THE RODNEY COI RE-VISITED

If the layperson is confused by the goings on at the Rodney Commission of Inquiry it would be an understandable understatement.  Listening to the behavior of counsel representing the various interests would leave anyone in a state of bewilderment. People are puzzled about whether all parties to this public spectacle really know what respective roles they are expected to play.
On the one hand there are counsels for the Commission; one would have thought that their role would have been to seek clarity on ambiguous and other murky local issues for the benefit of the Commissioners. On another hand there are the counsels for the parties purportedly involved either directly or peripherally in Walter Rodney’s death.
Thirdly there is the perception that among the Commissioners, confusion is multiplied by an adoption of positions that are at variance with their supposedly objective status even before they are required to pronounce on the findings of the Commission of Inquiry. Those few observations are intended to highlight the confusion that beset the Guyanese viewing and listening public.
First off, the Terms Of Reference for the COI, although contentious in significant ways, bring into question the real reason for holding such an inquiry at this time. This is surely cause for speculation especially when the author(s) and cause of that great man’s demise have been arguably identified by conventional wisdom for years.
Some commentators have opined that the governing minority would like to bolster its elections fortunes by holding what is increasingly analogous to an ad hoc affair characterized by sometimes spurious allegations and unsubstantiated personal opinions rather than a serious attempt to arrive at the truth. As a matter of opinion, the Rodney COI runs the very real risk of losing whatever little credibility it has left.
What is apparent also is that counsels seem not to be prepared for the witnesses; no work seems to be done in terms of research of the political and other considerations that have be major philosophical influences on witnesses and other interested parties.
Another mockery of the process is the disorganized appearance of witnesses. It is a matter of fact that an audience will most likely remember evidence in chief as the last word if no opportunity is provided counsel for other interests to examine the testimony presented. Note that no mention is made here of “cross-examination” because the concept surely does not apply in the extant circumstances.
Instead of “cross-examination”, maybe someone could advise counsel that their role is to seek clarification of ambiguities, and to explore other conclusions for a historical act/fact rather than take an adversarial stance in representation of their clients’ interests.
Tacuma Ogunseye puts it rather aptly when he offered a few suggestions to counsel for the PNC on how a witness should be handled as against attempting browbeating tactics. That such an approach has the potential of being similar to shooting oneself in one’s foot is not lost on the more informed among us.  It runs the risk of antagonizing witnesses who for the most part are there to express their version of the truth and cannot be deemed hostile witnesses.
Interestingly, since the start of the COI, there really has been no witness testimony to refute opinions adduced thus far.  Mention was made earlier of listeners remembering evidence in chief particularly if counsel for various interests did not get the opportunity to examine witnesses to elicit another conclusion of what has been accepted as fact.
The point remains that all of us have our own interpretation of what is truth even in the face of undeniable fact. Why certain witnesses have not been recalled so far will forever remain a mystery, although conventional wisdom has it that a particular plan backfired spectacularly, placing credibility in jeopardy.
It is perhaps advisable that Commissioners are not counsel for parties and therefore should avoid any appearance of posing provocative questions, and/or taking antagonistic positions which might indicate a not so subtle alignment with preconceived notions. It might be a good thing if all parties, including the Commissioners re-examine the paraphrased adage that “justice must not only be done, but must also appear to be done” which can serve to erase the confusion that currently exists.