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President Granger seeks to discredit Walter Rodney Commission Report; says Commission relied on hearsay evidence from convict

GDF Sergeant Gregory Smith.

GDF Sergeant Gregory Smith.

Guyana’s President, David Granger Wednesday sought to discredit the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry Report, saying that the three commissioners had relied on hearsay evidence from a convict.

“I would like to say that the report is very badly flawed in many respects. From the start we realised that the Commission was paying a lot of attention to hearsay evidence and the most glaring example of the flaw in the Commission’s report is the fact that they decided to accept the evidence of a convict.

They brought a convict, who at the time was a constable in the Guyana Police Force. He reports verbatim on a conversation between the President of Guyana, the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and two assistant commissioners of police and he was not present. How does he know what was going on? And why should the Commission believe that he knew what was going on?” Granger was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency.

Rodney was killed in his brother’s car on John Street near the Georgetown Prison on June 13, 1980 when a bomb-in-walkie talkie that was provided by a Guyana Defence Force Sergeant, Gregory Smith exploded in his lap.  Testimony  before the Inquiry has revealed that Rodney had been interested in obtaining walkie talkies to communicate with members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) over long distances at a time that he had been advocating a civil rebellion to topple the then People’s National Congress (PNC)-led government of then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

Robert Gates

Robert Gates

The Commission of Inquiry Report has found that Burnham had been part of a conspiracy to kill Rodney. Days after his death, Smith and his family were flown to Kwakwani. They eventually left for French Guiana where he had lived and worked under the name of Cyril Johnson until he died of cancer in 2002.

The Granger administration eventually discontinued public hearings of the Commission, preventing the probe team from cross examining witnesses and taking evidence from others.

Amidst reports being circulated in the media on the contents of the recently handed over Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report, President David Granger has called the document “deeply flawed”, noting that the Guyanese society has been starved of the truth and closure, even though almost $500 million has been expended in the past two years on the Commission.

Speaking to media operatives at the Ministry of the Presidency, earlier Wednesday following the Accreditation Ceremonies of the Ambassadors of Japan and Israel to Guyana, President Granger said that the Report, which was finally handed over last week to the Government after six extensions and a missed appointment due to a “lack of ink”, does not address the mandate for which it was established.

The Head of State indicated that it is obvious that the Commissioners depended on hearsay and gossip instead of pursuing means through which the truth could have been found out.

 

President Granger noted that a key witness, who was available to the Commission and had knowledge of what would have possibly transpired, was not allowed to testify.

“The Commission brought one of the persons who was present at that meeting into this country for ten days, kept him at a hotel and then sent him back to the United States without asking him a single question. Why should the Commission accept the word of a convict and refuse to bring unto the stand, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who in fact was supposed to be at that meeting with Former President Burnham and was also the Chief investigator into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney? So when you look at details of the evidence provided it is clear that the report itself is very badly flawed and we intend to challenge the findings of the report and the circumstances under which that report was conducted,” he noted.

He further added that while Government has expended large sums of money on the Commission and its work, in a pursuit of truth and closure, none of these has been achieved despite the handing over of the report.

“It has cost the Guyanese taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. We could have built ten schools with the money that was spent on that Commission… They are just gobbling up money and at the same time they are not providing the Guyanese people with the truth. We supported the Commission’s pursuit of truth but the Commission has varied from its mandate and has accepted a lot of hearsay evidence and not given the Guyanese people what they deserve. That is to say, what were the circumstances under which Dr. Rodney acquired a certain device and how that device came to be detonated. That is what we want to know,” the President expressed.

The Report was initially supposed to be handed over to President David Granger at midday on February 8, was not submitted at that time because the Chairman of that Commission, Sir Richard Cheltenham, informed the Attorney General, Basil Williams that he had run out of ink while printing the document.  This call was made even as President Granger had already arrived to the Ministry of the Presidency to facilitate the handing over of the report.

The Report was subsequently dropped off, day later, to the Attorney General’s office.

 

Minister Williams had said at that time that he found these actions by a Presidential Commission to be totally unacceptable to any sitting President, especially given the fact that the President has been more than accommodating in the past months, in granting time extensions.

  • raskilone

    Why didn’t you go and testify idiot? You refused to bc you are a coward but now you are shooting off your mouth!
    The people did their job and they did it with the limitations thrown up to obstruct the inquiry.

