“Not me” – Norton says he had nothing to do with removing Rodney’s name from National Archives building

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Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton

Following news that the Walter Rodney Archives was renamed the National Archives, Social Cohesion Minister Dr George Norton, under whose purview the archives falls, has distanced himself from removal of the renowned scholar’s name.

Norton was asked by Inews, about the development, which has left the party Rodney headed, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), seeking answers; and he has claimed that he was out of the jurisdiction at the time, and had nothing to do with the decision. According to the minister, he will seek answers, but for now he could not provide further clarity.

“I was out of the jurisdiction… as soon as I get the opportunity I will (seek answers on the removal of the name),” Dr Norton promised.

Previously, the Archives had a large wooden sign at the front, saying ‘Walter Rodney Archives’. At some point, however, the sign was replaced with one lit by LED lights and emblazoned with the words ‘National Archives of Guyana’.

In an interview with Inews, WPA executive member Dr David Hinds had said the party would certainly be seeking answers in regard to the development. While he did not point fingers, he noted that whoever had ordered the removal of the sign had engaged in an act of “political pettiness.”

“We don’t know how long this change was made. Our understanding is that when the change was made in 2008 under the previous administration, they did not gazette the change. It’s required by law that you gazette whenever you make changes of that nature,” he had said.

“What we’re gathering is that it was not gazetted, and so the change was never formally made. The question is: why did they not gazette it when they found that out? We don’t know who authorised the taking down of the sign. We don’t know if it was done at the level of management of the archives or the Ministry.”

He noted that, to the best of his knowledge, the Social Cohesion Ministry is responsible for management of the archives, since culture falls under that portfolio. Hinds noted that Dr Walter Rodney had been a well-respected historian and academic, and therefore there should have been a consensus before such steps were taken. He called the act an insensitive one to Rodney’s legacy.

The WPA is one of five parties which came together in 2011 and formed A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). The party’s parliamentary seat is held by Public Service Minister Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who replaced party stalwart Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.

Its partnership with the People’s National Congress (PNC), the largest party in the entire coalition, has been a rough road. At one point, the party’s overseas chapter had threatened to have the party withdraw from the coalition if certain concerns were not addressed.

A Commission of Inquiry (CoI) ordered by the previous Government into Rodney’s death had cast blame on PNC founder and former President, Forbes Burnham, for the assassination of the political activist.

Rodney had been a prominent Guyanese historian, political activist and academic. He was assassinated in 1980 after a bomb that was planted in a walkie-talkie detonated in a car. At the time, Rodney had been an outspoken critic of then President Burnham.