An international group of activists has formed a committee for Walter Rodney and raises a number of issues with regard to the formation of a commission of inquiry into the death 34 years ago of the celebrated Guyanese intellectual
Many concerned citizens from all parts of the world have come together to form the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee. This Committee welcomes the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry now sitting in Guyana to investigate the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980.
Among the list of growing supporters of the work of the committee are Professor Micere Mugo, Patrick Bond of South Africa, Professor Issa Shivji, Eusi Kwayana, Richard Small, Professor Michael West as well as Larry Barns, Director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs in Washington D.C. Among the distinguished international supporters of the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee is to be found the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Dr. Willy Mutunga, who stated that it is great news that this commission has started. The present Chief Justice of Kenya was a student of Walter Rodney at the University of Dar es Salaam. Other support for the work of the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee has come from all five continents including prestigious African organizations such as CODESRIA and other social scientists in Africa.. Among the tasks of this newly established Committee is to work with others in all parts of the world to ensure that the processes of this inquiry are fair, transparent and does not dishonor the memory of Walter Rodney.
The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee is engaged in formal communication with the Secretariat of the Commission and have made specific recommendations to enhance the process of a fair and transparent inquiry. In our initial letter to the Commission we informed them that we are willing and ready to assist the work of the commission in arriving at the truth. Many of the media are certainly aware that most if not all of us called, have continued to clamor over the last 34 years for an impartial international commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances, events, institutions, organizations, and individuals that played a role in the killing of Walter Rodney.
It is in context that we told the commission that as it deliberates, it is incumbent on them to consider the political environment of the 1970s which produced the activism of the people of Guyana against the state - Also the nature and quality of the political state and state institutions governed by the ideology of party paramountcy. We asked the commission to consider the political climate that produced attacks on democracy and violence against opponents and the wider populace.
In our letter we also urged the commission to establish a firm, but reasonable hearing timeline that gives those intending to appear adequate time to plan. In this regard we recommended that hearings s be held in each county of Guyana, including in the mining town of Linden, and in the interior districts of the country. We called on the commission to consider the difficulty of movement within Guyana, especially for people in the outlying districts. And because more Guyanese are now living out of the Country we recommended that the commission schedule hearings in the Caribbean, North America, the United Kingdom, Suriname, and Venezuela.
In the interest of the truth, and ensure that the commission of inquiry and its findings are acceptable as having been arrived through an impartial and independent process we also called on the Commission to invite impartial observers to observe and report on the process. To this end we call on all groups, supporters for social justice, those who support human and people’s rights, students, friends, and compatriots of Walter Rodney to contact the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, and to pay close attention to the proceedings as it unfolds. The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry can be contacted by email at [email][email protected] It can also be reached by mail at Walter Rodney Secretariat, Supreme Court Building, South Road, Georgetown, Guyana.
The three member Commission is headed by Barbadian jurist, Sir Richard Cheltenham, and includes Jamaican Queen’s Counsel (QC), Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Senath Jairam. The proceedings of the commission of inquiry are being streamed live on the internet and can be accessed at: http://thewatchtv.com/watch-ncn-live-tv-from-guyana/
The most significant news that has come out of the hearings so far is the disappearance of seven of the ten files kept by the Guyana Police Force on the assassination of Walter Rodney. This prompted the Chair of the commission to ask how the police deal with their old files. To this the police replied that files are handled and kept internally, and to that the Chair said, well in countries like Barbados old files are sent to the National Archives. This exchange speaks about the culture of record keeping. This is one of the many reasons why the international community needs to be vigilant.
Members of the public can also receive daily reports on the Commission of Inquiry by joining the “Justice for Walter Rodney” group page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/521747371268961/
* Wazir Mohamed is Associate Professor, Indiana University East
Email: [email][email protected]