Seven months after the investigation abruptly ended, Commissioners who were probing the circumstances surrounding the death of Working People’s Alliance (WPA) leader Dr Walter Rodney are slated to present their findings to President David Granger, today.
The report will be handed over to the Head of State following several delays. The report was initially expected to be handed over since November 2015; however, several hiccups had caused some postponements.
The three-member team comprising its Chairman Barbadian Queen’s Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham, Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad-based Guyanese Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam returned to Guyana last Monday to put the finishing touches on the report. They had met with Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams.
Following that meeting, Cheltenham had expressed concerns about the impact the premature ending of the hearing would have on the final report. The new Administration upon its ascension to office, made a decision to discontinue the hearing, which was close to the end but which still had some pertinent witnesses to give evidence.
“The premature termination…will mean, as I said earlier, the report will not be as thorough and it means, too, that insofar as there were some individuals who were critically commented on in the course of the evidence who did not get a chance to answer, we will be very disinclined to make critical findings of fact in relation to those who were criticised but who did not get the opportunity to answer those criticisms.” Cheltenham had lamented.
Such individuals include former Crime Chief Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts, Working People’s Alliance (WPA) leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and former People’s National Congress (PNC) leader Robert Corbin.
The Commission was set up to investigate who or what was responsible for the bomb blast that caused the death of Dr Rodney on June 13, 1980. Since his death 34 years ago, the WPA has always maintained that it was the People’s National Congress (PNC), led then by former Prime Minister Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, that killed the political leader and scholar.
Evidence emanating from the investigation has pointed in the direction of former army sergeant William Gregory Smith, who it was believed was used by the PNC Administration to manipulate a communication device that caused it to explode. Rodney died on the spot. Smith, who immediately fled Guyana to French Guiana, denied the allegations from afar and even co-authored a book with his older sister Ann Wagner to prove this. He died from cancer in French Guiana back in 2003.
While the People’s National Congress, the major partner in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, had maintained that the Inquiry was being used as a political stunt to tarnish its reputation, former President Donald Ramotar, under whose tenure as President the Commission was established, said it was done owing to the persistent requests by Rodney’s widow, Patricia, and their three children.