Rodney’s death was an act of state-sponsored terrorism – Rohee

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PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee in the witness stand on Monday, February 09. [iNews Photo]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Clement Rohee on Monday, February 09 said that Dr Walter Rodney’s killing was beyond any shadow of doubt, an act of State-sponsored terrorism.

Rohee, current Minister of Home Affairs and a long-standing member of the Party, was once again called to take the stand at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the death of Dr. Rodney, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) co-founder who died in a bomb blast on June 13, 1980.

At the time of Rodney’s death, Rohee had been out of Guyana. Nonetheless, he served with the PPP as a member of the central and executive committees from the years 1978 to 1980.

As he testified, Rohee said the PPP and the WPA faced serious surveillance from the then ruling administration and had been subjected to public attacks and constant harassment.

Continuing from evidence previously offered, Rohee told the Commissioners that when the Ministry of National Development was destroyed by fire on July 14, 1979 several opposition activists were rounded up and charged with arson.

Among them were Rodney and WPA activist Karen De Souza; no member of the PPP had been arrested.

Rohee said two days after the fire, Ulrich Pilgrim and Clarence Pryce, two top Commanders of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) were removed. According to him, it was widely held in influential quarters at the time that the WPA had penetrated the military.

That penetration, it was believed by the Administration, could not have happened unless facilitated by the hierarchy of the military.

The force and police, Rohee said, were under tight control and the move to shake up the army was seen in Opposition circles and “many who were not formally in the Opposition but associated with the struggle” viewed it as a move to gain greater control of the military; weeding out the WPA which was suspected to have influence in the army.

During this period before and after, Rohee recalled that the thugs from the House of Israel and the Death Squad were unleashed with greater frequency on the political opposition.

“All this was happening at the time when there were moves to change the constitution.”

Rohee explained there was push for democracy and moves were apace to mobilize and educate people. He said as a result of the constant holding of these public meetings, there was a more frequent response from the administration to break up the public meetings.

Rohee went on to say that there was no doubt that they [thugs from House of Israel and Death Squad] were directly from the PNC headquarters. He recalled that they moved in “PNC vehicles” and emphasised that there was no need for an emblem to be placed on the vehicles for them to be identified.

The General Secretary recounted a tale where the wrath of the thugs was unleashed on Gail Teixeira during a public meeting held on North Road and Orange Walk, Bourda. She functioned as Personal Assistant to Dr. Cheddi Jagan during 1978 – 1980.

Rohee said that prior to Rodney’s death, the WPA and PPP had an amicable relationship which fostered the perception that the PP was an ally working with the WPA to remove the government of the day.

He affirmed that supporters were harassed, victimized and arrested. “There was a way of doing these types of activities and everyone known or seen to be opposing the government” would be subjected to the harassment.

Rohee told the inquiry that said that this treatment extended to those in the diaspora.

The commission is also tasked to determine the role Gregory Smith played in Rodney’s death.

Focusing on the period around the time of Rodney’s death, Rohee said “People were under tremendous degree of stress, suffered from food shortages, long lines outside of supermarkets and groceries. The economic and social condition prevail was one which made people want change.”

He said the government did not have the answers and they were negotiating with International bodies for relief. Rohee said that he had no doubt that the Government was responsible for Rodney’s death; especially when you examine the way Gregory Smith was aided out of Guyana.

He said Smith was an agent of the administration working within the GDF.

Rohee surmised that the way Smith left Guyana could have only been done with the assistance of the Government.

He examined the resources used to aid Smith. He told Commissioners that for a person to move so freely to an isolate location where an aircraft was waiting to take him out “would happen no other way than through the use of state resources.”

Rohee said that the Government did everything in their power to cover up Rodney’s death.

He said nothing could have been published in certain media houses without the administration’s approval. The Minister said “something happened…a bomb exploded and a great political figure was killed but no credible answer was ever given.”

“Guyana was not a democracy; everything was under total control,” Rohee said; adding that Burnham was a man known to be in control of things and “anyone who stepped out of the line had to face his wrath.”

“There are no words to explain the situation in those days,” Rohee said. He claimed that the PNC and its then leader Burnham, was responsible for the death of Rodney.

Rohee believes that it was an act of state-sponsored terrorism. “The way he was killed and the fact that it drove terror in the hearts of the people in our country” were points he used to substantiate his claim.

“What took place was a clear and unequivocal act of state sponsored terrorism,” he emphasized.

The PPP, he admitted, suffered a setback from Rodney’s death.

“Many people felt defeated that we couldn’t win an election under that ruling party at that time. Many people were becoming despondent and frustrated. Dr. Rodney had died and the struggle had been thrown back,” he said.

“Many people felt that the PPP should take up arms but we did not go down that road.”

He said the way Rodney had died forced many people to “back off from the struggle.”

“It did have that negative kind of impact…WPA remained still active for quite a while and it was hoped that with the death of Dr. Rodney that it would become more determined and more forceful to carry the struggle forward.”

He said after a while things began to change and people became more passive.

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