That Rodney Inquiry
Mr. Eusi Kwayana informed this newspaper (see letter below), and the Guyanese people, via its letter pages that he was contacted on whether he would be willing to offer testimony on an Inquiry into the killing of Dr Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980. He replied in the affirmative. We are pleased, and all Guyanese should also be, that the Government evidently is going ahead with its commitment made at the last anniversary of the historian’s killing, to institute an International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the issue.
The Guyanese nation needs closure on the killing of this son of Guyana, who is perhaps the only one to have achieved such worldwide recognition. His family has been agitating for such closure for years. After Rodney’s death which was caused by the explosion of what he was told was a “walkie talkie”, the PNC invited two UK experts, Dr Skuse and Dr Johnson to investigate the tragic incident that occurred outside the Georgetown Prison. However, they were not required to pronounce on culpability, and in any event, the full report was never released. Skuse was later disgraced in the UK for several flawed “findings”.
President Hoyte, pushed by public opinion, conducted an Inquest, but not a CoI into the matter. During the earlier “investigation” even though Donald Rodney, present when his brother was killed, identified the perpetrator as a “Gregory Smith” of the GDF, the authorities denied the existence of such an individual. But when Smith did surface and it was revealed that he had been spirited out of Guyana through official channels, Hoyte was forced to act. However, that inquest simply declared “death by misadventure” and the matter once again fell into quietude.
After the PPP came to office in 1992, it was expected that they would institute a COI with some alacrity. But this did not materialise. Rodney’s eldest son, Shaka Rodney protested for such a COI between 1993- 1994. Responding to a request from Caribbean Rights in 1995, a team from the International Commission of Jurists visited Guyana. They declared that the 1988 inquest instituted by the Hoyte administration was “marred by grave defects” and recommended a CoI that would hear testimony from Gregory Smith who should be extradited from French Guiana where he had been residing.
The eminent attorney Doodnauth Singh (recently deceased) was appointed Special Prosecutor and then Chief Magistrate K. Juman-Yasin issued a warrant for Smith’s extradition. However, with Guyana not having an extradition treaty with France, nothing came of the matter and Smith subsequently died. It was not until almost a decade later that another call for a COI was raised. This was done in 2005 through a motion calling for a CoI into the “assassination” of Dr Rodney, was brought by the PPP in Parliament. The Opposition parties however moved for the word “assassination” to be changed to “death” because the former term was predicated on a conclusion that the COI was supposed to investigate. The motion was carried with the government abstaining.
Nothing, however, came out of the decision, since the WPA felt that if the COI was conducted during the election year 2006, it would unduly influence political sentiments in the present. Once again there was no COI. Earlier this year, however, the matter was again raised when former President Forbes Burnham was nominated by South Africa for their Oliver Tambo Award. Partisans of Rodney, both domestic and international, lobbied for the offer of the Award to be rescinded in view of the alleged role of Burnham in the death of Rodney. The award was put on hold and partisans of Burnham now felt that the Rodney matter ought to be put to rest.
We arrive now at the present, where at long last the matter might be put to rest. It is a standing indictment on the reputation of this country among the influential academic and activist global circle in which Dr Rodney’s name is still honoured, that we have not held a conclusive COI. Let us clear up this blemish.
I shall be willing to assist the Rodney COI as a witness
It has just come to my attention by email that the Commission of Inquiry into the violent, unnatural death of Dr Walter Rodney, cutting him down before his prime of life, is about to be appointed.
This is not official information but it is noteworthy, as it also follows from the government’s previous announcement.
As even then an elder who supported this activist of a younger generation, I wish to let the public know that once I am permitted by the disabilities of advanced age, I shall be willing to assist the Inquiry as a witness, provided people I respect regard the Commission when appointed as credible in composition, requirements and terms of reference.
The cost of travel will be a control factor but the High Court, the most formal institution, now allows in certain cases testimony through distance technology. As most people know, I am not apologetic about my association with the late prophet of self emancipation.