June 13, marked the 37th anniversary of the death of one of our most distinguished sons, Walter Rodney. He was assassinated by the PNC regime as has been revealed by the recently held Commission of Inquiry.
Rodney has been dead now for almost as long as he lived. Yet his name is still being called by many. He is held high by the ordinary people of our country and further afield. This is so because of how he lived his life and the contribution he made to the work for peace, freedom and justice both nationally and internationally. He stood with working people. He returned to Guyana in 1974 by which time he had gained renown regionally and internationally as a scholar and a revolutionary. He is revered in Jamaica and held in high esteem in Africa for his work in those parts of the world, not just for his academic work but for his activism and his stance on the side of working and oppressed people everywhere.
In 1974, when he came back to his homeland it was a time when the PNC dictatorship was consolidating itself. It was also a period of growing resistance to the dictatorship. This was seen in the massive way and the lengths to which the PNC regime went to rig the elections the year before, in 1973. Even before Rodney arrived a huge meeting protested the decision of the PNC regime, through its control of the University of Guyana Council, to refuse a job in the History Department of the university to this distinguished scholar. Actually, the UG Academic Board had given him the job. However, the PNC dominated Council, which included Hamilton Green and Viola Burnham, reversed the decision.
That meeting was held at the corner of Middle and Cummings Streets. It was supposed to be addressed by Cheddi Jagan and Eusi Kwayana, among others. It was brutally broken up, and many persons were injured. The PNC regime was running scared when they saw unity being manifested.
Rodney came back and threw himself in the struggle. His views almost totally coincided with those of Cheddi Jagan and the PPP. However, he did not join the PPP. Some would ask why?
In my view, he would have felt that if he did, the PNC would use race to brand him, the way they used it before to attack the PPP. Being of African descent, the regime could not play the race card against him. Not joining the PPP the PNC could not brand him a sell-out. And that exposed the African Guyanese masses to progressive political views, which the PNC had denied them because of its constant manipulation of race. Rodney was taking their racial trump card.
As I have pointed out before, Rodney was killed not only because of his views. Actually, most of what he advocated was also being advocated by the PPP. He was murdered because he was an African Guyanese advocating those views.
This anniversary of Rodney’s killing is taking place at a time when we see tendencies towards another PNC style dictatorship. In the first place, the regime is dominated by former army officers. As everyone knows an army is not a democratic institution. The training and orientation of the main personalities in the APNU regime is militaristic and therefore not democratic. This is a military government in civilian garb.
One of its first actions was to close the Rodney Inquiry before it concluded all its work. This government, with a penchant for commissions of inquiry, did not want this one. Indeed, they dreaded it. This put a nail in their talk about transparency.
State institutions are being used to harass the political opposition today. The Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) and the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) are being used as instruments of oppression and discrimination against some who are suspected of being supporters of the PPP/C.
Discrimination has once more raised its ugly head in our land. This, of course, is the outcome of a policy where undemocratic methods are being used to govern. The evidence of their undermining of democracy is seen everywhere. Just look at what is taking place in the Regions. Region Five is where the most brazen administrative methods are being used to frustrate the democratically elected officials.
Parliament is also being reduced to a rubber stamp. One of the characteristics of a democratically functioning Parliament is that it becomes a forum for debate and discussion of all national and critical issues. These features are absent from this Parliament.
The Speaker is worse than Sase Narine ever was under Burnham. Rodney would have been fighting against these things had he been alive today.
What is very tragic in today’s situation is that many of the persons who stood with Rodney, running around shouting ‘people’s power, no dictator’, are now killing his ideas and strangling the ideals he stood for. Many of the leaders of the Working Peoples’ Alliance (WPA) are now supporting the new oppression that is being practised. If Rodney were to arrive in Guyana now, some of those he thought were his comrades would work to harass and silence him.
The difference between Rodney and some of his erstwhile colleagues is that Rodney was able to cross racial boundaries and advocate a multi-ethnic democracy with equal opportunity for all at its foundation. He demonstrated strong opposition to any form of discrimination. Some of those who are still around have shown their incapacity to cross racial lines, and they support the party that is responsible for the murder of Walter Rodney.
Only David Hinds of them all has made some feeble protests. However, he is a bundle of contradictions. Whenever he criticizes this regime he always qualifies it by explicitly stating that the PPP/C administration was worse. He states this without providing a shred of evidence to support his position. The main message he sends is that despite the hardship that people are facing, they must continue to support the regime. This is collaborating in the discrimination that is occurring every day in this country.
He too seems incapable of freeing his mind from the racial prison. His protests seem to be coming from a love for Rodney personally, but on the whole, he continues to stand aside and let our country slide back. He has lost his objectivity.
Those who pay lip service to Walter Rodney should use this anniversary to re-examine themselves and get back in the struggle for a democratic and non-racial Guyana. It would be good if they can do so, but I doubt it.