… Rodney was not the only victim during era of terror politics — CoI report
The grim realities of the “Burnham Dictatorship” during which hundreds of Guyanese were constantly harassed, threatened or assaulted – and some murdered – for merely being supporters of the political Opposition finally came to light in a comprehensive investigation conducted by a renowned international three-member panel and categorically compiled in the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Report.
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham
Dr Walter Rodney
All the while, these depictions and interpretations were just hearsay from political leaders but having it validated on paper brings somewhat a new meaning to the harsh realism endured by many in the military-controlled State that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) persistently warned about, commentators have stated.
Based on testimonies given, evidence gathered along with the events and circumstances that occurred at the time, the report concluded that the then Prime Minister, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, had such an “absolute” grip and control over the society that he “de-humanised and belittled many Guyanese”.
The 155-page document provided extensive details on the relentless abuse and misuse of the State in carrying out activities that were in blatant breach of legislation which separated the Executive arm of Government from the doings of the armed forces.
According to report, Dr Rodney’s brother Edward Rodney in his testimony identified that the Guyana Police Force was acting as an arm of the ruling party; that the Police were being used to break-up strikes against people who were standing in lines and being unruly or waiting to get bread, kerosene and the Mounted Police were used to threaten and intimidate.
Notably, this was just one of the dozens who came forth to narrate the bleak circumstances that plagued the country during that era in the country’s history.
It was also revealed that the People’s National Congress (PNC) youth arm, the Youth Socialist Movement (YSM), was part and parcel in numerous of the beatings administered to Guyanese who opposed the dictatorship rule of Burnham. Two days ago, the PNC celebrated the birthday of their “founder leader” Burnham with great pomp and lauded him as a great leader of Guyana.
An excerpt from the CoI Report highlighted that the YSM was involved in violent activities in support of the PNC.
“At one stage, the YSM was led by Robert Corbin (former PNCReform Leader) and it worked in close cooperation with the House of Israel in carrying out acts of violence and intimidation against the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) members,” the report stated.
It also recapped that Reverend Gilbert testified that on one occasion, he was grabbed and rammed in his ribs by the YSM which eventually resulted in two broken ribs just before he was handed over to the Police.
It was also taken into account, the somewhat discreet threat declared by Burnham against the WPA – against Dr Rodney.
At the Third Biennial Congress of the PNC (August, 1979), Burnham exclaimed, “We are a party of peace, but we are not pacifists, and literally and metaphorically, we promise to match steel with steel and fire with fire…”
“So comrades, let us deal now with another of them – the Worst Possible Alternative. That is what they must be known by. What does WPA stand for?”
“Comrades, they had better make their wills, because so far as we are concerned, we are not asking them for quarter and we will not give them any…”
“Comrades, we are now in the Roman Amphitheatre. The lion and the gladiator cannot both survive; one must die, and we know that the People’s National Congress will live.”
The Rodney CoI Report expressed that there has been much debate whether the words used by Burnham represented rhetorical excess or whether they were serious and threatening words reflecting the extent to which Rodney and the WPA had become a matter of serious concern to him.
According to the report, many of the testimonies subscribed to the view that Burnham’s statements were indeed a threat.
Based on thorough considerations of these and many other incidents, the Commissioners concluded without hesitation that both the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the YSM along with those in command and Superintendents of those agencies were tasked with carrying out actions of violence against the Opposition.
The report concluded that there were constant surveillance on civilians, killing innocent persons who were associated with the Opposition; breaking up of political meetings, harassing, threatening, assaulting or beating members or supporters of the Opposition; arresting, locking-up or charging members or supporters or carrying out searches of homes and other places without reasonable or probable cause. (Reprinted: Guyana Times)