Last Updated on Friday, 11 June 2021, 22:11 by Denis Chabrol
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Friday welcomed the decision by the Guyana government to honor world-acclaimed historian and party co-leader Dr. Walter Rodney who was killed in a bomb-blast on June 13, 1980 at the height of a civil rebellion to dislodge the Forbes Burnham dictatorship from office.
“We are especially heartened that the death certificate of our beloved brother would be amended to reflect the true cause of his demise–assassination. WPA has never wavered in our belief that Dr. Rodney was murdered by agents and at the direction of the government of the day because of his political activism,” the WPA said in a statement.
Decades later in 2011, the WPA joined the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which, in alliance with the Alliance For Change (AFC), won the 2015 general and regional elections.
But sections of the PNCR had decades later still remained lukewarm towards the WPA and had even terminated the 2014 Commission of Inquiry into his death and had defeated a motion for the report to be published and the recommendations implemented. The WPA condemned in the “strongest terms” the PNC’s leadership, past and present. The former presided over Rodney’s murder while the latter when given the opportunity to redeem itself chose to assassinate our brother a second time. That party’s abrupt termination of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry upon taking office, its blunt refusal to implement reasonable recommendations of the Commission and to formally release its report reflected a political viciousness that has no parallel in recent Caribbean political history. What is even more cynical is that they did so as a government in which Rodney’s party was a junior member. It was one of the worst betrayals of political trust that exposed the WPA to unjustified but, in the circumstances, understandable ridicule and condemnation from those opposed to national reconciliation.”
Though the WPA walked away from APNU after the coalition’s defeat at the March 2020 general and regional elections, that small party has remained critical of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration for the way that it has been governing Guyana. The WPA and the PPP had been allies under the banner of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) whose aim had been to restore electoral democracy.
Despite its alliance with the PNCR, the WPA had always maintained that Dr. Rodney had been assassinated at the hands of the Burnham regime by a bomb-in-walkie-talkie that had been supplied by now late Guyana Defence Force electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith. The Commission of Inquiry had heard testimony that at the time of the incident, the WPA had been obtaining long-range communication systems.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s announced that the 1988 inquest into Rodney’s death would be invalidated because it states that he died as a result of misadventure; his children’s books, Lakshmi Out of India and Kofi Baadu Out of Africa, would be made compulsory reading as part of the schools curriculum; the National Archives would be renamed; Rodney’s grave and memorial site would be managed by the National Trust and the documents concerning the Commission of Inquiry into his death would be digitised and stored in the archives at a United States university.
WPA says it now awaits the implementation of the initiatives by the government. “We are particularly interested in the intention to have Walter Rodney’s books become part of the national education curriculum. Rodney has earned this exalted place by virtue of the superlative quality of his scholarship and its inherent commitment to national wholeness.” At the same time, the WPA cautioned the government against using Rodney as the cover to insert into the educational curriculum PPP’s partisan version of the country’s historical journey and reality.
Finally, WPA must remind that though the announcements emanate from the PPP, they are done in the name of every single Guyanese regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. The resources that will be used to implement the decisions are the products of the labour of all Guyanese, including the political descendant of the assassins. In the end, Walter Rodney belongs to no single political party, ethnicity or race—by his activism and example he is the embodiment of the quintessential Guyanese.
The WPA, despite its short-lived relations with the PNCR, on Friday stuck to its historical position that Dr. Rodney had been assassinated. “WPA has never wavered in our belief that Dr. Rodney was murdered by agents and at the direction of the government of the day because of his political activism. It is an act that will forever be a stain on the face our independence and it will always be a grim reminder of the nasty underbelly of our native politics,” the party stated
The WPA credited the PPP administration’s decisions to the direct result of four decades of relentless advocacy and struggle by many colleagues, friends and admirers of Dr. Rodney. “The WPA was in the forefront of this fight, but special recognition must be given to the Rodney family which never gave up the fight for justice for a husband, brother, father and relative. This is indeed a moment of overcoming for Guyana, the Caribbean and the wider world. It is also a moment of justice for other martyrs of that revolutionary moment such as Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin and Father Bernard Darke,” the party added.
Despite its deep differences with the PPP and its disdain for that party’s opportunism on the Walter Rodney issue over the years, WPA says its commends the party for taking the announced initiative. “Notwithstanding the fact that the PPP takes this initiative at a time when that party is engaged in the worst assault on national jointness in Guyana’s post-independence history, they must be recognized for doing the right and hounarable thing. Sometimes in politics we must be able to extricate elements of progressive outcomes from webs of conspiracies. In this instance WPA separates Rodney and the announced initiatives from the real and perceived sinister political intent of the authors,” the party added.
Consistent with this stance, WPA expressed its utter disgust with the way in which the PPP has used the memory of Walter Rodney to encourage the further divide of Guyana politically and ethno-racially. The WPA chastised the PPP for never missing an opportunity to mis-locate that Guyanese patriot outside of his African Guyanese heritage and place him and his life’s work in collision and conflict with the interests of that segment of our nation. It is a crime that is only slightly less grievous than his assassination.
According to the WPA, Rodney was a prophet of multiracialism, but he was forever proud of is African ancestry and had nothing but contempt for Black self-haters. “Guyanese should also be reminded that despite its recent outpourings, the PPP has always accepted the PNC’s version of Rodney’s death and the activities of the WPA at that time. That party’s characterization of Rodney and the WPA as “adventurists” who delivered Rodney’s head on a “platter” gave credence to the PNC’s narrative that Rodney’s murder by the State was justified.
Reflecting on its recent relations with the PNCR, the WPA said that party’s top leadership would be condemned f0rever. The WPA defended its decision to remain in the coalition although the PNCR had shown disdain for honouring Dr. Rodney. “WPA showed good faith in the interest of national healing by joining a partnership with a party whose previous leadership had assassinated our leader but was rewarded with gross disrespect by a narrowminded leadership which could not recognize that healing a nation is always sacrosanct and necessary and must be paramount to partisan considerations. History will forever harshly judge that leadership for its lack of foresight and vision when it was most needed. But it is not too late for the current transitional leadership of the PNC to find a way to extricate the party from those sordid chapters.”