The PPP Government, under a President who was not yet born when Walter Rodney was assassinated, is about to correct the records, starting with Rodney’s death certificate. President Irfaan Ali is leading the PPP Government’s efforts to correct a grievous wrong done by the Burnham-led PNC Government. The Rodney family, wife and children, have been steadfast in seeking to correct a wrong done against a great Guyanese. Guyana cannot undo the wrong and bring Walter back to life, but we can, at the very least, admit he died because he was assassinated.
The WPA, Walter’s party, have been most of the time missing in action (MIA) in the struggle to give Walter’s family justice. The death certificate, at the time when Walter was assassinated, stated that Walter Rodney died of “misadventure”. It was brazen, shameless and barefaced at the time.
Deeming Walter’s death as “misadventure” deserves language that cannot be printed. Now that justice is about to be served, with Rodney’s death certificate recording the correct cause of death – death by assassination – the party that Rodney formed and the party that murdered Rodney a second time, the WPA, have issued a most barefaced, shameless statement.
In a most bizarre, galling, brazen, insulting statement, the WPA claimed they have been in the forefront of the struggle to get justice for Walter Rodney’s family.
This is the same WPA that wanted the PPP to support a PNC amendment in June 2005 to remove the word “assassination” from a motion submitted by the PPP in the National Assembly to convene an International Commission of Inquiry. The PNC, knowing they did not have the votes to block the motion, preferred the words “untimely and tragic death”. The WPA claimed they wanted the support of the PNC for the CoI, and that it was a small price to pay to have a unanimous agreement for the CoI.
The motion was passed, but the CoI was never convened. The reason was the WPA and Rodney family’s representative, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, stymied the arrangements to appoint the Commission. It was a betrayal of Walter Rodney, Mrs. Walter Rodney, the Rodney children and the whole Rodney family. How could this be the WPA in the forefront of the struggle to honour Walter Rodney and to correct the injustice?
The CoI was eventually appointed by President Donald Ramotar. It was an international commission made up of some of the most respected international jurists. The Chairman was Sir Richard Cheltenham, a Barbadian Queen’s Counsel. Granger, who was a senior member of the army at the time of the Rodney assassination, refused to testify when he was requested to do so by the Commission. That CoI was still incomplete when APNU/AFC Coalition took office under David Granger. One of the first acts of the Granger-led APNU/AFC Government was to end the CoI and to deny any funding of the CoI. The WPA was part of the Coalition.
The WPA supported the decision to end the Commission’s work. Rupert Roopnaraine, a senior Cabinet member, the representative of the WPA in Government, supported the move to end the life of the Commission, supported starving the commission. The WPA never uttered a word of rejection.
Notwithstanding starving the commission of funds and legally ending the commission’s life, Sir Richard Cheltenham persisted, prepared and submitted the CoI report. The Granger-led APNU/AFC Government promptly deposited the report into a black hole, for no one to see.
Rupert, Walter’s good friend and ally, supported this course of action. It is up to him to say he did not. But no one in Granger’s Cabinet objected in public. The WPA had lost their tongue, such that people asked: what, cat cut your tongue? Where was the WPA’s struggle for five years? They were silent, hypocritically silent, brazen and barefaced, sitting with those who assassinated Walter Rodney. Each of them, the so-called leaders of Walter’s party, is guilty; each aided and abetted the PNC crime and murdered Walter a second time.
Now that the records are being corrected, the WPA are claiming legitimacy in the struggle to correct a wrong that was committed 45 years ago. But they must answer why the annual observance of the Walter Rodney Assassination Anniversary was stopped when the WPA were part of Government. This was a day dedicated to remembering this great Guyanese; a day dedicated to reminding people of a dictatorship that murdered a political opponent; a day that reminded us we must fight for our democracy.
For the five years, only one such observance was kept.
And the WPA essentially boycotted it. It has been during these past five years that the Rodney Chair at UG and the annual Rodney Lecture were discontinued. No one in the WPA whispered a word. No one in the WPA thought they ought to raise their voice. No one in the WPA thought they owe it to Walter Rodney to speak out against more humiliation for the Rodney family. The WPA stood by like a loyal PNC poodle while the PNC heaped more insults on the Rodney family and further desecrate Walter’s memory.
As the PPP Government enters a phase of bringing justice to the Rodney family, the WPA shamelessly, barefacedly want some redemption. They deserve none.