Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Dr. David Hinds says continued probing by the political party has revealed that the decision to change the name of the national archives from the Walter Rodney Archives to the National Archives was made by the administration of the entity, as opposed to government.
In fact, Hinds says that the WPA has learned that neither President David Granger nor Cabinet, knew of the change until it was made public. Hinds further explained that if the issue was raised before, and a decision taken by Cabinet, WPA member, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley would at least have been aware, as she sits in Cabinet.
In light of this revelation, Hinds says, the WPA has requested a meeting with Minister of Social Cohesion George Norton, although a date is yet to be given.
While the current government has signalled its intention to have the archives bear Rodney’s name, there are different views on the approach that is to be used to cement this change.
Government is of the opinion that the name change would have to be gazetted. In fact, it has been suggested that the failure by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) to gazette the name of the entity as the Walter Rodney Archives was responsible for the name change.
In the 9th December 2019 edition of the Stabroek News, however, former Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, was reported as saying that “The explanation proffered by Mr Joseph Harmon that the name was never gazetted by the PPP is simply preposterous as there is no such requirement in the laws of this country”. “The National Archives of Guyana remains the national archives of Guyana. The name Walter Rodney is just attached to it. It remains the nation’s archives”, Nandlall stressed.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law, Kamal Ramkarran, proffered the view that while renaming the National Archives of Guyana requires an amendment in the National Assembly of the National Archives of Guyana Act, which amendment was not effected in 2008 when the PPP/C christened the national archives as the Walter Rodney Archives, “there is no need…for legislation or any other formality to treat the building housing the National Archives as being named after and dedicated to the memory of Walter Rodney…”
Nandlall is of the view that the name change is an attempt by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) component of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government to erode, and eventually erase Rodney’s legacy in light of his agitation against the party during his time as a political advocate.
On November 28, Harmon had said that it was government’s intention to “properly” gazette the name.
“We are engaging the Working People’s Alliance and we will address that matter. It was a temporary measure. The sign which was there before was taken down and we will do all that is necessary to ensure that the law is observed and then we will put up the appropriate sign once that is done,” the Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency told reporters.
A month later the gazetting is still to be done.
Christened the Walter Rodney Archives in 2008 under the then PPP/C administration the name and the signboard which carried it quietly disappeared for months before it was brought to public attention by WPA elder Eusi Kwayana.
In a letter published in the Stabroek News, Kwayana stated that he had been informed “that a big stick has removed the name of the celebrated scholar and that the name is now, once again, The National Archives.”