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18 news

thursday, may 1, 2014 |

Basil Williams reminded Reverend Gilbert tells CoI PNC youths CoI not Court of Law wanted to kill him By Alexis Rodney



everend Reuben Gilbert has said that had he not been made aware of the plans by the People’s National Congress (PNC) Government to assassinate him in the late 1970s, he may not have been alive today. He made the comment during his testimony on day three at the Dr Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry being held at the Supreme Court Library. Gilbert said since his return from the US to Guyana in 1969, every effort was made by the ruling Government to stifle his growth as he was considered a “security risk”. He told the hearing that it was about three months before Dr Walter Rodney’s death in 1980, while driving home, that Gilbert’s friend James Daniels, who was also a member of the PNC, had stopped and informed him about the plan. “His exact words to me were ‘they are going to come and kill you tonight’, and the ‘they’ meaning the YSM (Youth Socialist Movement),” Gilbert told the inquiry. According to what was told to him, the party had planned to kill him, and then claim that he had a gun in his possession. Gilbert said he thought about the issue and then asked his brother, who was also a member of the PNC to stay at his home for the night. He said he did not inform him of the reasons, but then drove his car to the University of Guyana Campus. Upon his return home the following morning, Gilbert said he was informed by this brother that “some people from the YSM came here for you”. The YSM, Gilbert said, was another tool used by the then Government to register its presence in the country. He recounted many instances where he was also severely beaten by members of the Riot Squad, suffering two broken ribs. And it was all because he was supporting a meeting held by Dr Rodney. He said he spent a day in the police station. Asked what may have led to his arrest, Gilbert said he later found out that it was for the possession of guns, a claim he knows nothing of. Gilbert concluded that his trials were numerous but he was able to flee Guyana.


Meanwhile, Gilbert also told the three-member Commission that he had experienced an “unexplainable” feeling that his friend Dr Walter Rodney would have soon met his demise, some three days before he was actually killed. The atmosphere at the time was tainted with lingering fear. Citizens were fearful to even mention a simple word against the

Reverend Reuben Gilbert taking the oath before the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry

ruling Government. It had become so severe that Dr Rodney himself had begun expressing some level of anxiety as he was very concerned about the safety and survival of his wife Patricia and their three children. Reverend Gilbert said the feeling had overwhelmed him so much, he was unsure as to what he should do. “Three days before he was assassinated, I had this feeling, I don’t know. It is not something you can explain and a lot of people don’t believe that there are spiritual forces in the world and you can’t convince them. But I had this intuition and I had this terrible uncomfortable feeling and that feeling was to go and tell Walter that he will be killed.” Reverend Gilbert said that because of the political atmosphere at the time, opposing bodies of the Government had their movements and freedom of speech restricted. According to him, members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) would usually carry on their little meetings during the evening hours. Gilbert recalled that he had visited the WPA’s Tiger Bay Office one evening to meet with Dr Rodney. He said three men had also gone to the office to meet with Dr Rodney, however, he could not say what the conversation was about. The Reverend said that it was after Rodney’s death, that he realised that one of those men was the accused Gregory Smith. He said that was the first time he would meet Smith. Reverend Gilbert said sometime later, with some reservation, he finally mustered the courage to tell Dr Rodney about his feelings. “So I went to the office and he came to the door and he said 'come in' and I said ‘no’, I don’t want to come in, but I do want to tell you that you are going to be killed.”

Gilbert said Dr Rodney dropped his head, then rose up and enquired if he was aware of anyone who may want to kill him, or of any situation that had signalled any such intentions, to which he responded in the negative. Gilbert said he then turned and walked away. According to him, three days later, Dr Rodney was dead.

Close friend

Gilbert revealed he was a close friend to the late historian. And although he was never an active member of the WPA; the political party that was co-founded by Rodney, he had found himself at almost every meeting that Dr Rodney was scheduled to address. He said one such meeting has stuck out in his mind. It was a massive rally that was being held at the “Bourda Green” where the Police had tried unsuccessfully to break up the gathering. He said the Police had used teargas on the assemblage. It was at that point that Dr Rodney climbed up on a car and instructed those in attendance to lay flat on the grass. He said that instead of leaving the meeting, the supporters remained until the gas had worn off. He recalled other meetings where members of the House of Israel and the YSM would make their presence felt, beating supporters with pieces of sticks. Dr Rodney was 39 years old when a bomb exploded in his lap on June 13, 1980. Reports are that exarmy Sergeant Gregory Smith planted the bomb that killed the political leader. There have been claims also that Dr Rodney’s assassination was set up by the Forbes Burnham administration, which Rodney had strongly opposed. However, Burnham’s party, the People’s National Congress (PNC) had denied orchestrating the bomb blast.

