Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo
Why the Rodney Commission?…
Dr. Rodney’s widow appealed to President Ramotar
–to convene Rodney Commission
THE ongoing Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry was convened “in response to a direct request from Ms. Patricia Rodney,” Head of State, President Donald Ramotar said yesterday.Ms. Rodney resides in the United States of America. She is the widow of the late Dr Walter Rodney who died in a mysterious bomb blast outside the Georgetown Camp Street Prisons on June 13, 1980.
President Ramotar, in an invited comment, told the Guyana Chronicle that the Commission of Inquiry “is a Presidential Commission,” and debunked criticisms of the Commission from the camp of the People’s National Congress (PNC).
“At no time did we discuss the Commission at any level of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). This is purely a Presidential Commission; I responded to the heartfelt cry of Ms. Rodney, who is advancing in age, and who wants to get some answers,” the President said.
President Ramotar convened the Commission of Inquiry to probe how and why Guyana became host to the major political assassination in the history of the English-speaking Caribbean, after Ms. Rodney made her request. “This is not a political issue at all,” he said.
The ongoing hearing, now adjourned until June 23 next, has the nation spellbound, with daily testimony of dramatic undercover espionage and shadowy political intrigue during the period of 1978 to 1980, with the then government of the PNC ensnaring State agencies such as the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF), along with the cultish House of Israel, a powerful religious sect led by the late Rabbi Washington, a fugitive from US justice and fanatical patriarch of some 2000 religious zealots, into sinister political conspiracies.
Testimonies at the Hearing paint a strange, sinister picture of top leaders of the PNC Government directing and cajoling Police intelligence officers, Army officers and members of the religious sect to beat, harass, oppress and terrorise political opponents. The situation in Guyana became so fearful and tyrannical that it resulted in a number of people being killed, including Catholic Priest, Father Bernard Darke and members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).
The WPA encountered the most gruesome impact of the state of the society when a deadly bomb, disguised as a communication device, blew up in Dr Rodney’s lap while he sat in his car in Georgetown, killing him instantly. Dr Rodney was the populist leader of the WPA, leading a strenuous national opposition against the PNC Government.
Since the Commission began its work, with Counsel for the family of Dr. Rodney taking a prominent role, and with Counsel appearing for the PNC and the Trades Union movement, the PNC has publicly said it would not participate in the hearing, and has criticised President Ramotar’s Government for convening the Commission.
President Ramotar dismissed the PNC’s criticisms as baseless, noting that the Commission is comprised of distinguished Caribbean jurists. Mr Ramotar said the Commission’s aim is for Ms. Rodney and her children to receive some form of historical justice. “I met with the daughter of Dr Rodney in the US, and the least I could do for this family is to convene this Presidential Commission” to investigate Dr. Rodney’s killing,” the President said.
The President also noted that the Commission “has been long in the making,” with efforts to convene it made by former Presidents, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, and Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo.
When Dr. Jagan became President of Guyana after the 1992 national elections, he made strenuous efforts to see that justice was served in Dr. Rodney’s mysterious bomb-blast death.
However, efforts to extradite the main suspect in the case, ex-Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer, Gregory Smith, from French Guiana proved futile, as the French Government refused Guyana’s extradition request.
Around 2005, Ms. Rodney appealed to President Jagdeo for an Inquiry into her husband’s demise, but according to sources, an unnamed top leader of the WPA requested that the Commission be delayed.
Since Dr. Rodney died in what many suspect is a deliberate political assassination executed under the influence of the PNC Government, the Rodney family, international academia, and Human Rights organizations around the world have called for a Commission of Inquiry.
Ms. Rodney sought to have such an inquiry from the day her husband died, and even after she and her three children had fled Guyana in fear following Dr. Rodney’s killing.
President Ramotar said he is confident that the Commissioners, comprising Barbadian Sir Richard Cheltenham as Chairman; Ms. Jacqueline Samuel-Brown of Jamaica; and Trinidad and Tobago’s Mr. Seenath Jairam, are professional, and will preside over the Inquiry with judicial impartiality, fairness and professional integrity.