The long awaited Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) is not about politics, but was realised after a request was made by the late politician’s widow, Patricia Rodney, President Donald Ramotar reiterated today. The request was made last year by the Rodney family to President Ramotar
“I know that this has been a blotch on our country’s history so I was glad to be able to help to set up this enquiry so that we can put this behind us,” he told media operatives at a press conference at office of the President.
The fact that there will be no criminal charges brought against anyone who testifies was also stressed by the president. “We have created all the conditions to bring out the information that no one will be criminally prosecuted on this matter. We have given all the immunities and these are in place so that people can come forward and say what they know. Even if they speak of issues that are of a criminal nature, they won’t be prosecuted on this matter”.
Asked about a letter sent to him by the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), expressing several concerns about the COI, the president said that he will be responding soon to the correspondence and suggested that the Rodney family be contacted for their position on the issue.
Responding to further questions about the potential cost and the delay after decades, the president simply noted that the COI “would not be cheap”. He also explained that the late former President Cheddi Jagan had promised to hold an inquiry but this was thwarted after the government of French Guiana where Gregory Smith, the main suspect in the killing of Rodney, was in exile declined to extradite him due to Guyana’s capital punishment laws being in force. Smith subsequently died overseas.
The COI, is being chaired by Barbadian Queen’s Counsel, with the others being Trinidadian Senior Counsel Seenauth Jairam, and Jamaican Queen’s Counsel, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown. They were sworn in by the president on February 25.
The commission is hoping to have over 100 witnesses coming forward in a process that will be open to the public and the press. Dr. Rodney a political challenger to the then Forbes Burnham administration was killed on June 13, 1980 when an explosive device that was concealed in a walkie talkie radio detonated.