Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry - Activist Jocelyn Elizabeth Dow evidence

"We are trying to get to the truth of this matter and every single document that exists and should exist, should be here that is what my point is." Selwyn A. Pieters

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Posted on September 03, 2014

As a lawyer with significant experience in human rights, civil rights and non-adversarial matters, I was retained to represent its interest of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) at the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry.

On August 29, 2014, Jocelyn Dow was cross-examined by me. The focus of the examination pertained to her relationship with Dr. Rupert Roopnarine; any rush to judgment on her part; her lack of knowledge of Dr. Rodney's dealings with Gregory Smith etc.

Attorney for the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) [Mr. Selwyn Pieters]: Good Morning, Ms. Dow.
Ms. Dow: Good Morning, Mr. Pieters.
Mr. Pieters: I am Selwyn Pieters and I represent the Guyana Trades Union Congress and I have a few questions for you.

On the issue of Army Officers, their disaffection and her interaction with the Military

Starting off, let me ask you this, were you in any way connected … did you have any interaction with any GDF officers who the WPA managed to bring within its ranks or must have brought within its ranks?
Ms. Dow: I am sorry, I do not have a list of the GDF officers that the WPA had within its ranks, but I certainly knew many persons of the GDF, myself, some who were current and some who were not.
Mr. Pieters: These were persons to whom the WPA managed to have brought within its ranks as supporters or sympathisers?
Ms. Dow: I have no idea because I was not a member of the WPA and I did not know if any of them were members.
Mr. Pieters: Right. In respect to the GDF Officers, did you at any point receive firearm training from any of those Officers?
Ms. Dow: No.
Mr. Pieters: Were you present for any discussions with the GDF Officers where there were any discussions of acquiring firearms?
Ms. Dow: I was never present at any meeting of the WPA with GDF Officers.
Mr. Pieters: You were never present at those meetings?
Ms. Dow: I never knew of any, either.
Mr. Pieters: You mentioned a few minutes ago that you knew of former and current officers of the Guyana Defense Force and that was at the material time between 1977 and 1980?
Ms. Dow: Yes, I had many friends who were of the GDF or had been of the GDF.
Mr. Pieters: And these were persons who were associated in some way with the Working People’s Alliance?
Ms. Dow: No, not in my knowledge, they were not associated … the persons in the Army?
Mr. Pieters: Well, my question is directed to persons who would have been associated or in some way affiliated with the Working People’s Alliance.
Ms. Dow: I do not know what affiliated … I know of no one who was affiliated that worked with the GDF with the WPA.
Mr. Pieters: So, you did not know Mr. Torrington? Did you know Mr. Torrington?
Ms. Dow: I have met Torrington, yes.
Mr. Pieters: You met Mr. Torrington at the material time in question; let us say between 1977 and 1980?
Ms. Dow: I did.
Mr. Pieters: Did you know that he was a member of the Guyana Defense Force?
Ms. Dow: I did not.
Mr. Pieters: You did not? How about Lieutenant Omawale? Did you meet him at any point within that material time?
Ms. Dow: Lieutenant Omawale used to play the trumpet as far as I know at nightclubs and he was not in the GDF.
Mr. Pieters: I appreciate that he was in the Guyana National Service. My question is whether or not you met him.
Ms. Dow: I had certainly met him at nightclubs, Green Shrimp playing the trumpet.
Mr. Pieters: You had no discussions with Lieutenant Omawale?
Ms. Dow: Never did to this day.

Personal Relationship with Dr. Roopnarine

Mr. Pieters: Okay, well let us try to establish this so we start. I believe that you said yesterday when you provided your evidence to the Commission that you were one of the few females that had a car and could drive.
Ms. Dow: Yes, that is true.
Mr. Pieters: And that you were transporting WPA members from various meetings and various interactions?
Ms. Dow: Yes, that is true.
Mr. Pieters: And that on the night that Dr. Rodney was killed you had Dr. Roopnarine in your vehicle and you had Bonita Harris in your vehicle as well?
Ms. Dow: And Abyssinian
Mr. Pieters: Pardon me?
Ms. Dow: And Abyssinian.

