This month we remember Walter Rodney and for many of us, in the words of Kojo Nnamdi who informed me on that fatal night that he had departed: “after 41 years it still pains.” What if; had he been alive today? If a black nationalist dictatorship was not established by Forbes Burnham’s Peoples National Congress (PNC) with the first fraudulent elections in 1968? If a formal dictatorship was not consolidated and entrenched with a fraudulent referendum in 1978 that institutionalized an executive presidency and party paramountcy? If, in 1970, when he met the Ratoon Group in Joshua Ramsammy’s home and advised that we form a political party? Yes, I believe he would have been alive today celebrating father’s day with his family. If, he was not denied a job at the University of Guyana. He very well might have been an academic-politician elected to represent citizens of Guyana from a constituency. He would have been an outstanding parliamentarian. As a historian he would have presented well researched facts in support of or against policies that affected the lives of citizens. He loved reframing the question, answering it on his terms and exposing contradictions. He had a style, a flair, and a Guyanese sense of humour drawn from our Guyanese grassroot culture. He once said at a public meeting, that an elderly lady once remarked: “Burnham can make Satan cry.” He described it as wisdom from the grassroots. He would not have only been an activist parliamentarian but he would always be speaking at Bourda; and up and down the country, because he understood as Cheddi Jagan once remarked to me “public meetings are the radio stations of the masses.”
I met Rodney four times, at the Ratoon Group Meeting at Joshua’s house in 1970, at his home in 1976, and twice in Canada in the late 1970s. The Guyanese Research and Representation Services (GRRS) was organized in Toronto, New York and Washington DC; and its organ the Guyana Forum provided significant space for his and the voices of the organization he led under the banner “Peoples Power No Dictator, Down with Burnham-Shahab Fraudulent Constitution.” If we agree that Walter Rodney was assassinated then we also must agree that democracy in Guyana was assassinated with the fraudulent referendum-constitution of 1978. We have a duty as patriots to recall and replace that constitution and approve a new, democratic constitution where citizens can elect representatives directly to parliament; and any citizen as both a party member or an independent can be a contender in verifiable free and fair elections.
When the support groups met at an all-day meeting in an apartment in New York City after June 13th, 1980, we discussed recommendations to be sent to Georgetown to the WPA for action. I on behalf of the GRRS recommended that WPA change its name to “June 13th Movement” and transform itself into a revolutionary movement and intensify (not cool off) the struggle against the dictatorship and the fraudulent constitution. Walter Rodney is a martyr in the tradition of the teachings of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. He put his life at risk and paid the ultimate price in the words of Ernesto Che Guevara for “….One pure ideal.” Humans and organizations can betray but an ideal cannot and will not. Guyanese Patriots, we owe it to Rodney, our ancestors, ourselves and future generations to ensure that the Guyana Nation-State lives and to continue the quest for freedom by calling and mobilizing for the recall and replacement in the words of Walter Rodney “The Burnham-Shahab” fraudulent constitution.