Probe into Walter Rodney's death 33 years after

Probe into Walter Rodney's death 33 years after

Saturday, June 15, 2013

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Thirty-three years after the death of Walter Rodney — co-founder of the Working People's Alliance (WPA) — the Government of Guyana has announced that an International Commission of Enquiry will be held.

Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon made the announcement on Thursday, stating that it will be an "uphill struggle" for the commission to come to a conclusion because several suspected key players are no longer around.

They include former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) electronics expert Sergeant Gregory Smith who had allegedly planted the bomb in a walkie-talkie that blew up on Rodney's pelvic region on June 13, 1980 on John Street near the Georgetown Prison.

Smith died of cancer several years ago in French Guiana, where he had gone to live under the name of Cyril Johnson a few days after the incident.

WPA executive member, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine welcomed the announcement but acknowledged that it would not be easy.

"I think it's going to make the work of the commission more difficult, not just Gregory Smith but there are other witnesses who would have been able to assist the commission but I don't know whether or not you are going to be able to find any of them for one reason or the other," he said.

Government has not yet named the commissioners. Roopnaraine hoped that the WPA and Rodney's family would be consulted by government about the terms of reference for the probe team. "It's long overdue and I wish it well and I hope that there will be action following the announcement," Roopnaraine added.

Rodney's wife, Pat, has already expressed a desire for a commission of inquiry which would result in healing and reconciliation rather than entrenched disharmony.

The WPA, which is now part of an opposition coalition with the People's National Congress Reform (PNCR), had blamed that party for Rodney's assassination.

Smith, who had been charged with Rodney's murder in absentia, had expressed a willingness to return and testify at an inquiry on condition that amnesty would have been granted. France does not extradite people to countries like Guyana where there is the death penalty.

An assessment done by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) more than a decade ago had identified the need for a thorough international probe.

Rodney was a well-respected historian and left-leaning political activist in Tanzania, Jamaica and other countries.

He had been banned from Jamaica and prevented from taking up academic appointments at the University of Guyana where a chair in history has been since established in his honour.

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