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Chairman of Walter Rodney Commission may get more time to submit Inquiry report

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman.

Attorney General, Basil Williams on Wednesday did not rule out the Chairman of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, Sir Richard Cheltenham being given more time to complete his report.

“I believe that if he is genuinely asking for January month-end it could possibly be considered,” he told reporters. He noted that the decision ultimately rests with President Granger.

The Commission of Inquiry had been called by the previous government to examine the circumstances that led to the death of Working People’s Alliance (WPA) co-founder, Dr. Walter Rodney as a result of a bomb-in-walkie talkie explosion on June 13, 1980 as well as the political environment at the time

With December 15, 2015 gone and no report has been presented  Granger, the Attorney General said Sir Richard was now asking for up to  January 31, 2016 to hand in his report.

Initially, back in July of this year he had been given until November 30, 2015, but then asked for up to February 29, 2016.  After that was request was ruled out by government, Sir Cheltenham was now asking for the end of January.

Later Wednesday, Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman told reporters that government had little options if Sir Richard does not submit the report by another deadline. “We can’t compel; we can only request strongly that the report be submitted,” he said.

The Minister of Governance reiterated government’s long-held view that Guyana could not afford more extensions for an inquiry that has lasted about four years instead of several months. “Government believes that the extensions given were reasonable or beyond reasonable and afforded the commission sufficient time to complete and submit its report,” he said.

Trotman said Sir Richard had asked for more time because of bereavements, logistical issues in gathering the three commissioners together, staff availability and access to transcripts.

Evidence led so far has revealed that then Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith had provided the bomb-in-walkie talkie  to Rodney who had been interested in acquiring communication devices to stay in touch with party representatives across the country.

At the time, Rodney and the WPA had been advocating a civil rebellion against the then Forbes Burnham-led administration. Testimonies before the Commission have also said that Smith, a woman and several children had been flown aboard a GDF aircraft to Kwakwani less than one week after the incident.

Smith subsequently left Guyana for French Guiana where he had lived and worked under the name of Cyril Johnson.