rodney met his death at the hands of the then People’s National Congress administration.
While Rodney had been acquiring walkie-talkies, his party believes that then GDF electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith ended up as a double-agent who had planted a bomb in a walkie-talkie and given Rodney’s brother, Donald, with instructions on how Walter should have operated it.
At the time, the WPA had been advocating a civil rebellion against the Forbes Burnham administration that had been widely regarded locally and overseas as a dictatorship.
Smith’s sister, Ann Wagner, who co-authored a book with him has given testimony to exonerate Smith by showing that he had been working with Walter Rodney to make the devices and that the WPA had facilitated her brother’s departure from Guyana shortly after the incident.
Former GDF pilot, Gerry Gouveia has testified that he had flown Smith, a woman and several children from Ogle to Kwakwani shortly after the incident.
It is believed that from there, Smith eventually left for French Guiana where he had lived and worked with a trawling company until he succumbed to cancer several years ago.