eople’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairman Basil Williams on Wednesday told members of the Walter Rodney Commission that they were suspending the laws of the Guyana, since anything was being allowed as evidence at the hearing. Williams, who is representing the interests of the party during the inquiry, raised the objections when Reverend Rueben Gilbert suggested two reading materials to members of the Commission and the legal team. He had moments before provided evidence surrounding the death of the late Political Activist, Dr Walter Rodney. Williams said the Commission has relaxed the laws to the extent that people are allowed to “bring all kinds of evidence”. According to him, such evidence may have far reaching consequences. “Mr Chairman, we have in this Commission, people saying ‘I think this person killed this person, I think this was a member of this organisation’, and what is that, in the order of our law, that is inadmissible evidence. In my opinion, the PNC killed this person… that is inadmissible in a court of law in this country,” Williams argued. Chairman Cheltenham interjected, stating that the evidence “is not inadmissible here” and that the Commission would make that determination. Cheltenham said that while he has warned against such practice, it may become “inevitable”, giving the nature of the inquiry.

PNCR Attorney Basil Williams

“We will play our part, but you know as much as I do the context in which we are operating.” But Williams contended: “Mr Chairman, by the time you do that, this will have international coverage and people whose names have been called have been sullied and have been destroyed perhaps for eternity and that cannot be fair to the Guyanese people.” Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam joined his Chairman, saying that the Commission is bound by the laws of Guyana.


He said that a Commission of Inquiry has the freedom to make its own rules. Among the rules of the current Commission of Inquiry is the allowance of persons to give evidence whether by hearsay or by way of opinion. He directed Williams back to the opening statement made by the Chairman. “A body such as a Commission of Inquiry is entitled to make its own rules, we have published the rules and we have been

telling you ad nauseam that one has to appreciate that it’s a long time we’re dealing with and we will sift it and determine the relevance.” Williams, however, maintained his position, pointing out that there is no law within a Commission of Inquiry that the national laws must go into abeyance. “The rules are made to guide any procedure, Williams stated, however, when it comes down to making the determination on laws in Guyana, the Commission cannot suspend the laws that were passed in the country’s Parliament. He said the rules made by any Commission should by no means eradicate the rights of the Guyanese people.” Cheltenham rebutted, reminding Williams about the flexibility that was spoken of. Commissioner Cheltenham at the opening of the inquiry on Monday had told persons that the investigation into the death of Dr Rodney is not a court trial which has its pre-determined rules of evidence and practices. He had said that anything that was relevant to the Terms of Reference (ToR) would be taken into account with the aim of arriving at the truth, which includes hearsay as well as opinion evidence. “It is the Commissioners’ firm resolve that this Commission will be conducted with thoroughness and fairness to all participants and the public of Guyana. The procedural aspects will emphasise flexibility and impartiality, free from the legalism of the courtroom,” Cheltenham announced.

Hararuni Primary School student killed by speeding minibus


obin Hernandez, a student of Hararuni Primary School was on Wednesday afternoon killed after he was struck down by a speeding minibus in the vicinity of Yarrowkabra, on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. The accident occurred about 18:00h. Hernandez, 15, sustained injuries and died on the spot. According to information received, the teenager was riding home on his bicycle when a Route 42 minibus being driven by “Pickering” (only name given) struck him as he was about to cross the road. This newspaper could not confirm where the young man was coming from when the accident occurred. Nevertheless, the minibus which was out of its zone, was reportedly heading to Linden with a load of passengers for the annual Town Week celebrations. An eyewitness told Guyana Times that he was

Robin Hernandez

heading home when the bus overtook him at a fast rate of speed. He said that as he continued his journey, he saw a gathering and the said minibus, a brown Pit Bull type, was parked in the middle of the road. As he slowed down, he said the front of the bus was damaged and a

bicycle was in the corner. It was until he reached home, he was told that it was a fatal accident. Guyana Times understands that due to the speed, the lad was thrown several feet in the air before landing on the roadway. The minibus eventually came to a halt and the passengers hurriedly went to the teen’s assistance, but it was too late. From reports received, he sustained broken arms and legs with a gash to the head. A section of the front of the bus was reportedly damaged while the bicycle is completely mangled. The driver of the minibus was taken into Police custody to assist with investigations. Hernandez was taken to the Diamond Diagnostic Centre where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Hernandez’s father had suffered the same faith about a year ago. He was killed by a speeding motor car.

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