GDF soldiers to testify in Rodney COI

Several witnesses from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will appear at the session of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) which begins tomorrow.

The session was originally scheduled to continue today but the Secretariat of the Commission yesterday issued a press release stating that hearings will instead commence tomorrow and continue on the 30th and 31st July and on the 4th to 7th August, 2014, inclusive.

The Commission apologised for any inconvenience caused.

The names of the persons to testify were not immediately available. Stabroek News has been informed that tomorrow Tacuma Ogunseye will return to the stand and it is hoped that he will be able to complete giving his evidence. Human rights activist Karen de Souza will be the next to take the stand. She has already given her evidence-in-chief and will now have to be cross-examined.

According to a public notice, this session of hearings will end on August 7. In February this year, a three-man commission was sworn in by President Donald Ramotar to probe the death of WPA co-leader Dr. Walter Rodney.

On June 13, 1980, Rodney who was also a renowned academic and political activist, died in a car near John and Bent streets, after a walkie-talkie given to him by now deceased GDF member Gregory Smith, exploded. His brother Donald Rodney who was with him at the time, escaped serious injury. The PNC administration then headed by the late president Forbes Burnham, whose reign had been opposed by Rodney, has long been blamed for the murder. The party, however, has continuously denied any responsibility. The current leadership of the PNCR has publicly said that they will not be cooperating with the COI.

According to the February 8, 2014 Official Gazette, the Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, at the time of and subsequent to the death of Dr. Rodney, in order to determine as far as possible who or what was responsible for the explosion resulting in his death.

The Commissioners are to enquire into the cause of the explosion in which Dr. Rodney died, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so, who were the perpetrators.

Further, the Gazette said that the Commissioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which Smith played in Rodney’s death and if so, to inquire into who may have “counseled, procured, aided and or abetted” him to do so, including facilitating his departure from Guyana after Rodney’s death.

It also stated that the Commissioners are to examine and report on the actions and activities of the State, including state agencies, such as the Guyana Police Force, the GDF, the Guyana National Service, the Guyana People’s Militia and those who were in command and superintendence of them, to determine whether they were tasked with surveillance of and the carrying out of actions and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.

Additionally the Commissioners are to examine, review and report on earlier investigations and inquiries done on and into the death of Rodney.

Among the other persons who have already given testimony are former army chief, Major General Norman Mc Lean, Captain Gerry Gouveia, Robert Allan Gates and political activist Eusi Kwayana.