Group petitions gov’t for extension of Walter Rodney CoI

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Dr. Walter Rodney

THE Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign presented a 1,000+ signature petition to Governance Minister Raphael Trotman on Thursday, calling for the inquiry to be extended to facilitate a more comprehensive closure. The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (WRCoI) Report is scheduled for submission by 30th November.The campaign, spearheaded by Guyanese in London, requested Karen de Souza to hand over the petition on its behalf, a release from the campaign said. On November 13, the petition was handed over to officials at the Guyana Embassy in Washington DC., and at the Guyana High Commission in Jamaica.

Petitioners are demanding that President David Granger allow the WRCoI the two additional weeks it requested to properly complete its work. The administration is reportedly refusing the request for a mere two additional weeks after 34 years of evasion by successive governments.

The alleged 1980 assassination of Guyana’s pre-eminent historian, scholar-activist, and author of ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ remains Guyana’s most traumatising political incident. A proper investigation was at various times avoided, and was allegedly frustrated by the PNC under Forbes Burnham, and then by the PPP/C under four Presidents, including Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was President for 12 years. The WRCoI formally commenced under President Donald Ramotar in 2014.

The refusal by the Granger-led coalition government to allow the Commission to complete its work now threatens to undo more than one year’s work, and to deny Guyanese the opportunity to finally establish the truth of the death of one of Guyana’s greatest sons.

The APNU/AFC coalition came to power in May 2015 with a narrow cross-racial win over the discredited PPP government, the campaign has said. It has promised national reconciliation; yet, within days of its win and amidst some admittedly unsavoury revelations about certain financial transactions, the administration began to undermine and discredit the WRCoI without proposing a better alternative.

According to the campaign, Dr Rodney’s renowned legacy in Guyana endured sufficiently to curb racial voting for the first time in Guyana’s 50-year post-colonial history, thus enabling Granger’s win.

“Rodney’s political teaching had exposed the exploitative nature of Guyana’s historic ethnic Indian/ African conflicts, which stymied its post-colonial development,” the campaign said; but Dr Rodney was allegedly seen as a direct threat to Forbes Burnham’s power and the politics of party paramountcy. The campaign has said that “a new dispensation for the WRCoI could resolve previous abuses which were not of the Commission’s making. However, new ministers — Attorney General Basil Williams, who represented the PNC at the WRCoI, and Governance Minister Raphael Trotman — simply asserted that the two-week extension was disallowed to save taxpayers’ money and, more ominously, ‘further embarrassment’.”

“As November 30 approaches”, the campaign says, “we urge Guyana’s government to announce a reversal of its short-sighted decision that has brought a premature end to the WRCOI. This plea is in keeping with what has been called for by all three commissioners; the lawyers representing Rodney’s party, the much depleted Working People’s Alliance, now part of APNU; Rodney’s brother Donald, in whose car the fatal bomb was detonated; and the rest of Rodney’s family.”

The body stressed that Guyana needs, and deserves, a proper inquiry in which all key witnesses give evidence under oath. “Only then can our country begin the journey of healing and reconciliation” it posits.