Mr. Pieters: ....I am going to make some suggestions to you and I am going to make them right off the bat so you can accept them or reject them. You were closely aligned with Dr. Roopnarine at the material time in question.
Ms. Dow: I was.
Mr. Pieters: Were you living with Dr. Roopnarine at that period of time?
Ms. Dow: I was not.
Mr. Pieters: No? Did he frequent your home at that particular period?
Ms. Dow: He did.
Mr. Pieters: He did? Did you attend meetings with Dr. Roopnarine at that particular period of time?
Ms. Dow: I attended many WPA meetings, on the mall, on the streets … I was not a member of the WPA, so I did not attend WPA meetings, to be clear.
Mr. Pieters: So, did you attend private meetings with Dr. Roopnarine and others?
Ms. Dow: I do not know what private covers for you, Mr. Pieters.
Mr. Pieters: Well, one on one interactions between Dr. Roopnarine and let us say anyone who he was interested in speaking with?
Mr. Chairman: As vague as that?
Ms. Dow: Well, of course, I did! He would want to borrow a car and I dropped him, so I was present, that I would presume would be classified as a meeting. He might be going to the grocery store and he would be talking to the people who were selling, that could be classified as a meeting. So of course, I was in the normal flow of things. We would be all together, some of us, from time to time.
Mr. Pieters: Would Dr. Roopnarine send you to do pickups for him, as well?
Ms. Dow: As a matter of fact, Dr. Roopnarine got married in my home, in 1978. [Laughter]
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: That puts pave to the other interpretation of “private meetings.”
Ms. Dow: 08th March, 1978.
Mr. Chairman: I am not sure, Counsel, where you are heading, though. What is all that leading to?
Mr. Pieters: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I am now getting there. Did Dr. Roopnarine ask you to do pickups for him, as well?
Ms. Dow: What you mean pickup? We picked up each other all the time.
Mr. Pieters: No, but did he ask you to….
Mr. Chairman: But what do you mean by that though? Put me in the know. What is this pickup that you are talking about?

On the issue of weapons accumulation, police stop and search etc.

Mr. Hanoman: Were you ever arrested?
Ms. Dow: Many times.
Mr. Chairman: She said that many times, repeatedly yesterday.
Mr. Hanoman: You were ever told about the reason for your arrest?
Ms. Dow: As I said before, my house was searched for arms and ammunition, I would be pulled over on the road, my car would be ceased, it would be stripped down and I would be taken to Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters. I was once arrested when I was trying to leave the country, I proceeded to board the plane, but before I got to the plane, I was brought back and put under close arrest, in a bus with 28 Policemen. I was taken to CID Headquarters, my family and so on thought I had travelled, but in fact, I was locked up at CID Headquarters, where they attempted to strip search me. They locked me in a room with tools and they brought a Policewoman to search me, I was there until I was able to get word out that I was, in fact, there and Miles Fitzpatrick was my employer and he came. So, I was arrested on many occasions for many things.

Mr. Pieters: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me make some suggestions to you; I am going to suggest to you, that you, at the material time, was aware the WPA was collecting arms, and ammunitions?
Mr. Chairman: What is the material time, 1978 to 1980?
Mr. Pieters: 1978 to 1980. Were you aware that the WPA was collecting arms and ammunition?
Ms. Dow: Yes.
Mr. Pieters: I am going to suggest to you that you were one of the persons who actually picked those firearms up, on behalf of Dr. Roopnarine?
Ms. Dow: I never did.
Mr. Pieters: I am going to suggest to you that…
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Mr… thank you.
Mr. Pieters: I am going to suggest to you that you transported Dr. Roopnarine to meetings with arm suppliers.
Ms. Dow: I never did, knowingly.
Mr. Pieters: And that you knew that?
Ms. Dow: I did not.
Mr. Pieters: And that your house was searched for firearms because you were on the Police radar for those very reasons.
Ms. Dow: They never found any. So, I do not know what “being on the radar” meant.
Mr. Pieters: Where did you stash them?
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Mr. Pieters…
Mr. Chairman: Give her a chance to stop. She has rejected all the premises you put her. You are even including those same rejecting premises in going forward, but you get ahead.
Mr. Pieters: Mr. Chairman, I thought she rejected the fact that they did not find the firearms when they searched the house. So, my next question was: Where did you hide them? Did you know where they were stored?
Mr. Chairman: But she never said that she had firearms to hide.
Mr. Pieters: No, well, she was just transporting them on behalf of the WPA.
Mr. Chairman: She did not answer that affirmatively. She never agreed to it. You are not being fair to the witness now, because you are using rejected premises as the basis of further questions.
Mr. Pieters: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Was there a panic or did they really enter in "high security mode"?

