RODNEY’S DEATH: AN ENIGMA BEING ANSWERED

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Late historian Dr Walter Rodney
Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo

Police files reveal PPP sought peaceful resolution to PNC dictatorship

– Crime Chief Leslie James to familiarise himself with contents of secret Special Branch files
– PNC State machinery spied on rumshop gaffs, mundane activities of citizens

CRIME Chief Leslie James left the High Court yesterday to become familiar with the shocking details in three thick files that the Guyana Police Force compiled of its Special Branch secret surveillance of Guyanese citizens under the Government of the People’s National Congress (PNC).The files detail intense Police Special Branch surveillance of Guyanese in 1980, with even mundane day-to-day activities under underground Police watch, monitoring, reporting on and filing.
The files reveal shocking details and stunning State paranoia in Guyana during 1978 to 1980, the period of the country’s socio-political history that led up to the bomb blast assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney who died when the bomb exploded in his car on June 13, 1980.

The Police sought information from other Caribbean countries on persons it was interested in, with Police information coming in from Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.

Crime Chief Leslie James
Crime Chief Leslie James

James, a Senior Superintendent with the Police Force, returns to the witness stand today at the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry to answer questions regarding these crucial files. Commission Chairman Sir Richard Cheltenham yesterday adjourned proceedings pending James’ familiarity with the files’ content.
Commission Counsel Latchmie Rahamat spent several hours yesterday grilling Senior Superintendent James on details in the files, but Sir Richard expressed concern that the senior Police officer had only browsed the files during a break at yesterday’s hearings.
The files detail dark, sinister Police spying and surveillance on top leaders of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), including routine details of mundane meetings, movement and ordinary conversations. A detailed surveillance of Buxton and the movements of Eusi Kwayana and other leaders of the WPA show up in the files, including a map of Kwayana’s Buxton home, on what street he entered and exited Buxton, and where the Police informer was stationed observing Kwayana.

Sir Richard Cheltenham
Sir Richard Cheltenham

Each page of typed and written information on Guyanese political leaders opposing the repressive PNC Government is labelled ‘SECRET”, and details the movements, conversations, whereabouts and plans of senior WPA leaders, and several other citizens, including lawyer Miles Fitzpatrick and several overseas-based persons visiting Guyana.
The Police sought information from other Caribbean countries on persons it was interested in, with Police information coming in from Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
The files also reveal that the Police Special Branch was obsessed with the idea that the WPA and PPP might have been planning to cooperate to get rid of the dictatorial PNC regime through violence.

The files also reveal that the Police Special Branch was obsessed with the idea that the WPA and PPP might have been planning to cooperate to get rid of the dictatorial PNC regime through violence.

But one page in the file, labelled “SECRET”, with markings SF 51/28 and number 1959, dated March 11, 1980, noted that a meeting at Canal Number Two Polder had discussed Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s disregard for violence as a political strategy.
“ON Sat 8 Mar 80, around 14.00hrs, six PPP supporters for the No. 2 Canal area and who are employed at Wales Estate, were having a drink at a liquor bar at No. 2 Canal. They then spoke among other things the following: –
a) That the PPP and PNC are one with JAGAN giving certain advice to BURNHAM on the socialist policy. Mention was made that Jagan often visits Burnham at the residence or Belfield house and activists of the PPP and WPA have known to have seen him on such visits. Because of this, supporters of his concluded that the PPP had sold out his supporters, especially the East Indians.
Several more points follow in the filed page, including a note that “mention was also made of the intention of the WPA to violently overthrow the PNC with the support of the PPP. However, Jagan disclosed to Burnham the plan to do so, which resulted in failure.”
The PNC Government had the State, through the Police Force’s Special Branch, conducting surveillance on even rum shop gaffs, the files disclose.
However, it also indicates that the PNC Government knew that a violent overthrow of its authoritarian rule was not being planned, and that the PPP had no interest in resorting to violence to unseat the draconian dictatorship.
In fact, the files reveal that the Special Branch was reporting to its political superiors that the idea of violence “resulted in failure.”
The PNC continues to defend itself against widespread persistent international allegations that senior PNC operatives used the State machinery of the PNC Government to assassinate Dr. Walter Rodney with the claim that Dr. Rodney may have blown up himself by mistake in his car, and that he knowingly possessed a bomb. The information in this file thus debunks that theory.
The Commission’s work is revealing the depths of political paranoia that informs how the PNC Government saw Guyanese citizens. The PNC Government used State agencies like the Police Force’s Special Branch to conduct secret surveillance of nearly every single person whose name appeared in public, anyone who commented on PNC Government policies, or anyone planning group meetings.
Surveillance included Police perusing travel records of the Berbice ferry, constant surveillance of cars of top Guyanese leaders, and intense spying on anyone selling the WPA publication, Day Clean.
The Commission resumes this morning with James facing Rahamat’s questions about these files, and with cross examination from a battery of lawyers to follow.