… as APNU/AFC Govt rejects 0M CoI report
The profoundly entrenched political divide in Guyana among its people and politicians was laid bare in the hallowed Chambers of National Assembly over the course of an hours-long marathon debate which began on Thursday evening and concluded in the wee hours of Friday morning.
The activity has since proven to be another failed attempt to bring closure to the 36-year-old enigma that has engulfed the June 13, 1980 bomb explosion that killed world renowned scholar, historian and political activist,
Dr Walter Rodney.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, unsuccessfully piloted the motion which sought to have Government adopt the ‘Report and Findings’ of the Commission of Inquiry (C0I) – which had been initiated by former President Donald Ramotar, to inquire into the circumstances of the 1980 assassination of Dr Rodney.
$400M report rejected
Teixeira’s motion was also looking to compel the coalition, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government to take measures to implement the recommendations emanating from the Commissioners in their report, “in order to ensure that the democratic architecture of the State is preserved and strengthened.”
This however, did not obtain.
In fact, Government rejected outright the findings of the $400 million CoI’s report.
Using its voting strength in the House, Government amended Teixeira’s motion to ‘acknowledge’ instead of ‘adopt’ the Commissioner’s report and findings.
Government’s amendments, promulgated by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, also modified the Opposition Chief Whip’s motion, to instead call on Government to examine the findings and recommendations in order to ascertain if any are acceptable to the administration and implementable.
The tumultuous debate obtained in the chambers since Opposition matters took precedence in the order of business for Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly.
The debate commenced in earnest on Thursday evening shortly, after 20:00h but did not wind up until 15 presentations later and a vote taken at minutes to 04:00h Friday morning.
Conjecture, speculation and unfounded findings based on hearsay evidence were among some of the reasons proffered on behalf of Government speakers in their rejections of the findings of the report and as such could not support the motion in the form it was presented.
Teixeira in presenting her arguments in support of her motion, said the fact that the Report of the CoI was before the House was a small victory for transparency and accountability and she was hopeful that the engagement in the would serve to give some sense of closure for the Rodney family.
She espoused the merits of supporting such a motion in the National Assembly in an effort to right a wrong that had been perpetrated on the Rodney family, the WPA and the people of Guyana in general 36 years ago.
WPA, PNC excluded
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who spoke in support of his Chief Whip’s motion, also told the House that it was as a result of the entreaties of the Rodney family, particularly his wife, Dr Patricia Rodney, which triggered the CoI.
Attorney General Basil Williams, in his contribution to the debate reminded the House that he was in fact a part of the CoI deliberations and had cross examined Dr Rodney’s wife specifically on that matter. He categorically dismissed the assertions made by the two Opposition speakers and relied on the verbatim records of the CoI where Dr Rodney’s wife had denied making any such requests of the Ramotar Administration.
Who did it?
Williams rehashed his arguments to the CoI for the House and again suggested that the PPP, at the time under the leadership of Dr Cheddi Jagan, did in fact also have motives for Dr Rodney’s removal from the political scene, since the WPA was poaching its members.
The Attorney General lamented too that the CoI ignored the suggestion that the WPA itself or other external forces could have been involved in the plot to kill Dr Rodney.
He was adamant that the Commissioners were in fact handed a task to do and had to arrive at the conclusion
which it did.
As far as Williams and Government speakers were concerned, the CoI did not bring any closure to the matter since the jury is still out on ‘who done it.’
Williams in chiding the report, its findings and the Commissioners said “we cannot accept and support the motion as worded… we can’t adopt the report because we don’t accept the findings.”
He suggested too that the recommendations offered by the Commissioners suggest that they might have been out of touch with reality since they are applicable to the situation 36 years ago and not 2016.
Sgt Smith guilty
Nandlall, in his presentation to the debate suggested that the CoI could have only come to one conclusion since it is an accepted fact that Dr Rodney did die at the hands of Guyana Defence Force Sergeant Gregory Smith.
He later fled to neighbouring Cayenne (French Guiana), purportedly with the assistance of the State.
The former Legal Affairs Minister was also quick to point out that if President David Granger and Government had that many reservations with regard the CoI, its Commissioners – jurists Sir Richard Cheltenham, Senior Counsel Seenauth Narine and Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown – and findings, he was well within his right to terminate the proceedings.
Nandlall suggested that for President Granger to continue with the CoI, it meant that he inherently adopted it.
He also sought to rubbish arguments proffered by some Government speakers that persons that could have supplied critical information to the inquiry were not allowed to testify.
Nandlall said if this was the case, President Granger was free to intervene and have the witnesses recalled but this did not obtain.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon in his presentation to the debate, criticised the former Administration for preventing witnesses from being called to testify despite the fact that they had been flown into the country and accommodated at tax payer’s expense.
He singled out the then Crime Chief, Cecil “Skip” Roberts, former Army Chief Norman McLean and another person he identified as ‘Jomo the Nigerian’.
In rubbishing the CoI report, Minister Harmon observed that it had relied heavily on the hearsay testimony of the convicted felon Robert Gates, whose credibility was highly questionable.
