Chairman begs for more time; Granger says no
Government has refused to grant another adjournment of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry following yet another request made by Chairman Sir Richard L. Cheltenham.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams at a press conference on Monday said Sir Cheltenham “has written the President His Excellency, Brigadier David Granger requesting yet another adjournment this time to February 29, 2016 to submit the Report of the Findings of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry (RCOI).”
According to Williams, President Granger has responded to the Chairman indicating that Cabinet has decided that the request could not be accommodated and that the Commission would be given up to December 15, to submit the report. The minister said “well over $400M” spent on the Commission of Inquiry is already and exorbitant amount and additional funds will not be expended on it.
“They have had several extensions. You are dealing with taxpayers’ money,”…We must keep churning out millions of dollars and millions dollars and we have people who need money in this country,” he told reporters. Initially, the Commission was tasked with presenting to President Granger the findings of the COI on November 30 but following a request by Sir Richard for an extension, the Commission now has until December 15 to submit the report.
Asked if a reason was provided for the extension in time to submit the report, Williams said Sir Richard cited the Christmas season as one where regionally people do not put much emphasis on work. “We are in the Season when work is hardly done and I think he is alluding to the Christmas season and they would need more time because they can’t get people to work during this season and it is something he believes is common throughout CARICOM.”
But government is not altering its decision. “The President in his response has indicated that we have an intense programme for 2016 which includes the Local Government Elections, which is in March and the 50th Anniversary celebrations which is really all year round but begins with Mashramani, which is a major component of our celebrations.”
Government while in opposition Williams reminded always felt that the launching of a COI into the death of Walter Rodney was a “Political witch hunt” and was designed to affect the elections. “…Since July we were given the assurance that the matter would be completed by November month end. Now we are asked to adjourn to February month-end which is also on the eve of local government elections so you could draw your conclusion,” the Minister of Legal Affairs said. On the question of the non-submission of the report by the COI and the implication it would have, the minister said he prefers not to speculate. “It doesn’t make sense speculating now when the 15th hasn’t arrived.”
Meanwhile, asked why government has ignored the petition by the Justice For Walter Rodney Committee for two additional weeks of public hearings for remaining key witnesses to testify, Williams said the Commission lost an opportunity to invite former Crime Chief, Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts to testify though he flown to Guyana on an all-expenses paid trip. “We were saying, the witnesses he was speaking about, were witnesses that were there and he didn’t use them; including the former Crime Chief Cecil Skip Roberts who in fact was brought into Guyana, put up into a hotel for three weeks all expenses paid and was never called,” he noted. As such, the Minister said he does not believe that there is a need for an extension in the public hearings. “I don’t agree with them. All the evidence that has been given by the witnesses, they are already on the record.”