Way paved for implementation of measures to honour Walter Rodney’s life, strengthening of democratic institutions
After six hours of passionate debate, the National Assembly passed a motion to adopt and implement the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report into the assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney.
The motion, which was moved by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira, drew 12 speakers: three from the government side of the house and nine from the APNU+AFC opposition.
From 19:00 hours on Monday to 12:40 hours on Tuesday morning, the Members of Parliament discussed and debated the motion. The debate came 41 years after the assassination of Dr. Rodney, a political activist and distinguished professor.
Additionally, it was only two months prior that the government announced its intention to change key details on Walter Rodney’s death certificate.
It was announced that his death certificate would be corrected to read “professor” instead of “unemployed” and that his cause of death would change from “misadventure” to assassination”. These changes are in keeping with the 2014 CoI.
On Monday and then again on Tuesday morning, Minister Teixeira underscored that the motion that was moved was done with the intention of providing some closure to the family of Dr. Rodney and making tangible changes.
“It is time in Guyana for justice, it is time for us as a people to right a wrong and bring closure to these issues,” she stated.
The motion brought to the House recently was the third motion on Dr. Rodney brought by Teixeira. The first was brought in 2005 while the second was in 2016. And, the Governance Minister said that both of those times, the motion faced challenges.
This time, however, she made a fervent appeal for the members of the National Assembly to adopt the report and work towards implementing its recommendations.
Some of the recommendations from the report include: having a well-trained, high professional and impartial police force and army; improving record- keeping systems; protecting against the tampering of the electoral system to secure an unfair advantage; and, strengthening ethnic harmony and a sense of national unity.
“… you have the opportunity to stand by the recommendations.
“We believe that the time for healing and whether the PNC, APNU (and) AFC come to terms with the past are steps on the road to national unity,” Minister Teixeira said.
Still, there was considerable opposition to the motion, articulated by the nine speakers from the opposition.
Opposition parliamentarian Ganesh Mahipaul opined that the CoI was not impartially conducted and instead, was done to “name, shame and blame” the People’s National Congress (PNC).
The PNC is the largest party within the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition and it is the party that has been held culpable for Dr. Rodney’s assassination, while in government then.
And Mahipaul argued that no evidence was presented at the CoI to evidence the link between the Forbes Burnham-led PNC government and the assassination of Dr. Rodney.
Many of the other opposition parliamentarians agreed with Mahipaul’s statements; Annette Ferguson, who is the Vice- Chair of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), was one such parliamentarian who defended the PNC and criticised the report.
The assertions of a flawed CoI report based on a tainted Commissioners and hearsay were, however, dismissed by the Attorney- General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall SC.
“… the PNC, which was in the opposition then, participated in this CoI,” the Attorney- General said.
He later added: “This report was not rejected; it was not repudiated. It was accepted by you
“And now I don’t understand what has happened that you now want to reject and destroy this report.”
Importantly, he said that the report and its damning findings are already part of the public record of the world. And as such, he urged the members of parliament to support the motion.
The motion was carried despite the lack of support from the APNU+AFC Parliamentarians members since the government has a one-seat majority.