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PNCR blundered at Rodney Commission; Granger needs politically “thick skin”

GDF Sergeant Gregory Smith.

GDF Sergeant Gregory Smith.

Prominent executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Tacuma Ogunseye has rated President David Granger’s handling of the Walter Rodney Commission Report as “poor”, although his People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) failed to produce any witness in their favour.

“In participating in the work of the Commission they did so as equals and gave it legitimacy. However, in failing to present witnesses of their own to tell what they knew and have them tested by cross examination they paid a high price for this enormous blunder,” said Ogunseye who is employed by the Ministry of the Presidency.

He noted that the PNCR had hostile to the Commission, seeing it as a ploy to ridicule the party and its late Founder-Leader, Forbes Burnham.

Calling on Granger to become a “thick skin” politician, Ogunseye argued that the Guyanese leader’s stance on the Commission’s report  and without any discussion by A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Leadership Council of which the WPA resulted in low marks. “At the risk of being deemed rude by my detractors I want to use this opportunity to say to the President that I believe Sir, that whichever of the above you are attempting to defend you are doing a poor job,” he said.

Ogunseye questioned whether Granger was defending his personal integrity, his PNC and Burnham’s “good name,” the office of the Presidency and the State of Guyana.  Granger was told that he was playing into the hands of the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic. “In so far as this matter is concerned in your every manoeuvre you are providing the PPP/C with additional ammunition to attack you and your coalition partners. The PPP/C is having and will continue to have a field day by the way you are dealing with this COI report.”

The WPA Executive Member reasoned that the President’s partisan posture towards the report appeared to be rooted in his belief that the Commission of Inquiry was an attempt by the PPPC to tarnish his name- the latest being a report in the pro-PPPC Guyana Times newspaper. Ogunseye called oj Granger to develop “thick skin.”

“It is therefore understandable, that he is offended and hurt by these continued, unsubstantiated attacks on his person, hence his reactions. But he is now a politician and has to have “thick skin”. But even more important, is the fact that as President, he has the responsibility to balance his personal hurt/interests, and the responsibility of his oath of office. Having now become President he is expected, in the execution of his duties, to rise above narrow partisan and personal interests. This is the kind of burden that those who aspire to the highest in the land is expected to carry,” Ogunseye said.

Declaring that Granger’s positions on the report could not be defended creditably and would fall to pieces in the face of critical examination, Ogunseye took the Guyanese leader to task over the Commission using the testimony of former policeman, Robert Gates, who is convicted and jailed for fraud to conclude that the PNC and Burnham were part of a conspiracy to kill Rodney on June 13, 1980. “What else could the Commission have done when there was no evidence before it to show that the convict was lying? The President, as a historian, must know that history is replete with instances of convicts giving evidence before tribunals which if not challenged or proven unreliable have been accepted as truth,” he said. On the issue of hearsay evidence, Ogunseye reiterated the positions of fellow executive member David Hinds and the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee that the PNCR’s lawyers abused hearsay evidence by relying heavily on a book co-authored by Gregory Smith and his sister Anne Wagner. “What was even more noteworthy was the point of the PNCR’s political culture allowing that party to stand resolutely behind a fugitive from justice, Gregory Smith, who was accused of murder,” he said. Smith, then a Guyana Defence Force electronics expert, supplied the remote-controlled bomb-in-walkie talkie that exploded on Rodney’s lap.

In addressing the President’s concerns that the reputations of a number of persons have been negatively affected by the Commission’s findings,  Ogunseye said Granger cared little about the several WPA members who were killed during the 1970s and 1980s. “He seems not to be concerned that the WPA lost lives, and suffered scores of arrests, numerous beatings, detentions and imprisonment under the repressive rule of the then PNC,” he said.

Ogunseye recalled withholding evidence about his  experiences of personal repression under the Burnham regime because he did not want to supply the PPPC with unnecessary ammunition in the run-up to the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections “so I desisted and did not reveal these horror stories.” “ If I am to recount those experiences now the present PNCR leadership, will I am sure, deny any knowledge of these matters, and who am I to doubt them.”

  • Emile_Mervin

    What exactly do folks want Granger to do with this half-baked, politically tainted, hatchet job called a CoI report?

    Maybe Granger should thank the commissioners, on behalf of Donald Ramotar, and offer to have the report sent to Donald Ramotar, because it was Donald’s idea. Once Donald gets it, he can expound ad nauseam about the violent PNC, while willingly hoping the violent PPP us never revealed in a different CoI.