Mr. Pieters: Taking Andaiye’s anxiety, together with your observation, you mentioned –and I characterised it this way- she was in panic mode. You were thinking: are the Police going to arrive here, now? Are we going to be arrested? Is something going to happen to all of us because Walter is dead? Could it mean that all of us could be in danger? Or maybe not the same thing? You said that yesterday in response to a question from Mr. Hanoman. Do you recall that?
Ms. Dow: Yes.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: But not “manic mode” but “high security alert.”
Mr. Pieters: Right. So, she was in high security alert.
Ms. Dow: Yes.
Mr. Pieters: I am going to suggest to you then, that you were also panicked?
Ms. Dow: I was not panicked.
Mr. Pieters: You were not panicked?
Ms. Dow: I am not easily panicked, Mr. Pieters.
Mr. Pieters: I appreciate that you may not be easily panicked right now; I am looking at the material time. You were not panicked then? You were very stoic and strong?
Ms. Dow: Mr. Pieters, there was the injured Donald, who was the primary concern; not my wellbeing. Our business was to get Donald to help.
Mr. Chairman: To safety.
Ms. Dow: We were accustomed to being in danger.

A rush to Judgment - conclusions even before any facts were presented to her

Mr. Pieters: That is fine. Please do not read into my questions. Mr. Hanoman asked you a question yesterday, and he said that “at that time, did you mean Walter’s killing was political?” Your answer was “Walter’s dangers were always political. Political in the sense that if you be in the State or some arm or something of the State was out to get us, that was a frequent occurrence.” That is on page 89 of the electronic version. Do you recall that evidence?
Ms. Dow: Yes.
Mr. Pieters: And you made that judgement even before you heard from Donald Rodney. You had not heard anything from Donald Rodney at the time you made that judgement.
Ms. Dow: Of course.
Mr. Pieters: Why did you rush to judgement?
Ms. Dow: I did not rush to judgement, I rushed to a conclusion.
Mr. Pieters: You were not aware of the facts as they had occurred.
Ms. Dow: Well, who else would be killing Walter Rodney? It would not occur to me that anybody else would kill him.

Gregory Smith

Mr. Pieters: Well, let me put it to you; you testified yesterday that you were not aware of whom Gregory Smith was before the event in question.
Ms. Dow: I was not.
Mr. Pieters: You had no knowledge that Walter Rodney was meeting with Gregory smith on the evening in question?
Ms. Dow: Not at all.
Mr. Pieters: You also testified that Dr. Roopnarine had no knowledge of who Gregory Smith was?
Ms. Dow: I did not testify that.
Mr. Pieters: Well, let us go to what you said so that…
Ms. Dow: I said that none of us knew who Gregory Smith was.
Mr. Pieters: I will go exactly to what you said.
Mr. Chairman: Page 88 of the Verbatim account.
Mr. Pieters: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman: But you are asking her several questions about what she said yesterday. That is not advancing. She is only confirming that she said the same thing that she is saying now today. Do you need all those references to what she said yesterday to pose the next question?
Mr. Pieters: Yes.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Very quickly, you are correct that she did say, “we had to ask Donald what had happened. None of us knew Gregory Smith. I did not know him. Rupert did not know him” so, having established that premise, you could move on to the question.
Mr. Pieters: You also know that Mr. Eusi Kwayana who was an elder within the party, he testified here in response to a question I had asked him. He said he did not know Gregory Smith, as well.
Ms. Dow: If you say so, yes.
Mr. Chairman: She accepts that. She assumed that you are accurate in recalling what he said.
Mr. Pieters: I am going to suggest to you that despite what you said about your relationship with Dr. Walter Rodney, you did not know what Dr. Walter Rodney was up to.
Ms. Dow: I did not say I did not know what Dr. Rodney was up to.
Mr. Pieters: You had no knowledge of the relationship that Dr. Rodney had with Gregory Smith?
Ms. Dow: I said I did not know Gregory Smith, and I had never heard of him. Obviously, I did not.
Mr. Pieters: You mentioned today that the person who gave Dr. Walter Rodney the placebo of a Walkie-Talkie that turned out to be a bomb, did not control to that fact that Donald Rodney would have been there with him.
Ms. Dow: That is my view.
Mr. Pieters: Right. But you also, you are aware that the person who purportedly gave the package that was delivered to Dr. Walter Rodney gave that package, sorry, Gregory Smith supposedly gave that package to Donald Rodney?
Ms. Dow: Yes.
Mr. Pieters: You know that.
Ms. Dow: That is not inconsistent to what I think.
Mr. Pieters: Well, I am going to suggest to you now that if it was that no bystanders were to be present, that package would not have been given to Donald Rodney.
Ms. Dow: I do not agree with you.
Mr. Pieters: Two more or Mr. Chairman, you would agree you are out of the looping discussions and so were other in the collective leadership of the WPA in so far as Gregory Smith was concerned and Dr. Walter Rodney?
Ms. Dow: I could only speak for myself; I was not in the loop.
Mr. Chairman: She was not part of the collective leadership?
Mr. Pieters: I appreciate she was not, but she was tightly intertwined with the WPA.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: But her answer though, “I was not in the loop” I think we got that.

