Govt to expunge all public records of “wrongdoing” by Dr Walter Rodney
…death certificate details to also change
On the heels of the 41st death anniversary of Dr Walter Rodney on June 13, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration has vowed to make every effort to amend all public records of wrongdoing committed by the late politician and historian.
Dr Rodney was killed in a bomb blast on June 13, 1980 at the height of political tensions. But the Forbes Burnham Government at the time had accused the politician of attempting to blow up the Georgetown Prisons when the bomb exploded a short distance away. The Rodney family has vehemently and consistently opposed this narrative for 41 long years.
According to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, the family has even requested President Dr Irfaan Ali to honour the life, legacy and contribution of Dr Rodney to Guyana, and to finally set the public record straight in relation to certain matters surrounding his tragic death.
Nandlall announced in the National Assembly on Thursday that the Ali-led Government has acceded to this request – a move which he says is a historic step in bringing a level of closure to the Rodney family regarding the death of Dr. Rodney.
“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… 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 posited.
The AG pointed out that, for too long, Dr 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 not a blind cent 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 stated.
Nandlall outlined that despite being known and respected throughout the world for his academic accomplishments, scholarship and activism, Dr Rodney’s death certificate described him as “unemployed”.
According to the AG, the late historian was denied a job at his country’s only university, after having worked at universities across the globe.
This historical wrong, he contended, will be corrected, and as a consequence, the death certificate will be corrected to read “Professor” instead of “unemployed”.
Other efforts being taken by the current administration to restore Dr Rodney’s legacy is securing the record of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the circumstances leading to his death, which was launched by former President Donald Ramotar.
Nandlall told the National Assembly that those records will be digitised by the National Archives, which were 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.
Copies of same would also be housed at that institution as part of the Walter Rodney Papers and Special Collection.
In addition, the AG announced that the Rodney Gravesite and Memorial, which are currently being managed collaboratively between the Rodney Family and the National Trust, will be declared National Monuments and fall under the administration of The National Trust.
“One of the greatest tragedies flowing from Dr. 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,” he added.
Moreover, the Walter Rodney Chair at the University of Guyana would also be re-established.
Walter Anthony Rodney was 38 years old and the leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) when he was killed in the June 13, 1980 bomb blast.
The news of Dr. Rodney’s tragic death sent shock tremors to the conscience of Guyanese, West Indians, Americans, Europeans, Africans, and indeed people the world over.
“To say that Dr. Rodney’s death and ensuing events in relation thereto were a horrendous miscarriage of justice would be an appalling understatement. The self-evident truth is that when wrongs of such magnitude occur, they can never really be righted. The least that can be done in this instance is to attempt to grant the wishes of the loved ones of Dr. Rodney, and to work with them in bringing these wishes to fruition as they attempt to forge their own closure in relation to this horrific tragedy,” Nandlall stated.
The Commissioners who inquired into and reported on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Rodney had detailed in their report that “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.”
Another key finding 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.”
The COI report was tabled in the National Assembly in the 11th Parliament under the APNU/AFC Government in 2016.
A Motion was subsequently tabled by then Opposition Member of Parliament Gail Teixeira, calling upon the Coalition Government to implement the recommendations of that Report. However, that motion was voted down by the then Government, which was comprised of Dr Rodney’s own political party – the WPA.
Nevertheless, Minister Nandlall said on Thursday that this current PPP/C administration commits to moving a similar motion in the National Assembly soon for the House to approve the COI Report and the recommendations contained in it.
Further, he noted that steps would also be taken to invalidate or set aside the perverse findings of an inquest that was conducted eight years after Dr. Rodney’s death and found that he died by “misadventure”.
That inquest was reviewed by the 2014 CoI and was found to be incredible, flawed and dubious. (G8)