By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Sloppy Guyana Defence Force (GDF) records, dating back to the 1960’s and 1970s, were presented to the ongoing Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) today; causing Commissioners much frustration and subsequently resulting in them urging the Force to be more consistent and ensure better record keeping.
The Commission was told by Lieutenant Colonel Patrick West that several files, including the personal file for William Smith, were missing.
Smith is accused of giving Rodney the explosive device which killed him on June 13, 1980,
He said it was rare not to find someone’s personal file; pointing out that had the file been found, it would provide more details in relation to Smith.
West, who is in charge of the Force’s administration [record keeping] said too that after checking several personnel files, his team could not locate Smith’s general orders along with some of his pay records.
West was quick to point out that he could have only verified that a “William Smith” was enlisted in the Force and found none of his other suspected alias on file, which includes Gregory Smith.
He presented a regimental number for William – 4141 – which corresponds with the reported number of Gregory.
It was the testimony of several preceding witnesses that Smith was an undercover rank, enlisted in the Force at the time of Rodney’s death.
According to the records found by West, Smith was taken on strength [enlisted] in the Force on July 26, 1972. He only found four pay records for Smith, including one in 1975 when he was paid as a private soldier, another in 1977 when he was paid as a Corporal and the last record on July 28, 1979 where he was paid as a Sergeant.
There were no records in relation to how Smith left the Force; whether he was absent without leave (AWOL), granted amnesty or discharged.
West made it clear however, that those files should have been found but could not positively say whether it was deliberately destroyed or misplaced. He did point out that some files were damaged in the 2005 national floods.
West, who has been a member of the GDF since 1984 said however that the missing information which were uncovered were not unique to Smith, pointing out that there were other ranks whose information appeared absent.
Former Police Sergeant Robert Gates formerly known as Clive Gibbs had testified that he had conversation with ‘Gregory Smith’ before Rodney was killed.
He said Smith told him that he was an undercover member of the Force and was offered money and a safe get away if he would give Rodney, who was at the time ‘a spokes in the government wheels’.
Gates said Smith was at the time sporting an Afro and a beard. The then Chief of Staff Norman Mclean, who gates claimed had knowledge of this, has since denied knowing of such.
West said it was possible that Smith could have been an undercover rank but recommended that such information be obtained, if available, from intelligence personnel in the Force.
Several files from the police Special Branch that covered developments which attracted police attention leading up to the death of the late Founder/Leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and Caribbean political activist, Dr. Rodney is believed to have also been lost.