Although the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) plans to raise the status of the recommendations of the Walter Rodney Com-mission of Inquiry whenever it meets with the leadership of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU), it believes it would be in futility due to the inquiry being compromised.
“Given the fact that Dr Rodney was a leading member of the WPA, one understands the urge in some quarters to place the responsibility on the party to lobby the government to act on the matter,” WPA Executive David Hinds told Stabroek News in a recent interview. “I am sure that the party would raise the matter when we meet with our partners in the APNU. But we are not optimistic that there would be any enthusiasm to do anything.”
The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) had been set up by then president Donald Ramotar in 2014. The report was, however, handed over to the APNU+AFC government in February, 2016, nine months after it entered office. Government had committed itself to examining the recommendations and the report was subsequently laid in the National Assembly, also in 2016.
A key finding of the CoI was that there was a conspiracy involving the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force and others to kill Rodney and the then leader of the PNC, prime minister Forbes Burnham, had to be aware of it.
President David Granger had denounced the report. “When you look at details of the evidence provided, it is clear that the report itself is very badly flawed and we intend to challenge the findings of the report and the circumstances under which [the inquiry] was conducted. That is all I would like to say at this time on that report but it is terribly flawed,” Granger had said sometime after the report was handed over. He had also said he believed the terms of reference of the CoI were prejudicial and the sloth in its completion was unacceptable.
But more than one year after the report was laid in the National Assembly, government has remained mum on the way forward on the report’s findings.
Hinds maintains his party’s stance that Rodney and several other WPA activists were killed for their political activism, “with the full knowledge of leading officials of the then government and the state.”
But the WPA executive acknowledges that the genesis of the CoI and the shutting out of organisations like the WPA helped to poison the process and gave the People’s National Congress Reform-dominated APNU+AFC coalition-led government an opportunity to shut down the inquiry and virtually reject the report.
He explained, “The partisan way the PPP dealt with the CoI meant that any consensus on the outcome was doomed. Unlike in 2005, when the PNC and the WPA found common ground on the motion authorising the CoI, in 2014 the PPP chose to exclude these two parties from the process. In so doing, the PPP poisoned the process and jettisoned any possibility of an objective outcome. They are responsible for the mess.”
He added, “The PPP claimed that this was Mrs Rodney’s request, but there seems to be some confusion regarding the truthfulness of that claim. But as WPA’s Eusi Kwayana pointed out, even if such a request were made, that should not have prevented president Ramotar from consulting the WPA and others. The party wrote to then president Ramotar outlining our concerns, but we were promptly ignored. The WPA then took the position that the government’s failure to consult important stakeholders rendered the CoI partisan, but did not object to its members participating.”
Hinds pointed out that when the CoI report was debated in the National Assembly, the government majority voted to “acknowledge” it and “examine the findings so as to ascertain which, if any, are acceptable and implementable.”
He said that the PPP’s original motion on the report called for the National Assembly to adopt, rather than merely acknowledge the findings.
It is the party’s view, he noted, that the recommendations of the CoI are not unreasonable and as such they embrace them. “The recommendation that the police force and the army be professionalised is especially welcomed given the fact that since the Rodney assassination there were several others which occurred under the PPP’s watch and in which members of the police force were prime suspects. The other recommendations which have to do with free and fair elections and working to heal the ethnic divide are equally relevant,” Hinds posited.
But, given, the highly partisan circumstances surrounding the CoI, according to him, it made his party not expect the government’s side to adopt the findings and they are not optimistic that the government would place a high priority on even following through on the motion it voted in favour of. Said Hinds, “The WPA is conscious that the partisan nature of the CoI compromises its findings. You cannot expect the PNC to embrace the findings of a CoI which its political rival openly and brazenly framed in overt politically vindictive terms. The current president did not help the situation when upon taking office he abruptly discontinued the CoI. But by then enough water was under the bridge—the damage was already done.”
He added, “WPA thinks it’s unfortunate that the CoI has been mired in partisan politics. Once that happened, it put us in a no-win situation. We couldn’t be party to the PPP’s game, but we certainly would not join in the PNC’s denial of the culpability of its then leadership in Rodney’s assassination and other political violence of that era,” and he listed also the assassinations of Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin and Father Bernard Darke.
But Hinds does not believe that the public should see the party’s quietude on the issue as being reflective of a nonchalant attitude or that it has been consumed by APNU. Instead, he wants followers and the public to note that just as Rodney’s works continue to live on and are discussed globally, so is the party’s commitment in preserving all he stood for and championed.
Importantly, he added, the WPA will continue to be adamant in its stance that Rodney was killed for his political activity and that the then PNC government knew of his planned assassination.
“WPA has always been and continues to be committed to justice for our assassinated brother. We continue to believe that Walter Rodney’s assassination was planned and executed because of his political activity and with the full knowledge of leading officials of the then government and the state. Insofar as the CoI came to that conclusion, we embrace it,” Hinds stressed.