RODNEY’S DEMISE: AN ENIGMA BEING ANSWERED Special Report on the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry :Hanoman discredits Wagner’s testimony

Ms Ann Wagner at yesterday’s sitting of the Commission

Mysterious former Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis surfaced again at the Rodney Commission, with evidence showing he personally issued new and renewed passports for main suspect in the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney, Gregory Smith, under the cover identity of Cyril Milton Johnson.At the time, the top cop was also head of Immigration in Guyana, and he also headed up a nefarious, clandestine Joint Intelligence Command that carried out slavish secretive surveillance on Guyanese citizens for the dictatorship Government of the People’s National Congress (PNC), which was locked in a nasty storm for survival of its Government with the populist resistance of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

Ann Wagner, co-author of the controversial book, ‘Assassination Cry of a Failed Revolution: the Truth about Dr Walter Rodney’s Death’, the only published book about the worst suspected political assassination in the Commonwealth Caribbean, this week turned evidence at the Commission of Inquiry on its head when she contradicted comprehensive assassination testimonies.
Despite several witnesses testifying over the past year before the Presidential Commission in Georgetown that Dr Rodney died on the spot because a bomb disguised as a communications device exploded in his lap, blowing a deadly hole in his lower body, Wagner wept openly in defending main suspect in the alleged assassination, Gregory Smith, claiming Smith told her he was innocent and was framed as a scapegoat. Wagner is Smith’s eldest sister, and claimed that he confided in her, especially expressing fear for his life.
Smith lived in exile in French Guiana until his death from lung cancer in 2007.
Wagner stunned the nation with her dramatic appearance at the High Court building on High Street, sitting for three days in the witness box to answer questions from the battery of high-profile lawyers at the Commission.
Tall, elegant and well-spoken, Wagner travelled on a special trip from her home in New York, United States, to appear at the Commission. She parried hostile and, from a couple lawyers, sympathetic questioning.
Lawyers include Mr Christopher Ram, Counsel for the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the political movement that Dr Rodney led; Glen Hanoman, Counsel for the Commission; Basil Williams, Counsel for the People’s National Congress (PNC), which expressed its severe chagrin when President Donald Ramotar convened the Inquiry last year; Selwyn Peters, appearing as special Counsel for the Guyana Trades Union Congress, travelling to Georgetown from Canada for the hearing; Andrew Pilgrim of Trinidad and Tobago and Keith Scotland of Trinidad and Tobago, both appearing for Donald Rodney, who is Dr Rodney’s brother and only eyewitness to the bomb blast that rocked Georgetown and shattered Dr Rodney’s body on the dark night of Friday, June 13, 1980.
Wagner told Pilgrim, under cross-examination, that she believes the WPA organised the flight that scuttled Smith in a secretive mission to Kwakwani from Timehri airport early on the morning of June 14, 1980, the day after Dr Rodney’s bomb blast death. Smith disappeared from Kwakwani and mysteriously showed up in French Guiana.
Pilgrim sought to elicit from the witness details about Smith’s work with the disguised communications device that exploded in the car the Rodneys were driving, but she said she only knew that Smith gave “three devices” to Rodney, “including the triggering device”.
Pilgrim wanted to know if Wagner could tell the Commission “how far the triggering device had to be to remotely cause the bomb to explode”, but she fended off such questions.
She told Pilgrim that Smith gave the devices to Rodney with enough space for Rodney to add explosives into the body of the device.
Smith, she testified to the Commission, agreed to modify communications device for Dr Rodney and the WPA to use to blow up buildings and infrastructure to rid Guyana of the draconian dictatorship of the People’s National Congress (PNC) Government.
But when Donald Rodney showed up at Smith’s Russell Street, Georgetown house on the evening of June 13, 1980, to collect the modified devices, and proceeded to test it, it exploded in the car Dr Rodney was driving, killing him on the spot. “It was an accident”, Wagner told the Commission, and flatly denied wide-ranging testimony at the Commission over the past year that the PNC Government and State machinery had concocted a sinister, nefarious, dark plot to execute Dr Rodney because he was a serious political threat to the PNC Government.
Wagner instead said the WPA wanted to execute Smith, and they worked with “international allies” to make her brother the “scapegoat” for Dr Rodney’s death.
Wagner’s spin on the tale of the death of Dr Rodney, a sinister mystery that has befuddled the world for three decades, unravelled in the last hour of yesterday’s sitting, as the Commission wrapped up its latest sitting.
Counsel Hanoman established that Smith travelled in and out of Guyana in 1982, unknown to Wagner, although Wagner testified that she subsequently knew of the trip, and knew that Smith travelled to Guyana because he had to in order to secure his permanent residence in French Guiana, where he had fled after the deadly bomb blast.
In a brilliant display of the Commission’s investigative skills and dazzling prosecutorial expertise, Hanoman showed that Wagner’s testimony may lack credibility, as Counsel brought to the witness stand a senior Immigration officer to testify that Smith secured passport renewals directly from the then Commissioner of Police, Lewis.
Hanoman circulated several documents to support his premise that Wagner lacked full knowledge of Smith’s activities surrounding the bombing death of Dr Rodney, despite her self-confessed co-authorship of the book she titled “the truth” about that tragic night in Guyana’s socio-political history.
Hanoman focused a lot of attention and time on the passport issued to Smith in Guyana, and which was renewed twice. He showed that Lewis issued the passport to Smith, under his new identity of Cyril Milton Johnson, even though the passport application form had several irregularities. He also showed that Smith’s passport, in the name of Cyril Milton Johnson, may have got special treatment from Commissioner of Police Lewis.
Despite strenuous objections and interjections from Counsel Peters during Hanoman’s questioning, Wagner saw her testimony unravel as the week’s sitting meandered to its end.
The Commission over the last year secured a vast volume of testimony implicating Lewis and other PNC Government operators of an elaborate sinister political plot that caused the assassination of Dr Rodney, and despite Wagner’s testimony and the book she co-authored with Smith, Hanoman ended the latest sitting of the historic Presidential Commission unveiling emphatic evidence of suspicious PNC State irregularities.

(by Shaun Michael Samaroo)