WHY Guyana descended from its rich potential in the early 1970’s to a deadly state, whereby by 1980 the nation saw committed in its capital city, Georgetown, the worst political assassination in the history of the English-speaking Caribbean?
Now, revelations coming out of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry into how and why Dr. Rodney suffered such an ignoble death grip the nation with fascination and shock.
When world-renowned scholar Dr. Walter Rodney was assassinated in a bomb blast in his car in Georgetown on June 13, 1980, the Guyanese nation had descended to a dark, deadly depth, with sinister and mysterious undercurrents.
Now, 34 years later, the Government of Guyana has convened a Commission of Inquiry to probe that dark period of the nation’s history. Despite an international outcry and whispers of political conspiracy and citizens speculating on allegations of how and why Dr. Rodney was killed, Guyana, for decades, never inquired into why the nation had sunk to such a dysfunctional social depth.
State witness, Joseph Hamilton last week told the Commission he agreed to testify because he wants to reveal what he knows of that dark period of the country’s history. “I don’t want to see this country live through that ever again. I want young people to know the history, and to never repeat it. I want to clear my conscience, to be free.”
He was echoing the goal of one of the Terms of Reference of the Commission’s work, which seeks to establish the climate and atmosphere in Guyana in the period 1978 – 1980, which would have caused and resulted in the death of outstanding international scholar and populist political leader, Dr. Rodney.
The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry comprises three distinguished legal minds of the Caribbean, who in the two sessions of its sitting have established a professional, rational and impartial reputation. The Commission’s credibility across the Guyanese nation, both in the Diaspora and locally, is now soundly intact, with citizens paying keen attention to the testimonies, witness accounts and revelations of mind-blowing political intrigue.
The Commissioners, eminent legal scholar from Barbados, Sir Richard Cheltenham, outstanding legal luminary from Jamaica, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, and distinguished legal intellectual from Trinidad and Tobago, Seenath Jairam, have gained the respect of all Counsel appearing at the Commission. The Commissioners have gained the praise of all Counsel involved in the Commission’s work, as demonstrating impartial professionalism and a keen sense of gathering the truth.
The People’s National Congress (PNC) has resisted calls to probe the assassination, and now distances itself from the Commission’s probe, claiming that the current ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) convened the Commission for its own political motives.
Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Mr. Anil Nandlall, in an invited comment, said he rejects the PNC’s claims, noting that the investigation is long overdue. “The Guyanese people want closure on this terrible period. It is high time we conduct a thorough investigation into the atmosphere and state of the country that would have caused Dr. Rodney to be killed. This was under the PNC Government that such a horrible thing happened. They must face the Guyanese citizenry, and stop finding excuses. We carried this burden too long. It is time the Guyanese people know the truth.”
The Commission’s work sees the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) also come under the microscope, as Dr. Rodney was leader of that Party when he was assassinated.
Co-Leader of the WPA, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, pays keen attention to the Commission’s daily hearings, and sits through the entire day in the audience. He is due to testify.
Now an active Member of Parliament representing the WPA in a political alliance with the PNC in the Parliamentary grouping A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Roopnarine holds the position of deputy leader to APNU’s leader, Brigadier David Granger, who is also leader of the PNC. Granger’s name was mentioned in testimony from ex-Army Chief, Major General McLean, last Thursday.
McLean testified that Granger was a point man between the Army and Police after the fatal Dr. Rodney bomb blast, sharing Army information with the Police investigators on ex-Army officer Gregory Smith, who was alleged to be involved in plans to assassinate Dr. Rodney.
Despite the Commission’s hearing being 34 years after the actual event of the Rodney assassination, many of the political, Army, Police and other leaders of the period under probe are around.
The Commission gleaned a galaxy of star witnesses, some of whom have not yet testified. These include ex-Army Chief Norman McLean, who testified last week after he was subpoenaed; ex-Police Crime Chief ‘Skip’ Roberts; former PNC Executive member and top leader of the House of Israel religious sect, Joseph Hamilton; ex-Police Intelligence officer, Allan Robert Gates, who is now in the stand; Mr. Eusi Kwayana, distinguished co-leader of the WPA; and Edward Rodney, brother of Dr. Rodney.
The Commission has adjourned its sittings, to be resumed June 23 next.
The Guyana Chronicle is providing ongoing extensive coverage of the Commission’s probe, in the interest of documenting this historical event, and to fully inform the Guyanese citizen of the revelations, findings and testimonies emanating out of the Commission’s hearings. The State media is also actively engaged in reporting the Commission’s ongoing work, with TV station NCN streaming the hearings live on the Internet.
It is the first time in this country’s history that an international Commission of Inquiry of this magnitude and historical significance has been convened. Attorney General Nandlall said he is honoured that President Donald Ramotar has convened the Commission under his watch as Minister of Legal Affairs, and noted that the Government of Guyana wants to see, coming out of the Commission, a full and detailed report of how and why Guyana got to a point where it’s political leaders were in fear of their lives, and one was so brutally killed.
“Under the PNC in that period of 1978 – 1980, Guyana was a place of fear, with the Army and Police and House of Israel all attacking and beating political opponents. Then, even independent media were banned in this country, along with basic food items. We must investigate these things. We owe it to the citizens of this country, that the truth of what caused Dr. Rodney’s death, and why so many were beaten and brutalised, just for holding a political opinion,” Nandlall said.
Nandlall said the Commission’s work “is about closure of this terrible period in the history of Guyana; it’s about justice for the family of Dr. Rodney; and it’s about gathering the answers we need so that we never again see such inhumane things repeated in this country.” The minister said ,“This is about seeing that justice is done, and it’s about our history, and it’s about the WPA knowing the truth surrounding the circumstances in this country that caused Dr. Rodney to be killed.”
Revelations coming out of the Commission show Guyana in 1978 – 1980 was under the vice-grip of dark underground forces, operating through the notorious religion sect, the House of Israel, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, spies and double agents working in clandestine undercover conspiracies, leading figures of the PNC Government, and international espionage agents, including a shadowy foreign figure then operating out of the Pegasus Hotel, who trained Army and Police spies and Police Intelligence undercover officers in the operation of deadly weapons.
***** PULL QUOTE
“Under the PNC in that period of 1978 – 1980, Guyana was a place of fear, with the Army and Police and House of Israel all attacking and beating political opponents. Then, even independent media was banned in this country, along with basic food items. We must investigate these things. We owe it to the citizens of this country, that the truth of what caused Dr. Rodney’s death, and why so many Guyanese citizens were beaten and brutalised, just for holding a political opinion” – Attorney General Anil Nandlall
***** PULL QUOTE
Revelations coming out of the Commission show Guyana in 1978 – 1980 was under the vice-grip of dark underground forces, operating through the notorious religion sect, the House of Israel, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, spies and double agents working in clandestine undercover conspiracies, leading figures of the PNC Government, and international espionage agents, including a shadowy foreign figure then operating out of the Pegasus Hotel, who trained Army and Police spies and Police Intelligence undercover officers in the operation of deadly weapons