National Assembly acknowledges amended motion on Walter Rodney COI Report

Georgetown, GINA, August 5, 2016

Government refused to accept a motion moved by the opposition to have the findings of the Walter Rodney Commission 0f Inquiry (COI) Report adopted unless it was amended.

The findings of the COI Report were labelled “dubious and questionable” by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who led the debate on the motion which was brought to the National Assembly by Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira.

On Thursday, Members of Parliament (MPs) endured a heated debate into the early morning hours in Parliament Chambers, Brickdam over the motion to adopt the findings and implement the recommendations of the COI Report on the death of the historian in an explosion.

“The fact that this report is before this House is a victory for transparency and accountability,” Teixeira said as she moved the motion. Praising the contributions of Dr Rodney as “a son of Guyana’s soil”, Teixeira argued that the unanimous passing of the motion would bring closure of the issue to the Rodney family and the enactment of the recommendations of the report would ensure the democratic architecture of the state is protected.

However, Prime Minister Nagamootoo argued that the inquiry “was not about what measures the government should take to respect the architecture of a democratic state” but rather “the inquiry, to my mind, was seeking to establish whether in fact Gregory Smith murdered Walter Rodney and whether he acted alone or in concert with others.”

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo debating the Rodney COI Report motion

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo debating the Rodney COI Report motion

The Prime Minister further contended that there were several instances during the inquiry where other leads could have been pursued which would have revealed the truth and bring closure to the Rodney family.

“I regret that this motion that appears to invite the National Assembly to adopt some of the dubious and questionable findings cannot find favour with us,” Nagamootoo told the House in his closing arguments.

Nonetheless, Nagamootoo acknowledged that the reports “provide information on which students of history can learn to construct our past and try to shape a new future so that the work is not in vain.”

Rodney was hailed as an outstanding citizen who made indelible contributions in history and political activism locally and internationally by all 14 speakers during the debate. Rodney was killed in a bomb explosion in June 1980.

The COI into Rodney’s death was set up in February 2014 by the Donald Ramotar administration. The inquiry was delayed by more than two years and incurred a cost of $400M.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon argued that the COI was a well-planned ploy by the previous administration to deflect attention from the public ills it was facing. Harmon contended that the selection of the commissioners and setting up the terms of reference were biased. “What was contentious about the appointed commission of inquiry was the arbitrary and contemptuous approach by the PPP administration in the selection of the commissioners and the determination of the terms of reference,” Minister Harmon told the House.

Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall in refuting Harmon’s arguments claimed Rodney’s wife, Dr Patricia Rodney, insisted to the previous administration that “that she wanted no political involvement with any political party” and “that she wanted to see the terms of reference because she wants it to capture a certain atmosphere.”

Attorney General Basil Williams moving the amendments for the Walter Rodney COI Report in Parliament Chambers on Thursday

Attorney General Basil Williams moving the amendments for the Walter Rodney COI Report in Parliament Chambers on Thursday

However, Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams debunked Nandlall’s claims by citing the verbatim report on the inquiry of October 2014. Williams read from the report that Rodney’s wife said, “I did not object to the participation of the WPA” and “I did not object to anybody” participating in the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman in his presentation said that the COI “falls far below the minimal standards and the expectations of the general public”.

The debate over the motion lasted for more than six hours before AG Williams moved to propose the amendments. The amendment in the first resolution clause was to substitute the word ‘acknowledges’ for the word ‘adopts’.

The other amendment was to the second resolution clause which sought to delete the second resolution clause and replace it with “Be it further resolved that the National Assembly take measures to examine the findings and recommendations herein in order to ascertain whether any and if so which are acceptable and implementable.”

The amendments were passed with the majority vote coming from the government benches. The amended motion meanwhile was accepted by majority vote from the government side as well. The opposition voted against both the amendments and the amended motions.