This is not an attempt to hold scales between the present and the past Attorneys General over the promise of the present one to give life to the Committee of Privileges. Readers may unfairly see one of them as unready, and the other as unsteady as AGs go. When two fowl cock a fight, chicken na got business deh. This letter is an attempt to get at the record of a debate in the National Assembly and issues raised or not raised by it.
The debate on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry is the only one to which, thanks to a link that was circulated among some former WPA members overseas, I have been lucky to listen for some two years. I do not know whether the link was edited, or whether my ripe seniority has edited one word. I listened to the shadow Minister of Legal Affairs who in his letter to Stabroek News of September 10 names a member of the Rodney family to support the well-worn and failing alibi for the PPP’s failure to consult with other parliamentary partners and with civil society in the setting up of the Commission. This consultation is not required by the 1963 Commission of Enquiries Act, but by higher laws by which those who wish to escape damnation seek to live.
Listening to the revealing debate on the Commission’s report, did anyone else hear the past Attorney General, in seeking to justify President Ramotar’s failure to consult, blame Dr Patricia Rodney instead of himself as legal adviser, and hear him use the phrase “specifically her husband’s party”, meaning the WPA? I do not insist on the use of “specifically” but I think it is what I heard. I can be corrected by anyone who listened.
The reader will know that the identity of Patricia Rodney was flaunted in the debate on the spur of the moment to silence the other side, but in the more carefully worded letter to SN the identity is revised.
How is it then that on or about April 3, 2013 a newspaper published a reply from President Ramotar to the WPA’s objections to his failure to consult, and in that letter gave the official version of the representations of the Rodney family? And how is it that what the President wrote was very close to what Dr Patricia Rodney said under cross-examination by the attorney for the PNC at the Inquiry? The PPP had the right to admission at the Inquiry but chose to stage a silent boycott by not briefing an attorney to appear at the hearings, leaving it up to the PNC and the WPA and the Rodney family, the GDF and the TUC. A PPP lawyer at the Inquiry may have been able to draw from the witness – Dr Patricia Rodney ‒ the version Mr Nandlall gave to the National Assembly during the debate. That version was the same as the one the PPP used in its free propaganda.
In the President’s letter, advised or not by his two agents Dr Luncheon and his Attoney General Mr Nandlall, he did not say that anyone requested him to exclude the PNC and the WPA. It would have been the right time to make the disclosure. And why should an alleged request to exclude the PNC and the WPA mean for Ramotar excluding also the AFC but including the PPP? Was that part of the family’s request or the advice of the two party men with delegated authority from the then President? Moreover, the President, Dr Luncheon and Mr Nandlall were full-time salaried oficers under oath to “bear true faith and allegiance to the people of Guyana.”
The PPP has been trying for three years to explain its vanguardist and possessive behaviour over the mounting of the Rodney Commission by blaming the Rodney family for the divisive way the government handled the creation of a Commission ordered unanimously by the National Assembly in 2005. I wish to repeat a simple argument I made years ago. In this matter the Rodney family are the first aggrieved.
They were entitled to petition the executive and place before it requests or demands for certain guarantees of justice and redress. This right also extended to other parties to the 34-year-old dispute which was neglected by the PNC for 12 years and by the PPP for 23 years with a similar non-sense of priorities. This common neglect reminds us that a state is in part a strange complex of routines, reflexes and persons managing and being managed, which can be rendered human only under the active scrutiny and fair criticism without malice of all those who are being governed.
In effect, the former Attorney General is seeking to deny responsibility for the divisive approach his party took to the Rodney Commission. This divisive policy was a main cause, but not the only cause of the overthrowing of the consensus of 2005 on the Rodney Commission.
We, and I include myself, have to learn to listen to reasonable voices and not see all their words as hostile. Many had forgotten the words of the late PNC MP Mr Winston Murray, quoted in the debate by Dr Roopnaraine from the 2005 debate, “Let the chips fall where they may.” And in the previous year at a Sunday meeting at the City Hall as the Phantom Squad forced the then opposition parties to consider unity, a leading member of the PNC warned, “Walter Rodney is not here now to unite the people.”
No one contradicted him.
I found when I came home for the Inquiry in 2014 that many, including some senior journalists, thought that because I took part I had been duped by the PPP and was walking into the PPP’s trap. Well, we can’t always agree. I can recall times when they were silent and I was not. They did not like the Rodney family’s approach to Ramotar at the height of public dissatisfaction with his government. They forgot that Mrs Rodney had first approached President Hoyte and that when Walter Rodney applied for a teaching post at UG the higher powers slammed the door in his face in his own homeland.”
I have never seen any justice or fairness in excluding parliamentary parties from consultation. That is too much like the PPP’s vanguardist motion in 2005 for an Inquiry to investigate the “assassination” when a key purpose of such an Inquiry would be to establish whether the death was by assassination. There is even less justice in attempting in varying claims to blame or credit others with crafting the Terms of Reference.
It is quite obvious that the habit of micromanagement was a weakness of Dr Luncheon and Mr Nandlall and officially of the President in their drafting of terms of reference. That is perhaps why the Commission was very judicious, repeat judicious, in the majority of its findings. It made no reference to the mistrials of Donald Rodney, which is the main sub-plot of the crime, forcing the Walter Rodney Foundation to launch a new petition for redress. I am willing to argue, if challenged, where the drafting went wrong.
It is my opinion that the courts of Guyana and the Caribbean if approached will be hard put to it to deny pleadings on his behalf.
In the parliamentary debate the Prime Minister might have been on good ground in rubbishing my own testimony and I am glad to provide him with substance. But I must express alarm at his leaving it open to be claimed that Gregory Smith was hidden for his health or just as a prank.
The new Attorney General is about to walk into a trap he set for others. The Commission in its report pointed out that the premature closing of the hearings would “impact the fairness of the report.” But a highlight of the debate was Ms Texeira’s opening.