Last Updated on Friday, 5 August 2016, 13:39 by Denis Chabrol
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has suggested that in the absence of former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant, Gregory Smith he does not have any clear evidence to show who was behind the killing of renowned Guyanese historian and politician, Dr. Walter Rodney.
“I don’t have the answer whether Forbes Burnham or the PNC (People’s National Congress) or rogue elements in the army or the police force or imperialists or the House of Israel, that rogue elements, that this man Gregory Smith was an agent of any if these persons or entities; I cannot because I don’t have the evidence,” he told the National Assembly.
When it was the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) Neend ‘Neil’ Kumar’s time to speak, he slammed Nagamootoo: “For the rest of my life, I would never forget the Honourable Moses Nagamootoo for his contribution, Moses sat with us at the editorial board and he condemened the PNC and I just can’t understand what my former good friend Moses Nagamootoo was saying, he knew he accepted that Rodney was assassinated by the PNC.”
The Commission of Inquiry Report states that “given the manner in which the country was run coupled with the threats issued by Prme Minister Burnham to the members of te WPA and the evidence of Mr Robert Allan Gates, we conclude tat Prime Minister Burnham knew of the plan and was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Walter Rodney.”
Nagamoootoo stressed that it was not about how he and others feels about that period of political repression, but it was about the need to dwell on concrete evidence rather than suspicion or intuition.
“There were other leads that could have been followed that had been suggested themselves- one was whether the HPI had been involved in the killing of Walter Rodney, whether there was any foreign interest or interests that could be implicated in a plan to eliminate Rodney,” Nagamootoo, a former senior PPP member, told the National Assembly during a motion sponsored by the PPPC.
At that point, PPPC frontbencher heckled “you concocting stories now.”
Testimony by Walter’s brother, Donald, during the Commission of Inquiry included that he had collected a bag with a walkie-talkie from Smith, a former GDF electronics expert, with instructions on what to do outside the metal fence of the Georgetown Prison on June 13, 1980. That device moments later exploded in Walter’s lap while he was seated in his brother’s Mazda Capella car, PBB 2349. Other witnesses had testified that Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) had been interested in acquiring walkie talkies to communicate over long distances.
In the name of PPPC parliamentarian, Gail Teixeira, the motion had sought to commit the Guyana government to take to take measures to implement the recommendations therein in order to ensure the democratic architecture is protected and strengthened.
However, the government side proposed an amendment to examine the findings of to ascertain which are acceptable and implementable, something Teixeira said that “completely waters down the PPPC motion.”
The recommendations by the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry include the need for a well-by the police and army, the need for timely investigations with oversight from the Director of Public Pro, training for the army and police, need for a professional army, and efficient and timely coroners within six months.
In the area of politics, the Commission of Inquiry recommended that no party or government should be permitted be to tamper with the electoral system to secure an unfair advantage and that the electoral system should be entrenched in the constitution and only amendable by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Headed by Barbadian jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham, the three-member Commission of Inquiry further recommended that a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission should be of highest integrity, be a non-political appointment and approved by political parties and other interest groups. The Commission also said Guyana should continue to have international election observers and address ethnic divisions especially during election season.
However, Prime Minister Nagamootoo said the Commissioners strayed off into the domestic political environment and made those recommendations instead of exploring other possible avenues to the truth. He said no consideration was given to the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) pressuring the then Guyana government to facilitate the movement of troops to fight in Angola and at a time also when several pro-right governments were being toppled across Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Prime Minister said at that time the PPPC-led government could have taken steps to either have Smith charged with manslaughter or offer an unconditional pardon if it had been interested in hearing from the accused. France had advised Guyana that it would not have facilitated Smith’s extradition to his native land because there is the death penalty.
The Commission of Inquiry lasted from February 2014 to October 2016 during which time there were 66 sessions and testimony by 29 of 31 witnesses.