June 11 ,2021
Dr Walter Rodney
-grave site to be declared national monument, children’s books for syllabus
On the eve of the 41st anniversary of his death in a bomb blast, the PPP/C government yesterday announced a series of actions to honour the life and legacy of then WPA Leader Dr Walter Rodney and to set the record straight about his slaying.
Rodney’s assassination on June 13th 1980 at the age of 38 has seen decades of attempts by his family to have the facts surrounding his demise be ascertained but these efforts were thwarted under the PNC which had been accused of orchestrating his killing and there were also periods under PPP/C governments when no actions were taken.
Yesterday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall SC announced a raft of measures in the National Assembly which he said were approved after Rodney’s family approach-ed President Irfaan Ali for assistance to honour the late historian and to set the record straight on his death. Nandlall identified the family members as Rodney’s wife Dr. Patricia Rodney and children, Shaka Rodney, Kanini Rodney-Phillips MD and Asha T. Rodney.
Making his presentation under the provision `State-ment by a minister’, Nandlall said “Today, the privilege is mine to announce that His Excellency, the President and the Government of Guyana have acceded to this request as part of the historic step of bringing a level of closure to the Rodney family with respect to the death of Dr. Walter Rodney. This is a momentous occasion, for many reasons and it is also a personal privilege for me and indeed, all of us, to be part of a process to right this tragic wrong and to begin the process of the rectification of the historical record”.
He noted that on the 8th of February, 2014, a Com-mission of Inquiry was appointed by then PPP/C President Donald Ramotar, to inquire into and report on, the circumstances surrounding the death of Rodney. The Report of that Commission of Inquiry was tabled in the House under the APNU+AFC Government in 2016. A Motion was tabled in the House shortly thereafter, by PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira calling upon the Government to implement the recommendations of that Report. That Motion was voted down by the then APNU+AFC Government of which the PNCR is the largest component.
“This Government hereby commits to move another Motion in this house shortly, seeking the approval of that Report by this House and a resolution that the recommendations contained therein be approved”, Nandlall said.
He pointed out that an inquest was conducted eight years after Rodney’s death and the findings were that the historian died by “misadventure”.
“This inquest was reviewed by the 2014 Commission of Inquiry and found to be incredible, flawed and dubious. Steps will be taken to invalidate or set aside the perverse findings of that inquest”, Nandlall announced.
He added that although Rodney was known and respected throughout the world for his academic accomplishments, scholarship and activism, his death certificate described him as “unemployed’’, as he had been denied a job at his country’s only University despite having been employed at universities across the globe.
“This historical wrong will be corrected and that death certificate will be corrected to read ‘’Professor’’ instead of “unemployed”, Nandlall declared.
The Attorney General said that efforts have already begun and will continue to secure the record of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry. Those records will be digitized by the National Archives, recently renamed the Walter Rodney National Archives, in collaboration with the Walter Rodney Foundation and the Atlanta University Center – Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta, Georgia, and copies of same will be deposited at that institution as part of the Walter Rodney Papers and Special Collection.
Nandlall noted that the Rodney Gravesite & Memorial are currently being managed collaboratively between the Rodney Family and the National Trust.
“Today, I am proud to announce that they will be declared National Monuments and fall under the administration of The National Trust”, the Attorney General told the House.
He added that one of the greatest tragedies flowing from Rodney’s death, is the loss of his scholarship to the people of Guyana.
“His children’s books that celebrate the cultural heritage of Guyanese, Kofi Baadu: Out of Africa and Lakshmi: Out of India, shall be placed on the national syllabus by the Ministry of Education and in the hands of primary and secondary school students across this land. Additionally, his other major works, including, A History of the Guyanese Working People, Guyanese Sugar Plantations in the late Nineteenth Century, and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, shall be made available to the library of the University of Guyana”, the Attorney General sad.
Further, the Walter Rodney Chair at the University of Guyana will be reestablished.
Nandlall noted that Rodney’s brother Donald Rodney was in the car with him on the evening that the bomb blast occurred and is also a victim of this tragedy.
“This included a perverse conviction by a Magistrate’s Court, the burden of which Donald Rodney carried for the past forty-one (41) years. Fortuitously, only recently, the Court of Appeal of Guyana set aside his conviction.
“Every effort will be made to remove and expunge all public records that intimate any level of guilt or wrongdoing by Dr. Walter Rodney in relation to the June 13th 1980 tragedy”, the Attorney General declared.
He added: “For too long, Dr. Walter Rodney’s death has been the subject of an irreverent misdescription. It was not a misadventure. It was an assassination. A great stain on our Republic. This sadistic misrepresentation on Dr. Rodney’s death certificate, prevented his family from recovering … from his life insurance policy, the only financial provision he had made for his family, his wife and three infant children. This desecration must end now. His death certificate will be amended to delete the words ’misadventure’ as the cause of death and substitute therefor, the word `assassination’”.
The Attorney General then cited key passages of the findings of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry.
“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”, the report had said.
Nandlall added that one of the key findings of the inquiry was stark. It stated that “Dr. Walter Rodney was a man of large and significant stature both in Guyana and beyond, at the time of his death. He could only have been killed in what we find to be a State organized assassination with the knowledge of Prime Minister Burnham in the Guyana of that period.”
As Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, and on behalf of the President and the Government of Guyana, Nandlall expressed sorrow to Rodney’s family. He said that he has personally spoken with them to convey the Government’s position on this matter.