That rights organisation took issue with one of the Terms of Reference that requires the three-member commission to investigate the extent to which the many quasi-political military organizations existing in Guyana at the time of Rodney’s death, were tasked with surveillance against the ‘political opposition’, rather than against his Working Peoples Alliance (WPA).
“In this respect, the clause provides an opportunity for inserting the ruling PPP into events in which it was marginal at the time and for generating a stream of horror stories from that era into the work of the Commission, with rich potential for stirring up Indo-Guyanese resentment against the PNC.
Coming at a time of much speculation over general and regional elections, the proposed COI could be read as the worst form of electioneering,” the GHRA said in a statement. The PNC-Reform and its wider coalition A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) draws the bulk of its political support from among Afro-Guyanese while East Indians largely support the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).
The GHRA cautioned that the COI could revive rather than heal ethnic division in Guyana, something that would amount to a travesty of travesty of Dr. Rodney’s major contribution to Guyana.
Flaying government for failing to consult the WPA on the “opportunistic” Terms of Reference as that “robs the initiative of any credibility,” the GHRA deemed the rational for the COI as a puzzling since its Terms of Reference suggests that it will be a criminal investigation but at the same time rules out criminal charges for anyone found guilty as h or she would be granted an absolute pardon.
The GHRA instead said a more appropriate priority would be an impartial investigation into the numerous extra-judicial killings of young men during the mid-2000s in circumstances which suggested involvement of the State.
Ethnic division in Guyana, the association argued, has not healed sufficiently to make way for a COI. “Reluctantly, the GHRA feels compelled to conclude that the proposed initiative has more to do with prolonging the ethnic dimension of Guyanese politics, than laying to rest controversy over who was responsible for Walter Rodney’s death.”
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in 1995 had found that there was sufficient evidence for such an enquiry but former Guyana Defence Force Sergeant, Gregory Smith alias Cyril Johnson would have been key in such a probe.
France declined to extradite Johnson from French Guiana because Guyana still has the death penalty on its law books and the government could not have given any assurance that it would not have been enforced if he was found guilty. Smith years later died in French Guiana from colon cancer.