GEORGETOWN, Guyana, June 13, 2021 - As The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) commemorates the assassination of its former leader Dr. Walter Rodney, there continues to be a level of disaffection with the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), which was allegedly responsible for his death under the leadership of President Forbes Burnham 41 years ago, on June 13, 1980.
Having resigned a year ago as a member of the APNU/AFC coalition due to principled disagreements with coalition leader David Granger, the WPA says the decision to join the coalition was in keeping with Walter Rodney’s national reconciliation agenda.
“We must remind the nation that foremost on Rodney’s agenda was national reconciliation in the form of a national government. For him, there could be no democratic solution outside national unity and reconciliation. His contribution to crafting WPA’s Government of National Unity and Reconstruction in 1979 has already been acknowledged. What is not so well known is his acceptance that a PNC that embraces free and fair elections as normative and eschews dictatorship must be part of Guyana’s political solution,” the party said in a statement.
“We are accused of betraying Rodney by partnering with the party of his assassins. Those who repeat that charge are being disingenuous or deliberately ignore the essence of Rodney’s proposals for national consensus. How can there be national reconciliation in Guyana without engaging the party that electorally represents one of our major ethnic groups and approximately half of the electorate?” the WPA questioned.
The WPA exited the Coalition for which it had provided critical support, after the party said it had exhausted all available avenues to get the PNCR leadership to honour an agreement to respect the dignity of partners.
The party voiced its disappointment with suggestions by former president and PNCR leader David Granger that it left the coalition over spoils of office. “We wish to reject this charge as a figment of Mr. Granger’s imagination,” the WPA said.
The party expressed its disapproval of Granger’s decision to unilaterally name WPA’s representative to a seat that was allocated to the party as part of the APNU delegation in the National Assembly occasioned its exit from the partnership “that he mismanaged throughout the Coalition’s tenure in office.”
The WPA reminded that one of Granger’s very first acts as president was the abrupt termination of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) without consultation with the WPA. It said the refusal to release the report of the COI and implement recommendations rubbed salt in the wounds.
“WPA remained in the government out of respect for those who voted for the Coalition –we felt the voters who casted votes for a coalition deserved the government for which they voted. The WPA was not comfortable with the notion of being the spoiler as others eventually opted for. Rather than attempting to portray the WPA as power-grabbers, Mr. Granger may want to reflect on how his un-fraternal attitude to partners helped to facilitate the ousting of the Coalition from office.”
Turning to the new PPP administration, the WPA said that the 2020 election has left Guyana a more ethnically divided country than before, while the coming of oil has facilitated the return of external entanglement in our domestic politics.
The WPA says the anniversary of Rodney’s death comes at a grim time for Guyana as the “galloping authoritarianism” of the ruling People’s Progressive Party threatens to push the country again to a dangerous edge.
“The working people and the poor are marginalized as preference is given to the interests of domestic and global capital. The poverty rate climbs (43%) while poverty-alleviation does not appear on the list of national priorities. The country is reeling from the shocks of the mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic whereby the lives of citizens are put at risk to facilitate the accumulation of wealth by the business class. To laud Rodney while presiding over or enabling these atrocities is the height of contradiction and hypocrisy,” the WPA observed.
Looking ahead, the WPA pledged to continue to be guided by its “Rodneyite principles” as it seeks to adapt the party to the demands of the current era. In this regard, it served notice that it intends to fight to keep Rodney’s legacy from being “hijacked by unscrupulous forces and their supporters.” “In defending Rodney’s legacy, we also defend our own contributions to Guyana’s freedom struggle—contributions that have been made at great sacrifice with our blood and liberty,” the party said.
Last Thursday, the PPP government announced that it would be moving to honour the life and legacy of Rodney and to set the record straight about his death.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall last Thursday announced a series of measures that he said were approved after Rodney’s family approached Ali for assistance to honour the late historian and to set the record straight on his death. Nandlall said Rodney’s death certificate would be amended to delete the word “misadventure” as the cause of death and the word “assassination” would be substituted in its place. “Every effort will be made to remove and expunge all public records that intimate any level of guilt or wrongdoing by Dr. Walter Rodney in relation to the June 13th 1980 tragedy”, he declared.
Nandlall also said the Rodney Gravesite and Memorial, which are currently being managed collaboratively between the Rodney Family and The National Trust, would be declared National Monuments and fall under the administration of The National Trust.
While welcoming the move, the WPA expressed its “utter disgust” over the way in which the PPP has used the memory of Rodney to further divide Guyana politically and ethno-racially. “The PPP never misses an opportunity to mis-locate this Guyanese patriot outside of his African Guyanese heritage and place him and his life’s work in collision and conflict with the interests of that segment of our nation,” it said, calling it a crime only slightly less grievous than his assassination.