Photo above is of Guyana Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Basil Williams.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Guyana government has defended the decision to bring an end to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) probing the death of historian and political activist Dr Walter Rodney saying it was nothing more than a political witch hunt by the Donald Ramotar administration.
Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Basil Williams, speaking on a programme on the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) said that the inquiry had also backfired on the former administration.
“First of all, they lied about Ms. Rodney’s contacting Mr. Ramotar, asking for such an inquiry to be held into the death of Walter Rodney. She never requested such an inquiry…rather we learnt that she received a call purportedly from someone alleging they were from the Office of the President, informing her of the Commission being formed,” Williams said.
Ramotar had said that such an inquiry was necessary to allow Guyana to start the healing process, after more than 30 years of uncertainty concerning Rodney’s death, and to avail his family closure. The inquiry commenced in April last year, and was supposed to wrap up at the end of the year. The Ramotar government, however, announced that they were extending the commission’s life indefinitely.
The Commission is headed by Barbadian jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham, and includes Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel (SC) Senath Jairam. Rodney, the co-founder of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), was killed on June 13, 1980, after a walkie-talkie, given to him by now deceased Guyana Defence Force member Gregory Smith, exploded as he sat in a car.
The then ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) has long been blamed for the murder. But the party has continuously denied any responsibility.
The Commissioners had recently requested two weeks to conclude taking evidence from witnesses. But Williams said such a request would serve no purpose.
The government recently said that the COI had cost taxpayers approximately GUY$400 million (One Guyana dollar =US$0.008 cents).
Williams said that the charade of the now opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) was not tolerated by the population.
“It was a PPP exercise…Thoughts of the Rodney family could not have been uppermost in their minds. They were in power for 23 years and they did nothing, but on the eve of the elections, they tried to have something done”.
According to the Attorney General, the Commission of Inquiry does not fit in to the mood engendered by a change in government, and as such, having it continue would not serve a useful purpose, since its conception has not. He said the Rodney family could not have been satisfied with the manner in which the inquiry was conducted.
“I don’t believe the Working People’s Alliance or the People’s National Congress could be satisfied with the genesis or the origin of the Commission of Inquiry.
The rules made, facilitated hearsay upon hearsay. Obviously, the standard was on the balance of probability. One expects a COI to be attended by fairness.
When you have people who were not eye witnesses, and who were not on the scene…, the dreams and premonitions of persons were allowed to be entered on the record”.
Williams further explained that the Commission was dragged on because of its modus operandi. He said witnesses who were not expected to give ‘favourable evidence’, would be shunned to the side.
This was done to former Commissioner of Police Cecil ‘Skip’ Roberts, who was flown in and put up at a local hotel, but was never called to testify, because it was believed his evidence would support that of Major General Norman McLean.
“When the COI was started with a witness who had a political bang, a witness who had political resonance, they wanted to end with such a witness also. This fact is corroborated by Sean Samaroo’s reports. It speaks to their haphazard approach to their work. Yes, there was a method to their madness, but it was haphazard.”