"I was not in the loop" - But her response to a question from WPA Counsel tells a different story

Mr. Ram: When did your association with the Working People’s Alliance begin?
Ms. Dow: I would say around 1977/1978, Sir.
Mr. Ram: You said you were never a member of the Working People’s Alliance.
Ms. Dow: That is true.
Mr. Ram: Would you consider yourself close to the inner circle of the Working People’s Alliance, the Executive Leadership of the Working People’s Alliance?
Ms. Dow: Yes.

Walter Rodney did not discussed acquiring walkie-talkies and testing walkie-talkies with Ms. Dow

Mr. Pieters: I think there was a discussion yesterday that I was unclear of, or unclear on reading the transcripts and so I am going to pose it to you very directly. Did Walter Rodney ever discuss with you directly a testing walkie-talkie?
Ms. Dow: No.
Mr. Pieters: Did he ever discuss with you acquiring walkie-talkies?
Ms. Dow: No.
Mr. Pieters: Did you know that prior to Dr. Walter Rodney’s death, the Special Branch created a memorandum in respect to the WPA approaching Smith to deal with electronics. Were you aware of that?
Ms. Dow: No.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Mr. Pieters, are you able to assist us by pointing to the particular memorandum in the particular Exhibit that would be helpful, if you cannot, I would not hold you back, if you cannot do it immediately.
Mr. Pieters: I will have to do that another point in time, Madame Commissioner, when I step down from questioning, I am almost to the end of my questions.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Are you able to say when this memorandum was created?
Mr. Pieters: Yes, it was created in April, 1980.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman: What did you declare was the substance of that memorandum?
Mr. Pieters: The substance was that the WPA approached Smith to deal with electronics. That is the brief notes that I have in my questions.
Mr. Chairman: Approach Smith and did what?
Mr. Pieters: Excuse me?
Mr. Chairman: The WPA approached Smith and…
Mr. Pieters: To deal with electronics. I mean given what your answers were today in respect to Gregory Smith you would have to agree that you…
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Sorry, I think you are talking about something at page 30? Tell me if I am correct. At SJWPA 1, I do not think I have the full designation but it is…
Mr. Pieters: Sorry, did you say…
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: LJSDWPA 1, page 30. I think that is the only reference to Gregory Smith that I have seen in the three volumes from the Special Branch that we have and it is at page 30. Do you have yours there with you?
Mr. Pieters: Thank you so much, Madame Commissioner.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Do you have it with you?
Mr. Pieters: Yes.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: And it is the correct page?
Mr. Pieters: Yes, it is.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Thank you.

Yet Commission's Counsel purporting to make Dow an expert on a subject matter on which she can only speculate