  • Col123

    The report won’t have mattered a squat if it was dealt with a ranking party member….(Corbin comes to mind)…It is easy to postulate that the report will not matter in the long run. There are many pressing issues that will quickly remove this from view…close another sugar estate and this will disappear instantly…The President needs to hug the economy and move this country forward.. Now he is getting bruised left and right…all of it is his own making. I know that he is President and has the responsibility….but the COI could have been “politicize” and be “minimized”by someone else…This report will not affect anyone’s voting base as I see it…Guyana will continue to be a challenge for our hard working and industrious folks…and life goes on…

  • Nige

    Shame on you Emile. The COI was headed by internationally respected legal figures…Rodney died, how can you cost his courage and heroism? And what about the 50% pay increase the new Govt paid themselves as soon as they got into power… And all the other costly and futile COIs set up by the new Govt to tarnish the previous Govt but not a single finding so far of abuse of power. It’s all withchhunting and grandstanding on the part of the present Govt, alas, when what we need is vision, and visionary statesmen. Hoyte was one such, flawed but visionary( Iwokrama etc).

    • Emile_Mervin

      I admired Rodney and attended his street corner meetings. He was the reason I became political conscious. Unfortunately, the CoI was headed by a man who was openly sympathetic to Rodney and lied about it, whereas I preferred impartial commissioners so that, at the end of the inquiry, the findings will not be tainted.
      The CoI was originally supposed to last three months. Then it went to six months, then additional months were added, but during those extensions, the commissioners did not call key persons, like Hamilton Green, Norman Mclean, Robert Corbin, Skip Roberts, etc. State representatives also showed up to testify and revealed they could not find key documents. After a while, it began dawning on us that this was not a serious inquiry, and despite GY$500M and over one year of sittings, the report did not name a single individual as being a mastermind.
      Worse, the PPP never tendered to the CoI the 1996 findings of Special Prosecutor Doodnauth Singh that returned a murder indictment of Gregory Smith, aka Cyril Johnson, ALONE. BTW, the coalition never set up inquiries into the corrupt PPP; there were audits, but the coalition is holding on to them for reasons best known to them. And the witch-hunting is actually cleaning of the stables of corruption. Read KN on what is happening with the GEA and the oil scandal.

  • Patriot

    Emile, I am taken aback by your comments, as I have come to expect a stronger; more balanced; more thoughtful, and more objective view from you.

    I don’t think that there are many Guyanese who do not feel in their soul that between Burnham and the GDF, they planned and executed Walter’s assassination, and afterwards, denied, covered it up and took no action for years in terms of inquiries, because they knew it would point to them.

    Granger cancelling the inquiry as a matter of priority when he took office smelled of him not wanting the truth or anything near it come out. To say money was the issue was disingenuous at best.

    He was right up there in the GDF at the time and it is a stretch of the imagination that he had no idea.. even if he was out of the country at the time.

    I guess he did not know anything about the 1973 rigging and the fraudulent 1978 referendum either.. if you believe that, I have a bridge in Florida I would like to sell you.

    The leaders of any respected organization own the major actions of those organizations whether they happen to be at home or not… moreso when an assassination is involved!!

    Go tell any North American, European or other leader of that level that they are not responsible for what their organization is supposed to have done when they were temporarily out of the country, but still in office and in charge. Come on! who is kidding who here?

    Trying to discredit the report is ill advised and makes many people attach the findings to Granger more than if he din’t.. and rightfully so.

    Some day, the PNCR will have to own up to what they did to Guyana. It took the South African Apartheid regime a long time, but they did.

    Burnham and the PNC presided over the catastrophic decline and destruction of Guyana and there is no way to sugar cote that. They started the political assassinations (Walter and others) and they try to use the nastiness of the PPP to pretend that they were the good guys…

    They were not, and all who had a hand it the rigging, disenfranchisement, assassination, and destruction of Guyana will be plagued by it for the rest of their lives.. as it should be,

    As for the PPP, the Jagdeo/ Ramoutar reign of corruption, mismanagement, fraud, racism, extra judicial killing, drug infestation of Guyana, and other ills will and should also plague them for the rest of their lives.

    Is there a way forward? there always is. But for that to happen it generally requires leaders with integrity; vision; skill; humility; openness; selflessness; grounded; honest, not inflicted with false pride; not victim to greed; trustworthy stand by their word; passionate about the people, the cause , the country; not opportunistic; not after the money; not looking out for themselves first; able to say ‘I don’t know – and ask people who know; and .. I think everyone reading gets where I am coming from…

    Go through the current cabinet and other MPs and tell me which of them fit the bill. Then go through the opposition and do the same.

    And don’t tell me that these qualities are not things that can be found in Guyanese, or in any other people for that matter. I think that there are many who would exemplify many of these qualities.. maybe not all.. but many.

    Were are they? probably refugees who fled the Burnham dark years – broke and humiliated, followed by disgusted others who fled the Jagdeo/Ramoutar years in shame..

    I rest my arguments.

    • Emile_Mervin

      I believe the PNC and its government knew of Rodney’s death. The PPP took the job of proving it but failed. It is an insult to our collective intelligence for the PPP to spend GY$500m and over a year on this inquiry only to tell us what we already suspected: the PNC was a suspect in Rodney’s death. For that kind of money and time, names were supposed to be called. That’s all I’m saying. As to whether Granger knew, that may be true, but it was never established.