— works to be taught in schools, gravesite and memorial to be declared national monuments
WITH June 13, 2021 scheduled to mark the 41st death anniversary of Guyanese scholar and political activist, Dr. Walter Rodney, the government will be undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at recognition of his life’s work and in honouring his legacy.
In doing so, Rodney’s gravesite and memorial will be declared national monuments under the administration of The National Trust; his death certificate which currently described him as “unemployed” will be corrected to read ‘Professor’ and his work be incorporated into the national school syllabus by the Ministry of Education.
His works will also be distributed to primary and secondary school learners across the country, and his major works, noteworthy ‘A History of the Guyanese Working People’, ‘Guyanese Sugar Plantations in the late Nineteenth Century’, and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, will be made available at the University of Guyana library while the Walter Rodney Chair at the university will be reestablished.
Most noteworthy, following, and in alignment with the report of the Commission of Inquiry established under former President Donald Ramotar to inquire and report on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney, his death certificate will be amended to replace his cause of death from ‘misadventure’ to ‘assassination’.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
The announcements were made by Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C, at the 28th sitting of the National Assembly of the 12th Parliament on Thursday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, following a request of Dr. Rodney’s wife, Dr. Patrica Rodney and his three children, to honour his life and to finally set the public record straight in relation to certain matters surrounding his tragic death.
Introducing the “historic step” in an attempt to bring closure to the Rodney family with respect to Dr. Rodney’s death, Nandlall said and explained that “this is a momentous occasion, for many reasons and it is also a personal privilege for me, and indeed, all of us, to be part of a process to right this tragic wrong and to begin the process of the rectification of the historical record.”
On June 13, 1980, 38-year-old Dr. Walter Rodney was in the front passenger seat of a Mazda Capella motor car bearing registration number PBB2344, in the vicinity of John and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown with his brother Donald Rodney, who was in the driver’s seat when an explosion occurred, killing Dr. Walter Rodney, and leaving Donald Rodney with minor injuries.
Mere months away to mark 40 years after he was convicted for and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on February 26, 1982 for being in possession of the explosive device which killed his brother, Donald Rodney’s conviction was set aside by the Court of Appeal in April last.
Nandlall told the House that with the Court of Appeal clearing Donald Rodney, also a victim of the incident, of the perverse conviction which he carried for 40 years, every effort will be made to “remove and expunge” all public records that intimate any level of guilt or wrongdoing by Dr. Rodney in relation to the incident.
The Attorney-General highlighted that Dr. Rodney’s tragic death sent shock tremors to the conscience of many worldwide and to say that the events ensuing his death were a “horrendous miscarriage of justice”, would be an “appalling understatement”.
“The self-evident truth is that when wrongs of such magnitude occur, they can never really be righted. The least that can be done in this instance is to attempt to grant the wishes of the loved ones of Dr. Rodney and to work with them in bringing these wishes to fruition, as they attempt to forge their own closure in relation to this horrific tragedy,” Nandlall said.
The move to amend the birth certificate comes in the light of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry reviewing an inquest conducted eight years after Dr. Rodney’s death which found that he died by “misadventure” – this was subsequently found to be flawed and dubious by the Commission of Inquiry.
Dr. Rodney’s family are said to have been tremendously affected by the mislabelling on his death certificate, as it prevented them from recovering his life insurance policy.
Nandlall explained that one of the greatest tragedies of Dr. Rodney’s death is the loss of his scholarship to the people of Guyana, and the move to introduce his works into schools flowed therefrom.
In 2016, then Opposition Member of Parliament of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Gail Teixeira, had tabled a motion in the House calling upon the then A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry; however, the motion was voted down by the then government.