[www.inewsguyana.com] – The series of events that have been unfolding at the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry over the past few months took a different turn on Tuesday, February 17 as one of the politician’s long-standing friends took the stand.
Holland Gordon Yearwood, 69, told Commissioners, who convened at the Supreme Court building on Croal Street, Georgetown, that the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) had corrupted the truth about its leader’s death and had further smuggled his suspected killer, Gregory Smith to French Guiana.
Yearwood, also called ‘Jomo’ and ‘The Nigerian’ recently returned from his Cite Bon Homme, French Guiana residence to offer his version of events to the Commission. He told the inquiry too that Dr. Rodney had showed him detonators prior to his death.
The 69-year-old testified that he had known Rodney many years before he had died. Describing himself as an independent political activist, Yearwood said during the period under review (1978 – 1980) he had resided at Lot 6 Second Alley, Wismar, Linden.
He said at the time he was self-employed but contracted with Guyana National Engineering Corporation (GUYNEC), a state-owned company. As a part-time job, Yearwood said he was a track and field coach.
He recalled July 5, 1979 where he left Mackenzie, Linden with a team of athletes set to participate in their first National Athletic Championship, dubbed GUYNAC in those days. Yearwood said that day his team excelled and as he was returning he spotted his brother standing on the road at Grove, East Bank Demerara.
According to Yearwood, he disembarked but shortly after speaking to his brother he heard the tooting of a horn and when he looked he saw Dr. Rodney seated in a car across the road, beckoning him to come over.
He told Commissioners that it was then that he approached the politician who asked if he was available for the evening because there was an “urgent operation” and his presence would be highly appreciated.
The Commission of Inquiry heard that Yearwood sent the waiting bus away, hopped in Rodney’s car and together they travelled to a house on Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
He said as they drove, he asked Rodney “What’s so urgent?” to which the politician responded, “Brother Jomo, there are times you have to hit the enemy in their beds and their reactions will be judged.”
Eventually they made their way to a house on Hadfield Street where Dr. Rodney introduced him to a male, whose name he cannot recall. He said after a while, the politician sat down and gave certain instructions.
Yearwood said Rodney spoke of a plan for the evening; detailing what he wanted to do, where and how. The witness, a qualified Technician, said that Rodney wanted the two to tamper with the equipment and plunge sections of Georgetown in blackout.
He said he hadn’t joined on that mission, but instead returned to the mining town. The witness recalled July 14, 1979 when he said he had travelled to participate in a demonstration for the release of Walter Rodney who was the day before taken in custody for the burning of Congress place.
Yearwood recalled having a “call of nature” and he went on Croal Street, looking for a place to release himself where he encountered the then Minister of Works and Communication, Hamilton Green.
He said the then Minister and now Mayor told him face-to-face “I am going to put a stopping to you. Today today I will put a stop to you and your stupidness.” He said he hadn’t bothered with Green and eventually he made his way back to the court and joined the demonstrators.
“It was only when the men of Hamilton Greene came and shout “He is Jomo! He is Jomo! Get him, get him! That I realised I was about to be killed.”
He said that he was seriously wounded by a bayonet-wielding man who had received his orders to kill him.
He said the group gathered on Brickdam and was ready to march to Camp Street Jail and as they were in front of Brickdam, a crowd of people approached and he saw a bayonet coming at him. He said he tried to avoid it but was struck to his left arm and had to run to save his life that day.
The wound, he easily showed to the commission of inquiry. Yearwood claimed the man who injured him with the bayonet, Bilal Ato, was taken before the courts, charged and sentenced to serve time for the murder of Father Bernard Darke.
“He was not the person that struck the bayonet into Father Darke. He did not kill him…He was used as the sacrificial goat.”
Ato, he said, was part of the House of Israel. Yearwood testified that Dr. Rodney had come to his home three weeks prior to his June 13, 1980 killing around 14:30hrs.
He said they sat facing each other at a table and after a short while, Rodney took out “some things” from his bag asking him if he could fit them into circuit.
Asked by Assistant Lead Counsel to the Commission, Latchmie Rahamat what were “those things”, the witness stated that at the time, he had no idea what they were.
He said he took them and put them in his hands and asked the late Dr. Rodney what they were and the politician responded “firing-caps detonators.”
The witness testified that on June 13, 1980 he was living with his brother at Grove. He explained that the incident with Rodney and the instrument Rodney had brought to his home had caused his fearful wife to sever ties with him.
He said he left these shores on February 24, 1981 and ventured to French Guiana for a job opportunity presented to him by one, Mr. Josiah.
