Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Executive David Hinds says that the APNU+AFC government needs to publicly explain why no action has been taken on the recommendations of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI), some of which are worthy of urgent implementation.
“Yes, the government does owe the nation an explanation why it has not touched the recommendations, but since the major partner in the government was not keen on the CoI, that may be wishful thinking”, he told Stabroek News recently.
The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) had been set up by then President Donald Ramotar in 2014. The report was, however, handed over to the APNU+AFC government in February, 2016, nine months after it entered office. Government had committed itself to examining the recommendations and the report was subsequently laid in the National Assembly, also in 2016.
A key finding of the CoI was that there was a conspiracy involving the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force and others to kill Rodney, a co-founder of the WPA and the then leader of the PNC, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, had to be aware of it.
WPA is a member of APNU.
“Well, the report was laid and discussed in the National Assembly and the government promised to implement any of the recommendations they think are necessary. To date they have not implemented any”, Hinds told this newspaper while noting that the matter has not come up for discussion at the level of the WPA executive of recent. “It is one of the contentious issues as far as the APNU is concerned with the WPA and the PNC(R) having divergent views and interest. So it is not a matter that would be high on the APNU agenda”, he said.
Hinds informed that the WPA is planning a series of meetings with its wider membership in the coming months and he expressed certainty that this issue would be prominent on the agenda.
“There is not much that the party can do at this moment to push the government to act on the matter of the CoI—as a junior member of the coalition, we don’t have the necessary clout. We however feel that more should be done officially to incorporate Rodney’s work in the national praxis, particularly in the education sector and in the area of social cohesion. Those are areas in which we are prepared to make the necessary representation”, he said.
Speaking specifically about the recommendations made in the report, Hinds told Stabroek News that the WPA endorsed them all.
“…the one we think that is most urgent is the professionalization of the police force and the army to insulate them from partisan influence”, he said, adding that this was a problem forty years ago and it is still one today.
The CoI report, he pointed out, recommended too that there be more intense training for the ranks in this regard. “To get the best out of the armed forces, they should not feel pressured to do the partisan bidding of the governing party or parties and there should be expressed barriers to government attempts to use them in partisan ways”, he opined.
With regards to the recommendation for there to be more technical improvements, such as better note-taking by the police, better policing techniques, better record-keeping and for the police to act with more urgency, Hinds said that the WPA feels that if these are taken on board as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the forces, “we could see considerable improvement in policing. How many times have we not read of instances where police files could not be found? It happened with the Rodney case and it is still happening today”.
Hinds told this newspaper that the report also urged the government to undertake improvements in the electoral system to ensure impartiality in word and deed. “There is still work to be done in that area, all sides have to trust the system. But as we have seen with the recent controversy over the naming of the GECOM Chair, this is not the case”, he said.
He noted that the report recommended more intense work on the part of the government to facilitate ethnic harmony. This, he believes is a critical area of Rodney’s work and legacy and part of the WPA’s reason for being. “We commend the government for setting up the Ministry of Social Cohesion but we feel that this ministry could do more, if it conceives its mandate in more organic sense”, he said.
According to Hinds, socio-ethnic cohesion must begin with the principle of inclusion within diversity. He said that the party has not had a chance to raise the matter in the APNU meetings which were held.
“As you know this is a contentious matter and we have tried not to introduce matters that would lead to unwarranted discord but we do believe that the government as a gesture of reconciliation should at least formally implement these recommendation”, Hinds told Stabroek News while pointing out that the recommendations are needed.
“If the government acknowledges that it is prompted to do so because of the Rodney COI recommendations, it could send a positive signal to the country”, he stressed.
President David Granger had denounced the CoI report. “When you look at details of the evidence provided, it is clear that the report itself is very badly flawed and we intend to challenge the findings of the report and the circumstances under which [the inquiry] was conducted. That is all I would like to say at this time on that report but it is terribly flawed,” Granger had said after the report was handed over. He had also said he believed the terms of reference of the CoI were prejudicial and the sloth in its completion was unacceptable.
The CoI was appointed to enquire and report on the circumstances surrounding the death in an explosion of Rodney on June 13th, 1980 in Georgetown.
Almost two years after the report was laid in the National Assembly, government has remained mum on the way forward on its findings.
Contacted, Minister of State and APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon questioned what were the recommendations that government ought to have implemented. “They (WPA) should say what it is because once the document was laid in the National Assembly then it is now a public document. So people can go there and have access, see what are the recommendations or what needs to be done, so I am not aware that there was a commitment made by the government about recommendations…I think we would need to see what it is that they are talking about”, he said. Asked what happens to the report now that it is public, Harmon said that “he cannot be very specific”. He reiterated that the government needs to see what were the recommendations made.
Noting that over the years hundreds of reports with recommendations have been laid in the National Assembly, he said ”this is one which I will now have to get somebody to go and look to see whether there are in fact recommendations which are for the government to take action on”.
Harmon noted that the WPA should help in the process by identifying the recommendations so that “I can be able to say yes (or) no”.
Asked if the government is prepared to sit and listen to the WPA’s concerns about the non-implementation of the recommendations, Harmon noted that the party has a voice given that is a part of APNU which is part of the coalition government.