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Govt petitioned to allow more time for Rodney Inquiry

Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman (left) receiving a copy of the petition from former Working People’s Alliance (WPA) activist, Karen De Souza.

Former and current members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) as well as other like-minded persons are calling on government to ensure there is a “proper inquiry” into the death of that party’s co-leader, Dr. Walter Rodney.

Guyana needs and deserves a proper inquiry in which all key witnesses give evidence under oath. Only then can our country begin the journey of  healing and reconciliation,” said the grouping.

Under the umbrella of the Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign, the grouping has delivered a petition to government, calling on President David Granger to lift government’s “short-sighted” abrupt end to the inquiry and allow key witnesses to testify in the probe.

The call comes even as the Commissioners have bee given until November 30, 2015 to prepare and deliver their report to President Granger.

The WPA has long held the view that Rodney was assassinated near the Georgetown Prison on June 13, 1980 when a bomb-in-walkie talkie exploded. The device had been provided by then Guyana Defence Force electronics expert Sargeant Gregory Smith who was shortly after flown aboard a GDF plane to Kwakwani with a woman and several kids.

They then left for French Guiana where he worked and lived under the name of Cyril Johnson until he died of cancer several years ago.

At the time of Rodney’s death, he had been leading a civil rebellion against the then Forbes Burnham-led People’s National Congress administration. Granger is leader of the PNC-Reform,

Following is the full statement by the Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign.

With the impending 30th November deadline for the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (WRCOI) report, the Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign yesterday presented its 1,000 + petition  to Guyana’s Minister of Governance, Rafael Trotman. Karen de Souza was requested by the Campaign, spearheaded by Guyanese in London, to do the handing over on its behalf,

Two weeks earlier, on 13 November, the petition was handed over at Guyana’s Washington DC embassy and its Jamaica High Commission.

Petitioners are demanding that Guyana’s President Granger allow the WRCOI the two more weeks it requested to properly complete its work. The Administration is refusing a mere two weeks, after 34 years of evasion by successive governments.

The assassination of Guyana’s pre-eminent historian, scholar-activist and author of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Dr Walter Rodney in 1980 remains Guyana’s most traumatising political murder. A proper investigation was at various times avoided and frustrated by the PNC under Forbes Burnham and then by the PPP/C under four Presidents including Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo who was President for twelve years. That was until 2014, when the formal WRCOI started work under Mr. Donald Ramotar.

The refusal by the Granger-led coalition government to allow the Commission to complete its work now threatens to undo more than one year’s work and to denyGuyanese the opportunity to finally establish the truth of the death of one of Guyana’s great sons.

The APNU/AFC coalition came to power in May 2015 with a narrow cross-racial win over the discredited PPP government, promising national reconciliation. Yet within days of their win, amidst some admittedly unsavoury revelations about certain financial transactions, the Administration began to undermine and discredit the WRCOI without proposing a better alternative.  

Rodney’s renowned legacy in Guyana endured sufficiently to curb racial voting for the first time in Guyana’s 50 year post-colonial history, thus enabling Granger’s win. Rodney’s political teaching had exposed the exploitative nature of Guyana’s historic ethnic Indian/ African conflicts, which stymied its post-colonial development. But Rodney was seen as a direct threat to Forbes Burnham’s power and the politics of party paramountcy.    

A new dispensation for the WRCOI could resolve previous abuses which were not of the Commission’s making. However new ministers, Attorney General Basil Williams -who represented the PNC at the WRCOI – and Governance Minister Rafael Trotman simply asserted that the two-week extension was disallowed to save taxpayers’ money and, more ominously, “further embarrassment”.

As November 30 approaches, we urge Guyana’s government to announce a reversal of its short-sighted decision that has brought a premature end to the WR COI. This plea is in keeping with what has been called for by all three commissioners, the lawyers representing Rodney’s party, the much depleted Working People’s Alliance- now part of APNU, Rodney’s brother Donald, in whose car the fatal bomb was detonated, and the rest of Rodney’s family.

Guyana needs and deserves a proper inquiry in which all key witnesses give evidence under oath. Only then can our country begin the journey of  healing and reconciliation.

Following is the letter that was dispatched to President Granger.

President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana Brigadier David Granger Thursday 26th November 2015

Dear President Granger, Walter Rodney’s 1980 assassination remains a most traumatising political murder in Guyana’s history. A proper investigation into the death of the pre-eminent scholar, historian, activist and author of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was evaded by both the largely Afro-Guyanese supported PNC and Indo-Guyanese supported PPP governments until 2014, when the formal Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (WRCOI) started work.

Rodney’s political teaching exposed the exploitative nature Guyana’s historic ethnic Indian/ African conflict that stymied its post-colonial development. His renowned work and legacy in Guyana endured sufficiently to curb racial voting for the first time in fifty years, actually enabling the win of your new cross-racial coalition government, with promises of healing, reconciliation and national unity. Yet within days, your new government simply announced the inquiry’s curtailment and even refused to allow the Commission a final two weeks to complete their investigation for transparently political reasons.

We demand that the Commission be allowed to finish its long-awaited task and particularly, to hear from the remaining key witnesses.

This plea has been supported by all three commissioners, the lawyers representing Rodney’s party the Working People’s Alliance, his brother Donald Rodney and the rest of the Rodney family. A new dispensation for the Commission could resolve previous abuses which were not of the Commission’s making.

All Guyanese need and deserve a properly completed inquiry into this atrocity, both to unearth the truth and to promote healing and reconciliation.
Yours Sincerely, .K.de Souza……………………
on behalf of Anne Braithwaite and Leland DeCambra, London With the 1,000 + undersigned,