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Joseph Hamilton’s credibility challenged; PNCR lawyer wants section of testimony erased

Last Updated on Thursday, 5 June 2014, 1:16 by GxMedia

Joseph Hamilton concluding his testimony in front of the three Commissioners conducting the Walter Rodney COI (GINA photo)

The credibility of former House of Israel member, Joseph Hamilton on Wednesday came under intense scrutiny and Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) lawyer, Basil Williams has applied for much of the witness’ evidence about receiving guns and instructions from party functionaries to be thrown out.

“I am going to ask this Commission to strike out this part of the testimony. It has absolutely no relevance to the terms of reference for this Commission of Inquiry. It cannot assist you in determining how Dr. Walter Rodney met his death and it is destroying te characters of people who have served this country with distinction and I am tasking this commission to strike out this testimony,”

Williams further argued that that section of Hamilton’s testimony had no evidential value in resolving the various terms of reference for the probe. Present at Tuesday’s session were Green, a former Prime Minister, and Deputy Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green.

Williams rigorously zoomed in on Hamilton’s entry to the cult in 1977 and his status as a trainee-priest, putting the suggestion to him several times that his junior status at the time had made it impossible for him to have participated in meetings with senior PNC functionaries like Robert Corbin, Robert Williams, Hamilton Green and Emerson Simon as well as members of the bar, judiciary and police force.

“He could not at his level interact with the (PNC) hierarchy in no meeting…He’s too low down the ladder,” suggested Williams to Hamilton. When Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham put the suggestion that “you did not know Mr. Corbin such that you would speak to him,”  Hamilton responded: “I know Mr. Corbin when I was a member of the House of Israel (and did you speak to him at any time?) Yes, at meetings that I would have attended with him with the leadership of the House of Israel,” he said.

Hamilton, in his evidence-in-chief at the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney, had identified a number of PNC personalities at the time of handing over guns to him and others to assist in protecting the House of Israel against possible retaliation by the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) for “terrorizing and breaking up” its meetings at the time.

While Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, Sir Richard has said that he would eventually address the PNCR lawyer’s application for a section of the evidence to be expunged, he stated that references to two lawyers and one judge “Nothing that was said by the witness yesterday or contained in his statement can lead, in our view to any reasonable inference against your or the gentlemen mentioned,” he said.

Questioned about the relevance of naming persons and their relationship with the then leader of the House of Israel, Rabbi Edward Washington, he said it showed “the extent to which this country had denigrated in all arms of the State.”

Throughout the testimony, Hamilton disputed suggestions by the lawyer that he was not a close associate of House of Israel leader, Rabbi Edward Washington. Rather, he pointed out that he was a trusted person to the extent that he was responsible for taking care of Washington’s children and taking them to the United States (US). Washington, an American citizen, was charged with murder in 1986, convicted and sentenced. He was later pardoned under the PPPC administration.

When Williams sought to question Hamilton about his children’s employment with the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) that the witness was doing the bidding of the government, Sir Richard ruled that line out of order.  Hamilton, now a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health also rejected suggestions by the PNC lawyer that his testimony was done to “because you are drinking soup from the PPP” . “We are trying to show that Mr. Hamilton is not his own man,” he said. “He is singing a new tune now because the PPP are his new masters…The evidence he has given against the PNC,” said Williams.

He has also denied turning into a whistleblower now against the House of Israel and PNC because he and then PNC Leader, Robert Corbin had fallen out after he (Hamilton) was not selected become a parliamentarian after the 2007 general and regional elections. The former PNC Executive Member conceded that he had never gone to Loo Creek where a section of the PNC’s youth arm had undergone military training but was relying on accounts by an uncle who was a member at that time.

Acknowledging that he was a “thug” back in the 1970s and 1980s, Hamilton later apologized to the WPA, Rodney’s family and Guyanese at large for his role in helping to create the environment that could have eventually led to the killing of Dr. Rodney on June 13,1980 on John Street, near the Georgetown Prison.

“I am profoundly sorry. I profoundly apologise for my role in generating at the time an oppressive and terrorising atmosphere that may have contributed to the demise of Dr Rodney, and to the oppressing and terrorising of members of political parties, including the WPA, citizens and people of Guyana, the family and relatives of all those who were in harm’s way or may have been impacted by the violence, beatings and threats that I was involved in,” Hamilton said.

The commisisoners are Barbadian Sir Richard; Trinidadian Senior Counsel, Seenath Jairam, and Jamaican Queens Counsel Mrs Jacqueline Samuels-Brown.