    • Lancelot Brassington

      Can’t fault your posting raskilone. It is unfortunate that thirty years after his death people still feel beholden to Burnham. People who you would expect better from.I wonder if Roopnarine has been hospitalized. because of deep disappointment. Granger should understand that people are not interested in his reverence for Burnham but in what the country has to look forward to.under his leadership. His ‘challenge’ to the contents of the report will only waste time and man hours and attract more attention to what the COI wrote. Most people throughout the Caribbean will respect the word of the eminent commissioners who are well able to answer any questions raised by Granger. They will not be swayed by his grandstanding.

      Granger had better be careful that he does not offend the WPA and cause fissures in the coalition. By the way, I wonder if his new found contempt for ‘convicts’ means that he will not be releasing any for the fiftieth anniversary observances.

      It seems that Granger is not made of the same stuff as the lion hearted Desmond Hoyte who abandoned ‘co-operative socialism’ in the face of huge opposition from within his own party and left a lasting legacy as a result. Sometimes a leader has to offend factions for the greater good.

      I wish to read the report and to form my own conclusions and I trust that it will be released soon.

  • Col123

    Shucks..The President took the bait to escalate this issue.????Not the way for his legacy..It is the economy sir…It is the working class, producers of goods and services and the businesses who create employment sir… We have a bloated government we need to support….where is the economic plan?

  • Emile_Mervin

    I don’t care what anyone says, but the shared belief among many, perhaps most, Guyanese who lived through the Rodney era, is that Rodney was politically assassinated. The problem or challenge for the PPP was to prove this belief. It failed.

    That said, it is up to Granger to refute, discredit or dump this report, which was flawed because it never identified by name the masterminds, middlemen and manipulated minions of this assassination.

    Folks will recall this CoI stemmed from an announcement by the South African government to posthumously award Forbes Burnham the Oliver Tambo Award for his role in liberating South Africa. The announcement resulted in an outcry from international voices sympathetic to Rodney, followed by a plea fromhis wife, Patricia Rodney, and a brow-raising letter from Burnham’s daughter, Ulele, calling for some closure on the Rodney assassination.

    The PPP regime responded with the CoI, but it quickly turned into a political circus without the entertainment value, as deadlines kept getting pushed back, costs kept rising and key players of the Burnham era who are still alive not being called.

    And while state agents showed up to testify only to disclose important documents were missing or unavailable, it boggled the mind that the PPP refused to produce the findings of Special Prosecutor, Doodnauth Singh, who returned a murder indictment against Gregory Smith in 1996.

    What exactly was contained in Singh’s indictment that failed to name any PNC government official?

    I do not expect another CoI into Rodney’s death, but I can only hope when the Granger regime sets up a CoI into the post-2002 Mash Day crime spree that gave rise to the Roger Khan extra judicial killing spree that the terms of reference would be more specific so we can identify players by name and not have a conclusion that says the PPP was responsible or that Jagdeo had to have known.

  • Parbudin Mackanlall

    Instead of dismissing the report with Burnham’s trademark glibness and opting to move on with more important business in this fiftieth year of our independence, Granger has opted to dwell on the report and attract more attention to it. He has played into the hands of the PPP. Where will he be seeking recourse in his ‘challenge’? The three commissioners are distinguished West Indian counsel and their conclusions will not be rejected within the region nor further afield. Granger may be bowing to pressure from Burnhamite elements in his party. The thing with Burnhamite elements is that instead of imitating their hero’s suaveness and craft they tend to be hysterical types more inclined to react with their nerves and their emotions than with their grey matter. Granger by virtue of his training ought to have known that you sometimes have to retreat in order to advance. I don’t think he thought this one out properly. He got it badly wrong. What are those raucous noises coming from Freedom House? The ten year old must be flowing like a river.

    • Col123

      I for one am not betting a lot on his General and Staff college education in Nigeria…it sounds like a joke…but who am I to criticize?

  • Col123

    This is such an self enforced error on Pres Granger and the PNC. However you twist it, he should have stayed clear away from it.The PNC should have utilized other known figures to address it and reduce the focus. President Granger needs to engage the economic stewards and push investments and employment . Privatize the sugar industry as quickly as he can. Engage the industrious base…have no fear about who holds the economic lifeline in the country…work with them…there is a true story about a kid who ate a lot of sweets, whose parent brought him to Ghandi, to get him to stop. ..the result was that Ghandi quit eating sweets after he admonished the kid to quit…that is what leadership is….