Cheltenham quells concerns surrounding Walter Rodney’s COI

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Chairman of Walter Rodney COI
Chairman of Walter Rodney COI, Richard Cheltenham. [iNews’ Photo]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Chairman of the International Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 1980 death of Guyanese politician and historian, Walter Rodney has put to rest, dismissing it as lacking ‘walking capacity’ concerns surrounding Commissioner, Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam and the COI’s Terms of Reference among others.

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) and by extension its parent coalition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – had expressed the fear that Jiaram, who worked briefly with the Government previously, may be a case of conflict of interest.

When asked about these concerns at a press conference on Wednesday (March 19), the Commission’s Chairman, Richard Cheltenham said “I believe the Attorney General has dealt with that and I would not want to add; besides I do not see how working for the government in the past could affect the work of the Commission.”

He added, “The issue has no length, it simply has no walking capacity I don’t understand how one can draw the inference of bias.”

Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam
Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam. [iNews’ Photo]
Cheltenham made it clear that in relation to concerns regarding the Terms of Reference (TOR), those should be addressed by the relevant authorities.

The Chairman has given the Commission’s commitment nonetheless to go to all lengths to ensure closure is brought to the relatives of Rodney.

“Rest assured that the Commission will go to every reasonable and realistic length to get to the bottom of this. Every document that is available we will seek to access, we are not here to do a whitewash job, we have our integrity and reputation to maintain and wherever the evidence leads we will follow.”

He announced also that Rodney’s brother, Donald Rodney who was with him at the time of the explosion has also indicated his willingness to testify.

The Commissioners assured that anyone who is willing to testify should not be afraid to come forward, adding that the TOR guarantees absolute pardon and protection of identity.

The Commission’s Chairman said that the Commissioners have recently been trying to build support for the work that will formally commence shortly.

In this regard there were meetings with the Commissioner of Police, Army Chief, Political Parties, House Speaker, Private Sector Commission, Trade Unions among other stakeholders.

The Chairman said it is the hope of the Commissioners that public hearings will commence on the Tuesday following Easter Monday and will run for nine working days before a two week break.

Cheltenham said the lawyers attached to the Commission which includes Glen Hanoman, Latchmie Rahamat and Nicola Pierre are currently helping witnesses to put their evidence together in an orderly and relevant fashion.

He said the Commissioners are awaiting the accumulation of enough ‘fuel to sustain the engines of the Commissions once it starts running’, where the Attorneys will then lead the evidence.

“We want to know how, why, who involved and the motivation to bring closure to this unsolved incident, and we understand the public disquiet and concern,” Cheltenham told reporters.

He said Rodney was no ordinary citizen adding that his death dates back to over 33 years ago and pondered on the prospect of evidential material and the value of a COI now.

The Chairman made it clear however, that any who attempts to mislead the COI intentionally can be prosecuted.

President Donald Ramotar had agreed to the setting up of the Commission in June 2013 following a request from the family after an inquiry ordered by former President Desmond Hoyte in 1988 which found that Rodney’s death was caused by an ‘accident or misadventure’ was met with grave disbelief.

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