June 13, 1980 was the tragic day when young and dynamic political activist and late co-Founder-Leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), world-renowned historian, human rights advocate, Pan Africanist and political analyst Dr. Walter Rodney was assassinated in Georgetown. Rodney was a major critic of the People’s National Congress (PNC), and had been having lengthy discussions with then Opposition Leader Dr Cheddi Jagan – Founder-Leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Dr Jagan welcomed the militancy of the young Walter Rodney in Guyana’s socio-political landscape and recognised in him a kindred spirit with whom he hoped to forge new bonds to gradually regenerate the unity of the working class people of Guyana. The then prevailing socio-political dynamic had sent this country plummeting to the depths of oppression, depression, and socio-economic destruction so pervasive and invasive that it seemed Guyana was a land doomed and scorned forever as a failed state, graphed on international indices as second only to Haiti as the poorest nation in the world.
Guyana, once deemed “The breadbasket of the Caribbean”, was itself starving – of food, but also of every democratic norm that constituted real freedom. The status seemed an irredeemable one, as the freedom-fighters of the land had few friends and lacked requisite support to stem the seemingly irreversible tidal wave of despotic and dictatorial leadership that was crushing the Guyanese people in tentacles of want, hunger, and oppression so severe that people were afraid to express their thoughts or opinions if it could be remotely translated into criticism of the reign of terror, deprivation and destruction to which they were subjected. Then it was that a new and vibrant voice emerged in the local socio-political demographics to re-energise the nation and provide support to the unceasing efforts of Dr. Jagan and his political party. The powers-that-were recognised the danger posed to their despotic rule by renewed and combined efforts of a national iconic hero like Dr Cheddi Jagan and a young and dynamic Pan-Africanist like Dr Walter Rodney, both of whom espoused the same overarching ideals and goals of a united Guyanese nation striving toward a future of peace, progress and prosperity; but most of all a goal of a country steeped in democratic norms that guaranteed equity and real liberation from oppression in a land that was free from fear, that espoused democratic norms.
The emerging unity of the working class, who were forging bonds of cooperative and collaborative struggle against the dictatorial rule of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, under the combined leadership of Drs Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney, through their respective political parties was such a frightening threat to the entrenched PNC that the reign of terror intensified; with intimidatory tactics even taking the frightening course of ad hoc and erratic imprisonment, torture and murder of the dissenting voices belonging to both opposing parties: The leadership of the oppressive forces rallied the joint services and the House of Israel, as well as individual supporters in violent, even murderous rampages against citizens who were brave enough to publicly support these two parties; and merely standing peacefully to listen to speakers at public meetings, or engage in the most mundane activities during these meetings posed a very real danger to life and limb, as was proven by the murder of peaceful Catholic Standard photographer Father Bernard Darke, who was openly run down and disdainfully bayoneted to death in full public view by House of Israel member Bilal Ato during a WPA event.
But a horrific bomb blast one fateful June evening in 1980 stopped the momentum of struggle cold in its tracks. The strongly vibrating voice of Walter Rodney, rallying the Guyanese nation to a joint cause of solidarity and unity of purpose of ejecting the dictatorial and oppressive regime that was illegally ensconced in the Government of Guyana had been effectively silenced.
In September of 2012, in response to requests from various fronts, especially the family of Walter Rodney, then President Donald Ramotar announced that preparations had begun for the international Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on the death of Walter Rodney.
In June of 2013, the PPP/C administration formally announced that an international inquiry would be launched into Dr Rodney’s death with the aim of bringing closure to the issue.
However, the Granger Administration had truncated the work of the RCOI, presumably because evidences presented had all been proving the culpability of the PNC in the assassination of Guyana’s voice of hope – Dr Walter Rodney. Today, again it took the PPP/C Government to rightly restore Dr Rodney’s legacy.