Government honours memory of Dr Walter Rodney

Guyana Chronicle
June 13, 1999

TODAY marks the 19th death anniversary of Dr Walter Rodney, renowned Guyanese historian/political activist who was killed in a car bomb blast in a Georgetown street.

In a statement to mark the anniversary, Information Minister Moses Nagamootoo reiterated the Government's commitment to investigating the circumstances surrounding Rodney's death.

He said that the Government is continuing the lengthy process that would lead to the extradition of the prime suspect in the killing of Dr Rodney on June 13, 1980. The suspect, Gregory Smith, has been residing in Cayenne, French Guiana, and the Government of Guyana has made representation to the French authorities for his extradition to ensure that justice is done.

"Unfortunately, the process is still at the stage of an exchange of letters and documents," the Minister said in the statement.

However, the Government has pledged to continue to pursue the matter to ensure that justice is done.

"On this anniversary of his untimely death, the Guyana Government again honours the memory of Dr Walter Rodney as a slain Guyanese revolutionary and outstanding intellectual. Guyana has recognised his struggles against the dictatorship for the restoration of democracy, and has bestowed posthumously on the late Dr Rodney the nation's highest honour - the Order of Excellence," the statement added.

The People's Progressive Party (PPP), in a statement said Dr Rodney must be remembered for his role in the anti-dictatorship struggle led by the PPP.

It added that Dr Rodney's unflinching resolve to expose the wrongdoings of the People's National Congress (PNC), and brutality against the masses, has impacted positively on the restoration of democracy.

"At a time when our fragile democracy is threatened, it is important that we remember Dr Rodney's ultimate sacrifice, like many others for the basic freedoms for all our peoples. The tragic and barbaric act of June 13, 1980, should be a reminder of the state of Guyana during that period, and how, those who struggled for democracy, were treated under dictatorship and authoritarianism," the PPP added.

Rodney, whose writings continue to win respect in the other continents, would have made a "valuable contribution" to Guyana's development had he lived, the PPP said.

The ruling party called on all Guyanese, in paying homage to the struggle and sacrifice of Dr Rodney, to stand firm and defend the democratic gains made since 1992.

"His sacrifice must not be in vain. Guyanese must not allow their country to slip back into the rot of dictatorship," the PPP said.

It further urged that those responsible for Dr Rodney's assassination be brought to justice.

Smith, an ex-sergeant in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was charged in 1996 with the murder of Dr Walter Rodney.

Rodney's younger brother, Donald, identified Smith as the man who provided Walter with a `walkie talkie' which exploded while he allegedly tested the device according to precise instructions given by Smith.

The two brothers reportedly were in a car on a city street that night when the device, which was in Dr Rodney's lap, exploded, killing him instantly. Donald survived serious injuries.

The death of the brilliant historian who was a co-leader of the opposition Working People's Alliance, sent shock waves throughout the country and around the world.

According to reports, the fingered Smith left Guyana shortly after Rodney's killing, and later surfaced in Cayenne.

In 1995, the Guyana Government invited the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to assess the Rodney case, and the team which undertook the study, recommended that testimony from Smith would be crucial for a full inquiry into the matter.

There is no Extradition Treaty between French Guiana (Cayenne) and Guyana. However talks began in 1996 between the two parties, with a view to getting Smith brought back here to stand trial.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples