Public Hearings in Rodney Inquiry begin
The new Crime Chief Leslie James was not in the Police Force when an explosion killed Dr Walter Rodney three and a half decades ago. In fact, he joined the Force seven years after that incident, but he was the first to take the stand today as an international commission of Inquiry tries to bring closure to the circumstances surrounding Dr Rodney’s death and determine who was responsible. Mr James’ time in the Force placed him exactly where all the Police files on Dr Rodney could be found, the Special Branch and now the Criminal Investigation’s Department. And so, Mr James walked with all the files he could find. But they were just not enough. The Commission was curious about the fact there were three files on Dr Rodney that were labeled as the WPA, the party through which Dr Rodney carried out his political activism. The files the Crime Chief showed up with were labeled WPA 8, 9 and 10. And that means at least seven files on Dr Rodney were unaccounted for.
Among the documents the Crime Chief did present were the two post mortem reports just after Dr Rodney was killed, as well as a report of a forensic scientist. Mr James was asked to read the report of how exactly Dr Rodney died.
The Police only issued an arrest warrant for the main suspect in the case, former soldier Gregory Smith, and Commissioner Jairam Seenauth was baffled as to why it took 16 years, and he was as lost as the current crime chief.
The Crime Chief is expected to return to the stand at a later date and the Commission is to send him a list of questions so he could be better prepared, at least to say what has happened to the seven missing files on Dr Rodney.
Before the actual hearings began, Chairman of the Commission, Sir Richard Cheltenham, appealed for anyone who has evidence to come forward, reminding that President Donald Ramotar has already offered a pardon to anyone who might be incriminated.
The Commission of Inquiry Act gives the Commission powers to subpoena witnesses. Sir Richard pointed out that the Inquiry is unlike a courtoom trial and the Commission will take in opinion evidence as well as hearsay, while ensuring the necessary checks and balances.
Several witnesses have already indicated their willingness to testify before the Commission, and these were read out by the Counsel for the Commission Glenn Hanoman, giving an indication of the testimony ahead, including by those who wish not to be identified.
The Commission is a public hearing, and the Commissioners have indicated that only in rare cases, will they allow private testimony.