Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Mark Phillips on Tuesday denied that the army was engaged in massive cover-up over the alleged involvement of former Sergeant 4141 William Gregory Smith in the bomb-blast death of politician Dr. Walter Rodney.
“I’m not aware of any covering-up. At least that is not my policy to cover up in this regard as it pertains to the Commission,” he told reporters.
The GDF, through a number of officers who have testified before the Walter Rodney Commission pf Inquiry, has failed to produce vital records about whether Smith had been properly discharged or was Absent Without Leave (AWOL). His personnel file as well as well as records then army airplane, 8R-GER, that had probably flown Smith and his family from Ogle Airport to Kwakwani were also not found.
Several activists of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), who have testified before the Rodney Commission, have maintained that Rodney’s death on June 13,1980 on John Street near the Georgetown Prison was the work of the then People’s National Congress (PNC) administration. Evidence so far confirms that Smith, an army electronics expert, had provided the device to Walter’s brother, Donald, earlier that night for them to test against the metal wall of the prison.
Lawyer for the WPA at the Commission of Inquiry, Christopher Ram has sought to adduce testimony from one of the GDF officers that the absence of key documents has amounted to a massive cover-up. ““I’m putting it to you, Sir, that this disappearance of these records is not an accident or an act of God. I’m putting it to you that the hierarchy of the army has been involved in a massive cover up of the assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney by a serving member of the army,” he told Lt. Col. Cargill Kyte in relation to a number of documents that were either missing or unavailable from the Air Corps.
Reacting to Ram’s assertion, the Chief of Staff recalled that the three Commissioners had very early after their appointment met with him and he had pledged the army’s full cooperation. “We have been cooperating fully with the Rodney Inquiry. All the documents that we have in the GDF that is requested by the Commission, we have been handing those documents over to the Commission,” said Brigadier Phillips.
Head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Leslie James has told the Commission of Inquiry that, based on the files, Rodney’s death might have been due to recklessness rather than the involvement of the State at that time. James, a former Head of Police Intelligence, has opined that the WPA might have been negligent in running more background checks on Smith.