June 13, 2019 marks the 39th year since Dr. Walter Rodney was brutally assassinated by the People’s National Congress (PNCR) regime of 1980 and his death represented a huge loss for Guyana, according to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. “A whole generation of leaders were inspired by Walter Rodney. He helped to stimulate a critical analysis of Europe and North-South relationship. It is a tragic loss for not only Guyana, but also for the rest of the world,” he said, during his Thursday (June 13, 2019) news conference.
He noted that Working People’s Alliance (WPA), of which Rodney was a co-leader, issued a statement in remembrance of his death anniversary and called attention to the convenient nature of the statement. He charged that it is the same WPA that is a part of the current PNCR-led Coalition Government, which refuses to push for action to be taken on findings from the independent international Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into Rodney’s death.
The Commission’s 155- page report concluded Rodney’s assassination was a “State organised” act that was executed with the knowledge of the then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of the People’s National Congress (PNC), who had “large and detailed” knowledge of what was being done by the State and its agencies during his tenure.
“We conclude that Prime Burnham knew of the plan and was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Walter Rodney,” the report said it its findings, also making references to the manner in which the country was run. On August 4, 2016, the International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report into Dr. Rodney’s death was debated in the National Assembly.
The report was debated in the National Assembly after the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) pressed for the report not to be shelved, but be discussed, so as to avoid a repeat of history – to avoid a duplication of the circumstances under which Rodney was assassinated. The APNU+AFC Government’s position was that it will not adopt the findings of the report; rather it will acknowledge the report.
Jagdeo said, “They government did not want to adopt the findings. They said only acknowledge the report…. the WPA was part of that presence in the National Assembly when this was done.” He noted that the CoI boasted impartial and renowned lawyers.
The members of the Commission were; Queens Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham (Chairman) from Barbados, Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam from Trinidad and Tobago and Queens Counsel Jacqueline Samuels- Brown from Jamaica.
The Opposition Leader said, “That was not a Commission of Inquiry, like the ones we have seen done by this Government – where one person is handpicked, like Raphael Trotman’s father, and put in charge.”
Jagdeo also expressed his surprise at the WPA’s talk of electoral fraud in its statement on Rodney’s death anniversary. He said, “We are approaching elections and I saw the statement from the WPA – saying they would never support electoral fraud. Clearly, they know something that I don’t know about, because they are speaking about not supporting electoral fraud.”
The WPA in its statement said that it “takes this opportunity to categorically state that it is vehemently opposed to electoral malpractice as a route to power. This is a fundamental principle of our party that is non-negotiable— WPA will not be part of any overt or covert plan or action to rig elections.
To do so, would be a dishonour to the legacy of Walter Rodney and the other stalwarts of our party who gave their lives and sacrifices for free and fair elections that are free from fear. Towards this end our party is vigorously opposed to those in the opposition and other circles who are spreading false alarms about intentions to rig elections. WPA sees or knows of no plans in that regard.”
On that note, Jagdeo pointed to one of the recommendations from the independent, international, Commission of Inquiry into Rodney’s death. The recommendation was that: “No party in government should be permitted to tamper easily or at all with the electoral system such as to secure an unfair advantage. The electoral system should be entrenched in the Constitution and should only be amendable by a two-thirds majority. Besides, the Chairman of the Elections Commission should be a person of the highest integrity and non-political and his/ her appointment which [sic] should meet with the approval of opposition groups and sectoral interests.
If felt necessary, the Chairman may be sourced from a CARICOM country. The political opposition and other interests should be adequately represented on the Commission. Serious changes should not be undertaken except after a thorough and meaningful public education programme and after consultation, too, with the opposition party/ parties and pursuant to a two-thirds majority vote in parliament.” Jagdeo said, “This was the recommendation, yet the WPA said nothing about the unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman….the WPA’s June 12 statement seems to me very, very convenient.”
The Opposition Leader made it clear that a picture of how Guyana was managed in the period the PNC – one of intolerance, impunity and unaccountability – is clear in the report.