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Walter Rodney’s associates want more time for key witnesses to testify

Dr. Walter Rodney

Close associates of late Guyanese politician and renowned historian, Dr. Walter Rodney want at least three key witnesses to testify before the Commission of Inquiry before the probe team begins analysing evidence and compiling its report.

The call by the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee  comes days before the three-member commission is due to begin hearing submissions from lawyers for interested parties on July 27 and 28, 2015. 

President David Granger has agreed to grant a final extension of the life of the Commission up to November 30 by which time he would receive a report on the findings and recommendations. 

Commission lawyer, Glen Hanoman has already said that he had at least 8 to 10 key witnesses lined up to testify.

Following is the statemeny by the Justice for Walter Rodney Commitee.

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee is pleased with the Gazette notice that the life of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry has been extended to November 2015. This is a realistic deadline because most of the available evidence has already been laid before the Commission. While we are aware that at least ten more witnesses have indicated willingness to testify, we are in agreement with statements made prior to the May 2015 general and regional elections in Guyana that the Commission could wind up its hearings after listening to testimony from three crucial witnesses. At that time, attorney at law Basil Williams, who is now the Attorney General of Guyana had identified former head of the Guyana Defence Force Norman Mc Clean, former Crime Chief of Guyana Cecil Skip Roberts, and Co-Leader of the Working People’s Alliance Rupert Roopnaraine, as crucial witnesses who in his view should testify and be examined before the inquiry concludes.  The Commission is yet to hear completed testimonies from these three key witnesses. We believe that the Commission of Inquiry can conclude its work after hearing from these crucial witnesses.

While we are in agreement with the November 2015 deadline for completion of the work of the COI, we are concerned about the imposed deadline for the Commission to conclude hearing closing submissions from lawyers by July 28, 2015. This deadline does not seem to take consideration on the need for the Commissioners to hear testimony from remaining witnesses. We believe this course of action should be reconsidered. The Rodney family needs closure. Guyana needs closure and more especially because the country is now embarking on a path towards national reconciliation.

From the beginning of this process, friends, colleagues, and compatriots of Walter Rodney have felt that this inquiry is one of the pillars for the much needed process of national reconciliation, which must unfold in Guyana. An important signal of the readiness of all the political parties to begin this process came in 2005 when the People’s National Congress led at the time by Mr. Robert Corbin participated in the unanimous decision of the National Assembly to establish a Commission of Inquiry into Walter Rodney’s killing. This was an important signal of the readiness of the People’s National Congress to put the past behind us. The decision heralded the beginning of this process. In the spirit of reaching across the aisle demonstrated by the joining of parliamentary votes between the Working People’s Alliance and the People’s National Congress in 2005, and the work that has been done since then that saw the establishment firstly of APNU and then the APNU+AFC Alliance, the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee recommends that the three panel Commission of eminent Caribbean Jurists be engaged with in discussion, and a mutual deadline be established.