…ex APNU coalition member WPA belatedly joins bandwagon
Former President Donald Ramotar, who had launched a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the circumstances of Dr Walter Rodney’s death in 2014, has lauded the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government for taking steps to honour the legacy of the late politician and historian, and finally bringing justice to his family and his supporters.
On Thursday, Government vowed in the National Assembly to make every effort to “remove and expunge all public records” of wrongdoing committed by Dr Rodney. The announcement, which was made by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, comes ahead of Dr Rodney’s 41st death anniversary on June 13.
The Irfaan Ali-led Administration will be correcting Dr Rodney’s death certificate to state the cause as “assassination” instead of the word “misadventure”. It will also replace the historian’s occupation on the document which is listed as “unemployed” to now “Professor”. Other steps to be taken include declaring the Rodney Gravesite and Memorial as national monuments and also place his children’s books in the national syllabus of the Ministry of Education to be distributed to primary and secondary schools across the country.
In a statement on Friday, Ramotar commended these efforts.
“It is vital that the truth and the whole truth be made available to our people, both those who lived through those traumatic days and our young people who must have all the facts to build on what previous generations have achieved and to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that were made and encountered,” he posited.
The former Head of State recalled interactions with Rodney’s family, which he said prompted the 2014 CoI to ascertain the circumstances of the historian’s assassination.
“I am sure that [his wife, Dr Patricia Rodney] would see these latest actions by the Government as major advances in the pursuit of justice and for the truth be known to all. The consistency of her and her children’s struggles for this day is a true example of love and determination. Today too, I wish to recall and recognise all those who played important roles in getting the CoI going,” the former President contended.
Further, Ramotar went on to acknowledge the efforts of AG Nandlall, who previously held this position, and former Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, for tirelessly working with him to move this process forward, starting with the inquiry which paved the way for these developments.
According to the former President, “As we move to another anniversary of Dr Rodney’s assassination, let us once more recognise that he was killed because he opposed the Burnham led-PNC dictatorship and because he was convinced that democracy was indispensable for a society to achieve real national and social liberation.”
In their report on the CoI, the three-member regional panel said, “We have no hesitation in holding that Gregory Smith was responsible for Dr Walter Rodney’s death on 13 June, 1980, and that in so doing, he was acting as an agent of the State having been aided and abetted so to do, by individuals holding positions of leadership in State agencies and committed to carrying out the wishes of the PNC Administration… He could only have been killed in what we find to be a State organised assassination with the knowledge of Prime Minister [Forbes] Burnham in the Guyana of that period.”
For decades, Dr Rodney’s family have been advocating for the truthful account of the politician’s death to be documented and these calls were reiterated following the 2014 CoI. In fact, only in 2019, Dr Rodney’s wife had called on the then APNU/AFC Government to make the CoI report public and implement the recommendations made.
“Where is the report? Why are they hiding it from people?” Pat Rodney had contended during an October 2019 event hosted in London. Clearly referring to Rodney’s erstwhile comrades in the WPA who had coalesced with the PNC, the grieving widow had contended that there must be strong resistance to those who would attach themselves to Rodney’s legacy in order to reap narrow political dividends in the present that have nothing to do with healing, reconciliation and social and economic transformation.
While the Walter Rodney CoI report was submitted to the National Assembly in May 2016, it was not laid in the House. The then PPP/C Opposition had tabled a motion shortly after for the National Assembly to adopt the report and its findings and have the APNU/AFC Government implement the recommendations.
However, that motion was voted down by the then Administration which was comprised of Dr Rodney’s own political party – the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).
The WPA was one of the five small political parties that coalesced with the People’s National Congress to form the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) but it has since resigned, citing the dictatorial nature of the David Granger-led party both in and out of office.
In a statement on Friday, welcoming the PPP Government’s initiative to amend Dr Rodney’s records, the WPA complained of being silenced for years under the leadership of the PNC-led coalition.
“It was one of the worst betrayals of political trust that exposed the WPA to unjustified but, in the circumstances, understandable ridicule and condemnation from those opposed to national reconciliation. It was also an act for which the top leadership of the PNC will be forever condemned,” the WPA stated.
Further, they claimed that while it showed good faith in the interest of national healing by joining the party that assassinated its leader, it was rewarded with gross disrespect by the narrowminded leadership of the APNU/AFC.
On the other hand, the WPA said that the PPP Government must be recognised for doing the right and honourable thing. [This story was first published in the Guyana Times]