Drama unfolded in the Guyanese capital Georgetown as the official commission of inquiry into the assassination of celebrated Pan-African intellectual and activist, Dr. Walter Rodney, handed over its report to the government. The commission has encountered numerous difficulties designed to sabotage its work since inception in 2013. It remains to be seen whether the President of Guyana will release the findings.
The world awaits the release of the report of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry. Over the past weeks controversy has swirled surrounding the circumstances in which the report has been submitted to the government of Guyana. Regardless, the ball is now in the court of the President of Guyana to release and make this report public. We have waited 36 years for this inquiry. The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry began its work in April 2014, and completed its report on February 8, 2016.
The report was finally lodged at the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 on the instruction of President David Granger, the Guyanese head of state. It is normal and accepted practice in Guyana for reports of presidential inquiries to be handed directly to the president. But in this case there was a variance. This course of action was directed by the president because he could not shift around his appointments to facilitate the handing over. The report, which was originally supposed to be presented to the president at midday on Monday, February 8, was delayed because the secretariat appointed by the government to support the work of the commission could not print the report in time for the scheduled hand-over. The secretariat had run out of ink while printing the document. It was not for the lack of effort that the commissioners could not deliver their report on time, since they were being sabotaged from the outset.
Once the hearings came to an end in July 2015, the secretariat appears to have been reduced to a skeletal staff. No transcripts of the final days of the hearings were provided to the lawyers. When inquiries were made by representatives of the WPA by means of emails, there were no responses forthcoming. Persons were sent to the office of the secretariat, only to find that there was one “office” person and a security guard. In effect, the secretariat, which was supposed to facilitate the smooth functioning of the work of the commission, was not capable of carrying out this task, despite the assurance from counsel to the commission, Ms. Latchmie Rahamat. This was not accidental. There were some reports of the staff not being paid, and they had no recourse than to find alternative employment for their daily bread.
Over the past week the government and the commission have traded remarks on the process; these have been covered in the local Guyanese media. Here are links to two media sources on the back and forth (http://www.motp.gov.gy/index.php/732-president-granger-disappointed-in-w...http://newssourcegy.com/news/walter-rodney-commissioners-were-told-by-presidents-secretary-to-leave-report-at-ags-office-sir-richard/)
What seems to be unfolding is the continuation of attempts to discredit the commissioners and the work of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry itself. Attempts to discredit the WRCOI started from the time the commission was established in 2013 and have continued to this day. The WRCOI, it should be recalled, was set up by the previous government of President Donald Ramotar of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP). The inquiry was established 33 years after the assassination, and 21 years after the party that succeeded the Peoples National Congress (PNC) had been in power.
The Burnham-led PNC government, which ruled Guyana from 1964 until his death in 1985, was accused of engineering the death of Dr. Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980. After the change in the PNC regime in 1992, when the Jagan-led PPP government came into being, it was anticipated there would have been an inquiry into the death of Dr. Rodney. This was not to be. It took a protest by Dr. Rodney’s son Shaka in 1993 to force the PPP into action. There was an inquiry by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in 1995, but the “Rodney files” pertaining to the case were deemed missing, and the ICJ called for a more in-depth inquiry in its report. It did make some significant observations and recommendations, though, offering up its own report as the basis of further inquiry.
From the beginning, the People’s National Congress (PNC/R) denounced the Ramotar-appointed commission of inquiry as a political football and said they would not participate in the proceedings. The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the party of Walter Rodney, protested the manner in which the commission was brought into being, stating that it would not participate as an organization, but would allow its members to participate in their individual capacities. Nevertheless, once the commission began its hearings, the PNC/R got involved, appointing lawyers Basil Williams and James Bond to represent its interest, so did the Working Peoples Alliance, and the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) all of whom appointed lawyers.
With the change in government in the May 11, 2015 elections, the Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity plus Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government came into being, with the PNC/R being the major partner in the APNU coalition (the WPA is a member of the APNU coalition). The government at once attacked the WRCOI as being a waste of money, and set about to close it down. It gave the WRCOI two days for the submission of closing statements, and six months for the submission of its findings. It refused to allow the evidence of further witnesses, despite pleas from the lawyers of the Rodney family, Donald Rodney, and the WPA, for an extension to facilitate this. The Commissioners asked of the PNC and TUC lawyers if they would support the other lawyers for more time for other witnesses, but this was declined. The government claimed that any further evidence could be submitted in writing. The evidence of Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, a prominent leader of the WPA, was supposedly submitted, a claim he made in a newspaper report. In spite of all the interference, the report is complete and is with the President of Guyana.
It is hoped that the President of Guyana will put the interest of the nation above and beyond the reach of party politics, and present the report of the presidentially mandated Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry to the public, both to Guyana and the wider world.
* Rohit Kanhai is Editor of the Caribbean Daylight, a weekly newspaper in New York City that serves the Guyanese and Caribbean Diaspora communities.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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