A Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report this year concluded that Rodney was the victim of a State-organised assassination on June 13th, 1980 and this could only have been possible with the knowledge of then PNC Prime Minister Forbes Burnham. In the most detailed examination to date of a 36-year-old mystery that deeply divided the country and stained the image of the PNC, the CoI also found that the late soldier Gregory Smith carried out the killing and he was then spirited out of the country to French Guiana in an elaborate operation spearheaded by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
In a statement to mark the 36th anniversary of Rodney’s death, the WPA saluted his life, his example and his legacy as a scholar, an activist and a prophet of self-emancipation. While much has changed since Rodney was cut down by the assassin’s bomb blast, the core questions he raised and the solutions he proposed are still relevant, the WPA said.
“Here in Guyana, the State, which Walter Rodney and his comrades fought so hard to democratise, is still a menace to the citizenry. The criminalisation of the State has been a major step backwards for Guyana and the elimination of corruption and autocracy would require all the energies and willpower of the current political directorate,” the party said while adding that Rodney has left a large body of ideas about governance and democratisation that could aid in this process.
“The WPA, also on this Rodney anniversary, recommits itself to the defence of the poor and the powerless and reminds Guyana that our Independence means precious little if we still treat the poor as undignified and worthless citizens. We cannot have one standard for the powerful elites and a different one for the powerless,” the WPA declared. “Socio-economic inequality is incompatible with true democracy and independence. Our people will come into their own when they can be afforded opportunities to find meaningful employment and earn a living wage. These two outcomes must engage the full attention of those who guide our government,” it said.
The party also said that it is not satisfied that enough effort is being put into ensuring that Rodney’s work is made available to the general public, in particular the education system. “We use this opportunity to publicly call on the policy makers in the education sector to correct this grave error. We cannot, as a nation, be satisfied that the work of one of our leading intellectuals is better known in places other than his native country,” the statement said.
According to the WPA, Rodney’s biggest impact on Guyana during the last six years of his life was his success in breaking down the political walls which separated the country’s two major ethnic groups.
“This is an accomplishment of which the WPA is especially proud. It is one of those things that cannot be measured in votes, yet it gave hope for the survival of our multi-ethnic community. Today, WPA reiterates the cry of the Rodney era that Guyana cannot move forward as a viable nation, if our ethnic groups do not move together in solidarity and mutual respect. The recent warning of our esteemed brother and elder, Eusi Kwayana, that Guyana must reconcile or recede, must be heeded by all. The WPA recommits itself to do everything in its power to help return Guyana to the Rodneyite multiracial culture,” the party asserted.
It noted that Rodney’s anniversary this year comes on the first anniversary of Guyana’s “first genuine partnership government,” of which the WPA is a part.
“WPA sees the Coalition’s ascendency to power as a positive development for our country, which has long been weighed down by one-party government. As a partner, the WPA is committed to playing its part in ensuring the success of the government, while protecting its own integrity. The WPA, despite being in the government, will never trade its core principles for political expediency. But we also will not seek to impose our will on the collective; for us that is the antithesis of partnership,” the party declared.
Earlier, it had noted that in this age of neo-liberal domination at the global level and passive acceptance at the domestic level, Rodney’s thesis of the nexus between development of the powerful and underdevelopment of the powerless still rings loud across the globe. “As the countries of the Global South fight for their survival in a world in which their voices and aspirations are smothered by harsh socio-economic prescriptions from the Global North, Walter Rodney’s insights about the destructiveness of global capitalism for the poorest peoples must be embraced and acted upon,” the WPA said.
According to the party, 36 years after Rodney, insular instincts and egos stand as barriers to an integration praxis that fulfills the historical mandate for a unified Caribbean. “The colonial faces are gone, but the legacies of colonialism still keep the Caribbean as producers of goods and services primarily for the benefit of others. The “New World” which Rodney’s generation imagined, has vanished from our Caribbean imagination. The Caribbean has been de-radicalized in ways that have rendered our people hopeless and cynical about our individual and collective futures. That is something that must be corrected forthwith,” the party declared.
The WPA also hailed other fallen comrades including Ohene Koama and Edward Dublin whose extreme sacrifices, it said, will always be remembered and cherished. “We are indebted to the families of these comrades who have had to nurse the hurt of being left fatherless and husbandless. We also remember Father Bernard Darke and all the other martyrs of our struggle to give meaning to our Independence,” the WPA said.