… will not dignify President Granger with a response
BY ALEXIS RODNEY
Chairman of the recently concluded Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI), Barbados Queens Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham has refused to address the response of President David Granger on the finding of the investigation into the death of Dr Walter Rodney, but said that it is a known fact that political parties would usually want to protect their heroes.
Speaking to Guyana Times from his law office in Barbados on Thursday, Sir Cheltenham said that he would not respond to Guyana’s Head of State or anyone else on the final report of the three-member panel, but noted that from his experience of previous such CoIs, it is expected that the People’s National Congress (PNC) would want to protect its hero.
“It is a political party and you understand what is happening. The hero of that party was Burnham, so you understand where it comes from…They had an idol”, Cheltenham told Guyana Times.
The final report of the Commission fingered former Prime Minister Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham; then leader of the People’s National Congress, along with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as the one responsible for the death of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) founding leader on June 13, 1980. The report only made this information official, as this was part of evidence emanating throughout the 17-month long investigation.
But President David Granger on Wednesday told journalists that the report submitted by the commission is highly “flawed” since it was based on hearsay evidence.
“I would not like to comment in too much detail in this point in time. The matter has not been fully discussed by the Cabinet … when you look at details of the evidence provided, it is clear that the Report itself is badly flawed and we intend to challenge it. We intend to challenge the findings of the Report and the circumstances under which that Report was conducted,” he had told journalists at the Office of the President.
Cheltenham said he wished not to cause a tit for tat with the President or any other person as it “will not end”.
“We have done our report and it is for the people to comment, including the Government and say whatever they like. And even take it to court. Many commissions have been taken to court. None of this is anything new, you all don’t have a rich history of commissions, it’s only now you all are having a view. Countries have commissions all the time and many of them are taken to court. Sometime on small issues, they would challenge the establishment of the Commission, but none of these is new. I am not disposed to comment on these things,” the Chairman told Guyana Times.
According to Cheltenham, he is professional in this regard. “This is the ninth Commission for me. Nobody in the region has done more commissions than I have and some of them have gone to court. So all of that are consequences of a commission,” he explained.
The Chairman said it is now up to the public to comment and say “whatever they want”. “We have already said what we had to say, we hope that they would find it as evidence base. It is nothing that I have to get back into. We have done our part. Having heard the evidence, we have made our comments. They can say what they like. It is proper that the people comment”, he said.
He said he was however grateful for the honour to have been part of it (The CoI) which he reminded was followed in the Diaspora and throughout Guyana through broadcast. He said the report should now be the “subject of robust comment and debates”.
Ramotar’s take on Granger
Meanwhile, former President Donald Ramotar who instituted the Commission of Inquiry back in 2014 said he was “extremely disappointed” at the President’s response.
“I am confident that the work that was done was thorough and that they collected a lot of (evidence)”, Ramotar said about the Commission’s work.
According to Ramotar, President Granger is in a position of “conflict of interest” since he is the Leader of the PNC which has been “accused of these things and he is the Head of State, he will use his position to try to discredit the report”.
According to Ramotar, Government since taking office has been showing hostility to the Commission. “They truncated it. They could have allowed it to finish,” he said.
In a copy of the report seen by Guyana Times, the three Commissioners – Barbados Queens Counsel Richard Cheltenham, Jamaican Queens Counsel Jacqueline Samuels Brown and Trinidad-based Guyanese Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam – concluded that given all the relevant facts, events and circumstances set out in the report, they could do nothing else but establish that William Gregory Smith, was not acting alone but had the active and full support, participation and encouragement of, and/or was aided and abetted by the Guyana Police Force (GPF), the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) – both agencies of the State – and the political directorate including Prime Minister Forbes Burnham in the killing of Dr Rodney.
Rodney, a world respected political and social activist, died in June of 1980, after a communication device he was examining exploded in his lap.
It was the theory of those close to the founding Leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), that the man he had somewhat come to trust; a then Guyana Defence Force Sergeant and communication expert William Gregory Smith, had implanted the explosive into the device Rodney was expected to test.
The theory claimed too that the Government of the day, the People’s National Congress (PNC) and its leader, former Prime Minister Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, had used Smith to carry out the attack.
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