Commissioners sworn in for COI into Walter Rodney’s 1980 killing

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Sir Richard Cheltenham being sworn in as Chairman of the COI. [iNews' Photo]
Sir Richard Cheltenham being sworn in as Chairman of the COI. [iNews’ Photo]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – President Donald Ramotar on Monday morning (February 25) swore in the three Commissioners who will be sitting on the International Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 1980 death of Guyanese politician and historian, Walter Rodney.

Among them is the Commission’s Chairman Queen’s Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham from Barbados, Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam from Trinidad and Tobago and Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels – Brown from Jamaica.

According to President Ramotar, he anticipates the completion of the Commission’s work and hopes that it can finally bring a conclusion to the issues surrounding the death of Rodney.

He 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.

Meanwhile, according to Sir Richard Cheltenham it has certainly been a long time since Rodney’s alleged assassination occurred and posited that a COI at this juncture may not yield much in relation to the assertion of facts.

He is hopeful however that with the over 100 witnesses scheduled to testify and with documented evidence the Commission will be able to make firm conclusions.

He said it was too early to say when exactly hearings (public) will begin and for how long the Commission will sit, adding that it will depend on the individual dynamics of the COI.

Cheltenham told reporters that discussions will be held with the Secretariat in relation to its readiness with evidence gathering and statements but hopes to begin sittings as soon as possible. The hearings will be televised.

Rodney had traveled widely and became very well known internationally as an activist, scholar and formidable orator. He taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania during the period 1966-67 and later in Jamaica at his alma mater UWI Mona.

He was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. He was also a strong critic of capitalism and argued for a socialist development template.

On 15 October 1968 the government of Jamaica, led by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, declared Rodney persona non grata. The decision to ban him from ever returning to Jamaica because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country caused riots to break out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages.

These riots, which started on 16 October 1968, are now known as the Rodney Riots, and they triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean, especially among the Afrocentric Rastafarian sector of Jamaica, documented in his book The Groundings With My Brothers.

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