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The Memory of Walter Rodney
by Gary Girdhari

Guyana Journal, June 2013

I stood at the corner of Barr and Alexander Streets, Kitty, listening to Walter Rodney and others speak. I was at the Bourda Market Mall, Georgetown, among the massive crowd taking in the logics of Rodney when his resonant voice would fill the air. I stood on the sidewalk in Tiger Bay easing a passage as the WPA meeting was halted with the arrival of the Rabbi Washington’s goons from the House of Israel in government vehicles, armed with lengths of sugar cane, sticks, and guns. I ran, scared for my life, into a yard in Charlotte Street, unable to scale the high, corrugated zinc fence. We (Zinul Bacchus, Rahim Bacchus and I) felt trapped. We were spared that day because the attackers fled past. But Father Darke was not so lucky that fearful day when he was stabbed to death.

     I was present at probably all the meetings, protests and marches in Georgetown and environs. So these flashbacks came rushing to me as the motion in parliament to set up a Commission of Inquiry into his death was being debated on Wednesday, June 29 2005 – when the WPA was siding with the PNCR for an amendment to substitute the key word "assassinated" with "killed".

     Those were times when fear stalked the land, when dictatorship was being legitimized by the PNC doctrine of "party paramountcy". We should also recall repeated rigging of elections by the PNC. Many lives were snuffed out untimely, which can only be described as political murders. Remember the “ballot box Martyrs”, the Arnold Rampersaud jailing, the killing of Shirley Field-Ridley, Vincent Teekah, Edward Dublin, Othene Koama, the shooting of Josh Ramsammy, and numerous harassment and incarcerations. The maximum maniacal comrade leader Burnham did not mince words when he declared: "Our steel is sharper."

     But there was a bright ray of hope… when the taste of freedom and democracy was becoming almost palpable. This, in my view, was becoming a reality because of the presence of Walter Rodney – his brilliance, his ability to analyze, his quiet but riveted demeanor, his simplicity and humility, charisma and eloquence. His presence was a breath of fresh air. He was Guyana’s messiah. The masses understood his language of politics in his booklet "Peoples’ Power No Dictator". Theory was gripping the masses, becoming a material force. When he referred to “king kong” the people understood. When he spoke of the “Midas touch” the people understood. A nationwide political conversation was developing rapidly among all the people, for he did not appeal to race or color, or religion.

     Walter Rodney was consequently murdered, yes, assassinated on June 13 1980 because he was seen as a serious threat. He did not die by "misadventure" as concluded by Desmond Hoyte. That is why Hoyte’s Inquiry did not hold ground; hence the new Commission of Inquiry into his death, which Walter’s widow, Dr. Patricia Rodney, pointed out is “essential for the truth to emerge, is consistent with democratic principles, and will be an instrument of reconciliation” and which will “bring closure, not only for our family, but for the Guyanese people.”

     ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ is essential for closure, and for people and a nation to move on. The PNC government failed the Guyanese people during their terms in office. Apart from the political harassment, human rights infractions and denial of democracy, the PNC reduced Guyana to be among the poorest nations in the world, second to Haiti of the West. The PNC has never made a statement of the Truth; it has not apologized to the Guyanese people. The party is still in denial. How then is it possible to have Reconciliation without Truth! The process will be a charade, meaningless, unless the PNC is prepared to engage in catharsis.

     It is thus baffling to figure out the grotesque and wicked dalliance of the WPA with the PNC. Rupert Roopnarine shared the same platform with Walter Rodney, and he was as fearless as Walter when he spoke. After 33 years, what has changed? Sadly the WPA of Walter Rodney is no more. Many so-called ‘advocates’ have become Afro-centric and Indo-centric racists; some are opportunistic; and only a few good ones have remained faithful to the spirit of Walter Rodney. The true Rodneyites must not allow that dimming flicker to be blown out by sinister forces.