Current, past WPA members scold Granger over handling of Rodney Commission Report

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2016, 16:17 by Denis Chabrol

Former and current members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) have lambasted Guyana’s President David Granger’s rejection of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry Report.

WPA Executive Member, Dr. David Hinds-fearing that efforts to heal political wounds  through the alliance between the WPA and Granger’s People’s National Congress (PNC) and later the Alliance For Change (AFC) will fail- cautioned against a one-sided position on the outcome and recommendations in the report. “The president said that the Cabinet had not deliberated on the matter. But I think the cabinet also should refrain from taking a position on this matter. The cabinet should discuss it because it is at the findings of a presidential COI.

But I would be equally disappointed if that body takes a partisan stand. Partisan stands should be left to the parties. The president and government should not be caught up with the partisan interpretation of the report, but with the implications of the findings, flawed or not, for the country as a whole,” Hinds said in his latest opinion titled “I am disappointed at President Granger’s Remarks on the Walter Rodney COI Report.”

The WPA is yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Hinds, a Political Scientist who has analysed extensively Guyana’s political situation for several decades now,  highlighted the importance of government ensuring that the “findings of the COI is not used to upset that unity.”  “The President and the government must be sensitive to the impact of any campaign to deny justice for Walter Rodney or to taint the evidence in that regard on the WPA, one of its constituent party,” said Hinds, a long-time militant activist in the WPA’s heyday to dislodge the PNC from office during the 1970s and 1980s.

The WPA Executive Member advised government to instead to examine the Commission of Inquory Report from the angle of political and other violence by the State. “ I would prefer the president and his cabinet, after careful study of the report, address the issue of political violence, in particular State and Para-State Violence. We did not need the Rodney COI report to alert us to the scourge of State Violence in Guyana. Our Independence experience is riddled with instances of the use by governments of the State apparatus to inflict violence against political opponents.”

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee lashed back at Granger’s assertion that the Commission relied on hearsay from a convict to conclude that the People’s National Congress (PNC) administration and then President Forbes Burnham had much to do with the bomb-blast death of Rodney on June 13, 1980 near the Georgetown Prison.

The Committee highlighted that it was the PNC-Reform’s lawyer, Basil Williams- now Guyana’s Attorney General- who had relied on hearsay evidence in a book said to have been co-authored by Ann Wagner and her brother, Gregory Smith, who had supplied the bomb-in-walkie talkie. “President Granger should also be reminded that it was no less a person than his current Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, who introduced to the Commission the most important piece of hearsay evidence: the book allegedly co-authored by army Sergeant Gregory Smith but published several years after his death. Under cross-examination, Smith’s sister and co-author was shattered when the book was exposed as a complete fabrication.  The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee hoped  that “ the President in his next broadside at the still hidden Report will say whether all hearsay is out of place or only if a convict is the witness.”

President Granger, in claiming that the Commission did not give “Guyana people what they deserve, that is to say what were the circumstances under which Dr. Rodney acquired a certain device and how that device came to be detonated” according to the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee, “not only attempts to rewrite the Commission’s Terms of Reference but completely overlooks the expert evidence by a witness whose credibility and evidence were not affected even after extensive cross-examination by the team of attorneys representing his Party. “

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee urged President Granger to release the document on which he has been commenting publicly.  “Years from now new generations may find it strange that a government had hindered persons in search of information vital to them and the health of the society.

Reacting to Granger’s reference that former Head of the Guyana Police Force’s Criminal Investigations Department, Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts  was not allowed to testify and that former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF),  Major General Norman Mc Lean did not complete his testimony, the Committee recalled that it was the Guyanese leader who had refused to extend repeated calls for the commission to continue public hearings.  “We wish to remind President Granger that it was he who, despite the strenuous pleas of lawyers and the parties represented at the Commission, brought the Commission of Inquiry to an abrupt end. The President cannot have it both ways: he cannot stop the Inquiry and later, when the findings are adverse to his interest, lament the absence of their testimony,”  the Committee argued.

Lead Counsel for the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI), Mr. Glen Hanoman has that  Roberts was not allowed to give evidence solely because Roberts did not tender a statement to the Commission. Hanoman is contending that the wrong impression is being peddled in the media as to why Roberts could not give evidence. “No other witness was allowed to give evidence without first giving a statement. I had hoped to get another try with him but I just don’t know why he never returned.”

The Committee expressed regret that the President has once again raised the issue of the cost of the Commission. “Our Committee is on record as being sensitive to the instances of wastage surrounding the Inquiry, but we find it highly improper for the entire Inquiry to be measured in dollars and cents. We are moved to repeat the old saying-“Justice is more precious than gold.”

The bomb-in-walkie talkie, which was supplied by GDF electronic expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith, exploded in Rodney’s lap while he was sitting in his brother’s Mazda Capella car, PBB 2349, on John Street,  ostensibly testing the device under remote instruction from Smith.

In the face of repeated public denials at the time that there was no Gregory Smith enlisted in the GDF, his picture was published in the Catholic Standard. Former GDF pilot, Gerry Gouveia testified more than 30 years later that he believed he had transported a man, fitting Smith’s description, and his family to Kwakwani days after.

Smith and his family eventually moved to French Guiana where he lived and worked under the name of Cyril Johnson until he succumbed to cancer in 2002.