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Retired Major General Norman Mc LeanFormer Army Chief-of-Staff, Retired Major General Norman Mc Lean
Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry – Georgetown – Guyana – June 2014
Photo Credit: Carib News Desk


As we have seen in autocratic regimes, past and present, power corrupts. Good men and women become collaborators in and perpetrators of state violence. It takes courage and strength of character to publicly come forward and admit one’s guilt and to ask for forgiveness.

Joseph Hamilton – a former leader of the House of Israel and member of the People’s National Congress (PNC), the ruling political party at the time of Walter Rodney’s assassination – did just that.

During the second session of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, held in Georgetown, Guyana, the first week in June 2014, Joseph Hamilton turned whistleblower. Over the last thirty-four years, his burden of guilt had become unbearable.

“I am profoundly sorry,” Hamilton said, as his testimony came to a close on June 4. “I profoundly apologize for my role in generating at the time an oppressive and terrorizing atmosphere that may have contributed to the demise of Dr Rodney, and to the oppressing and terrorizing of members of political parties, including the WPA, citizens and people of Guyana, the family and relatives of all those who were in harm’s way or may have been impacted by the violence, beatings and threats that I was involved in.”

Not all collaborators of the PNC regime are willing to testify. Retired Major General Norman McLean was subpoenaed by the Commission of Inquiry. As Army Chief-of-Staff during the period under investigation (1978-1980), he would have been privy to all intelligence reports of the threat posed by Walter Rodney and the opposition party of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) of which Rodney was a co-founder. Yet, the former Chief-of-Staff claimed ignorance of the army’s involvement in the plot to kill Walter Rodney.

By withholding documentation of evidence, police and army officials continue to hamper the progress of the Commission of Inquiry.

In his testimony during the final days (May 27 and 28) of the first session of the Commission of Inquiry, Eusi Kwayana, veteran politician and co-founder of the WPA, testified that Forbes Burnham, in his address on 26 August 1979 to the Third Biennial Congress of his ruling PNC party, warned:

[The WPA] had better make their wills… Comrades, we are now in the Roman Amphitheatre. The lion and the gladiator cannot both survive; one must die, and we know that the People’s National Congress will live.

While Walter Rodney died in the arena, the perpetrators watched the spectacle from a secure distance. As onlookers in the amphitheater, we are all guilty of the violence sanctioned by those in power.

The road to our perdition is paved with our good intentions, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our allegiance to those in power, and our silence.

Will history judge Army Chief-of-Staff Norman McLean as the man who could have changed the course of Guyana’s future, but chose not to act for lack of moral courage?