Yearwood recapped that the decision for him to leave came three days before he headed down to a lake in Grove where he was confronted by a man pointing a gun at him. The person, he recalled, said “Jomo medi!” which he explained to have meant “be on guard.”
“I didn’t answer him, I had no time. He pointed the gun at my chest and I knew what was the situation. I was a man to be killed!” he said.
He said when he moved to French Guiana, he was informed that Rodney’s “killer” was living in the capital city, Cayenne. He said Gregory Smith, the man accused by many to be responsible for Rodney’s death, was known to him as Cyril Milton Johnson, alias “Jono.”
He said he did his own investigation and told the WPA that Smith was in the same country as he was.
He said that after he had acquired information and was certain that it was Smith, a meeting was arranged for November 27, 1981 at a hotel in Central Ville, Suriname.
There he met David Michael, Kwame Apata and Dr. Rupert Roopnarine and told them of his findings. He said they devised an operation to bring Smith before an international tribunal. Yearwood said, as per arrangement, he returned to the crossing at St. Lorrie to pick up two “operators” from the WPA which never materialized.
He said the plan was to extract Smith and place him before the tribunal. “That was being dealt with Roopnarine and Kwayana.”
He said in February 1982, he returned to Suriname and had a meeting with Michael and Apata. He said on March 29, 1982 that he met Michael and Apata again for dinner.
He said at that meeting he was told “Jomo that man you had identified in Cayenne is not Gregory Smith. Gregory Smith was positively seen and identified in another South American country. Leave the matter as it is.”
The witness said that at that point, he was sure that Gregory Smith had nothing to do with Rodney’s death.
He said in 1986, he went to Smith’s house and they had a lengthy conversation where he detailed his life and meetings with Dr. Rodney and how he left Guyana.
Yearwood told Commissioners that the morning after the bomb blast which left Rodney dead on June 13, 1980, Smith was smuggled aboard a cargo ship that took him to Trinidad. He said that Smith was marooned in Trinidad and had no communication with WPA Georgetown Central, who had sent him there, for two weeks.
He said that it was the same ship that had brought Dr. Rodney to Guyana. Yearwood claimed that it was the works of the WPA, though he said Smith had not given a name.
Yearwood recalled Smith telling him that the Headquarters of the WPA finally made contact with him and by the third week, arrangements were made for him to be shipped to Kwakwani, Berbice.
According to the witness, he was smuggled out of Kwakwani to Suriname where he was presented with a passport in favour of his alia with a visa which he then used to fly via Air Martinique to Cayenne, French Guiana.
Rodney’s comrade said in no uncertain terms that it was the WPA that facilitated his movements. The same day he arrived in Cayenne, the witness said Smith was taken directly from the Airport to Port Laravot and was placed on the fishing vessel.
The witnesses told Commissioners that he was a bit taken aback by the tale Smith was telling him but had asked only one question. He said when Smith spoke of the detonators, he stopped him and said “Can you give me a description of the detonators?”
The witness claimed that Smith did much more; he drew what it looked like and passed it to him. “My exact response to that was that Gregory, that was responsible for breaking up my home.”
He said Smith had confided that should he attempt to pass certain information onto WPA, he was sure they would have told him to leave the matter as it is.
“After I had gone through that, I knew that there was a corruption of the reality of how Walter Rodney died…there was a corruption of the truth about how he died and what was responsible for his death,” Yearwood told the Commission.
At this point, the lead Commissioner asked the witness who corrupted the truth. Yearwood pointed his fingers to the executive members of the WPA, the Party Dr. Rodney had cofounded.
He said when he contacted the BBC – The Caribbean Report and told them of Gregory Smith and his willingness to give voice to the situation and to speak to the International Commission; two days later he saw Dr Roopnarine announcing that the WPA knew nothing of him.
The tribunal was supposed to be conducted in 1994. The witness testified too that Gregory Smith’s sister who wrote a book with his testimony had wanted him to corroborate her statements.
“I know that Gregory Smith had assisted Dr. Rodney in putting together the device. She wanted me to deny that situation but I couldn’t have,” he said.
He told the Commission that Smith died in 1999 at his home in the Cayenne.
A full inquiry into Rodney’s death is exploring the probability that he may have been assassinated by his own Party, the target of a State killing or a victim of his own negligence, among other things.
The brother of the late politician, Donald Rodney is slated to testify on Wednesday, February 18. A date has not yet been set for Yearwood to continue offering his evidence in Chief.