He too sought to support his arguments by pointing to the extensive coverage afforded to the CoI using the State apparatus, including the shady multimillion-dollar arrangement with Shaun Samaroo, whose reports were biased, inflammatory and aimed at tarnishing reputations, according to Harmon.
In dismissing the report, he said it failed to identify the intellectual authors of the assassination plot and further it also failed to provide any factual evidence in support of its conclusion that the Burnham Government had been at the heart of the plot to eliminate Dr Rodney.
The CoI, he said, missed out on an opportunity to provide closure and moral answers to the 36-year-old mystery but nonetheless the Administration was prepared to accept some, if not all of the recommendations since many are similar to those emanating from an earlier Disciplined Services report.
CoI report also ‘assassinated’
General Secretary of the PPP Clement Rohee, in his signature spirited contribution to the debate, lamented the assertions cast by Government speakers and said the proceedings in the House was tantamount to an assassination of the CoI’s report.
Rohee was of the opinion that it was distressing to listen to some of the presentations that were made to the Assembly against the motion. Cognisant of the fact that there are “not many around (still alive) today who can do so,” Rohee said, “what we witnessed here tonight (Thursday), is what I describe as an assassination of the truth.”
Upbraided by Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, over his use of the word assassination, Rohee remained steadfast in his position and suggested for the benefit of the Speaker and his insistence of the use of acceptable Parliamentary language that the “truth has been murdered,” by the Government speakers.
He surmised in his presentation that the Commissioners arrived at the only logical conclusion in its report that Dr Rodney had been killed by a bomb delivered to him by Sergeant Smith, who was acting on the political directive of the State.
Rohee suggested this to be the reason that the APNU/AFC Administration – of which the PNC forms the largest bloc – was having difficulties in accepting the findings and the recommendations and in an attempt to rubbish it, moved its own amendments.
According to the PPP stalwart, the debate in the House illustrated that “it is clear that there is a division in the House on this matter of national importance and significance.”
Rohee maintains that the findings in the report are obviously damaging to the current Administration and by logical extension, they have to reject it, “that is the only logical conclusion one can draw.”
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was the first Government speaker to reject the motion saying all were in pursuit of the truth but this must be accomplished on the basis of credible evidence.
He queried whether this was accomplished by the CoI.
Nagamootoo’s presentation was however tainted in large part by the persistent heckling emanating from his former colleagues in the PPP.
Throughout the Prime Minister’s presentation he was being accused of making an about-face on the matter of Rodney’s death and Burnham’s guilt.
The House heard in no uncertain terms that Nagamootoo had been at the forefront of blaming the then President Burnham for Dr Rodney’s death.
The House was reminded that the former PPP strong-man had led a procession following Dr Rodney’s death along with Working People’s Alliance members, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and Professor Clive Thomas, among others and was chanting slogans to the effect that Burnham bore responsibility for Dr Rodney’s death.
He was ridiculed for refusing to embrace this position during the course of the debate since he would have left the PPP and joined forces with the PNC through APNU.
Dr Rupert Roopnaraine
WPA Executive Member and Education Minister for the APNU/AFC Government, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, another of the political stalwarts who over the years accused the Burnham Administration of murdering Dr Rodney, also stayed clear of repeating this allegation during the course of the debate.
He instead, during is unusually brief presentation, chronicled some of the key events that would have occurred over the years relative to Dr Rodney’s death and the investigation.
He recalled incidents such as an unsuccessful request of the French Government to have Sergeant Smith extradited from Cayenne.
By the time the matter was ready for a vote, the initial optimism expressed by the mover of the motion – Teixeira – had been tempered significantly.
According to the veteran politician, the nation is currently even more divided than it was in 1980 when Dr Rodney was assassinated and this was brought to bear through the course of the debate.
Teixeira lamented the various levels of ‘misinformation’ that had been disseminated to the House by Government speakers.
She sought to rubbish claims made which suggested that the CoI had been established strategically ahead of the 2015 Regional and General Elections.
According to Teixeira, at the time the CoI was conceived in February 2014, there was no discussions within her party relative to any elections, since the PPP had resigned itself to a 2017 General Elections.
She called many of the suppositions offered by Government speakers as merely smokescreens.
Teixeira refuted Attorney General Williams’ theories that the WPA and PPP might have been involved in Dr Rodney’s death since it was impossible for either of the parties to be in possession of the explosive ordinances and telecommunications device used against Dr Rodney.
She said the two parties were in Opposition at the time and did not have any access to such devices.
The labyrinth of connections between the death of Dr Rodney and the Burnham Administration cannot be explained away in any other way except to conclude the involvement of the PNC, according to Teixeira.
“I know this commission report hurts you, it hurts you bad,” blurted Teixeira.
According to the PPP/C Chief Whip, based on all of the evidence provided over the years, it is clear that it would be improbable, if not impossible, for any other body other than the State to have successfully accomplished the assassination plot.
Other speakers to the debate which punctuated by bouts of raucous heckling and verbal jousting included PPP/C Members of Parliament Neendkumar, Colonel Damon and Komal Chand while other Government contributors included Junior Public Works Minister Annette Ferguson.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland was forced to intervene throughout the course of the debate in an attempt to maintain decorum during the emotive affair.