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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.”