Mr. Hanoman: Thank you. Just before we took the break, I asked you a question about if you were aware that it was illegal to have a walkie-talkie or radio set without licenses. You gave me an answer, but you did not directly answer that question. Are you aware of whether it was illegal to have a walkie-talkie without a license at that time?
Ms. Dow: Well the reason I said that I do not know if it was “on the books” illegal, but if your house was searched and anything that smacked of anything to do with communications or anything would become a matter of great interest to the Police who were searching your home. They would take stuff away, sometimes stuff you would use in your business on the grounds that this was illegal, but I cannot say that it was “on the books” illegal, but it was certainly my sense that any of those communication things that they could say were interfering with Police wavebands or whatever; they would take things away from you. I had a bush operation and they would take things away from your premises.
Mr. Hanoman: In light of all that you have just said, at the time would you have considered a walkie-talkie to be a good device to conceal a bomb?
Mr. Williams: I am not sure, Sir, that Sister Dow is setting herself up and an expert in these matters.
Mr. Hanoman: I do not thing the answer calls for any expertise, please.
Mr. Williams: Why?
Mr. Chairman: Counsel, you are troubling me because thus far you have been except for the most recent question, I do not know if she is the most competent person to deal with that or whether her opinion matters, but you are asking the same questions you asked yesterday.
Mr. Hanoman: Do you wish for me not to ask the question, Sir?
Mr. Chairman: No, no what I am saying is that thus far you have asked the questions except for the most recent one you asked yesterday, already.
Mr. Hanoman: I did ask those questions before but I am seeking to get some clearer answers to the questions please, Sir.
Mr. Chairman: But has she not helped you any further. That is all. I hope you have prepared yourself in such a way so as to move forward.
Mr. Hanoman: The question that I just asked, Sir, should I withdraw the question?
Mr. Chairman: No, you leave it there. I do not know, whatever answer she gives, whether that is helpful to the Commission or not. Your job is to help the Commission in adducing, helping to get the evidence.
Mr. Hanoman: I believe it is an important issue to be raised, Sir, and I think that I can do it through this witness.
Mr. Chairman: Very well, get ahead.
Mr. Hanoman: The question that I wish to ask is: Do you think that a walkie-talkie, at that day and time, around that time, was a good device to hide a bomb in?
Mr. Pieters: Again, Mr. Chairman, Selwyn Pieters for the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), as far as we know, at least from my perusal of the evidence yesterday, this Witness was not involved in any issues in respect to walkie-talkies. She was not involved in any discussions in respect to walkie-talkie and this Witness has no particular expertise to give any evidence on that matter. Anything that she says, I do not know what use the Commission could make of it. There is no use the Commission could make of any answer this witness gives in respect to the question that my friend asked.
Mr. Chairman: I though you are only echoing and elaborating on a point that I have already made and Counsel has to ask himself at all times “Is this helpful, likely to be helpful?” She can say anything. It does not mean anything to us here. It is not anything that could help us. Suppose she answers “I think yes” or “I think no” it does not matter to us in terms of the Terms of Reference, but you get ahead.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: My only difficulty, Mr. Chairman, if I may say so, is I do not know what size this walkie-talkie was. I do not know if the witness knows. I do not knot know if walkie-talkies are a standard size. I do not know what size the electronic item or the explosive referred to as a bomb is so I do not know if the question posed in that general way can yield any helpful answer.
Mr. Chairman: It would be for the [Inaudible] who is likely to come on the next occasion to tell us all about walkie-talkies and so on. I do not know if she can help us about walkie-talkies or expressing a sensible view about it, but you get ahead, Sir.
Mr. Hanoman: Very well. It seems as though I will not ask that question.
Mr. Chairman: I do not want to inhibit you. If you think it is a helpful question, you get ahead. Perhaps when I reflect on it, I may come to the conclusion that you are correct but I do not want to inhibit your discretion so you get ahead.
Mr. Hanoman: Do you recall the question?
Ms. Dow: Do I think that the walkie-talkie…
Mr. Hanoman: Given your answer that in those days people would be arrested for walkie-talkies and so on, do you think if you wanted to hide a bomb that a walkie-talkie would have been a good device in which to do so?
Ms. Dow: Well it seemed to have been in fact.
Ms. Dow: What do you want me to say?
Mr. Hanoman: Okay, Ms. Dow.
Ms. Dow: Sorry, Mr. Hanoman.

The International Commission of Jurists

Mr. Chairman: What about the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)?
Ms. Dow: No, I was not.
Mr. Hanoman: Were you ever invited to share information with the International Commission of Jurists?
Ms. Dow: No.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Before you go on, let me ask about more specifically, Ms. Dow, are you aware that the International Commission of Jurists was in Guyana in 1995 carrying out an investigation? Are you aware?
Ms. Dow: Yes, I was aware that the International Commission of Jurists was in Guyana.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: But you were never invited to participate?
Ms. Dow: No, I do not remember any details about it, not at all.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Are you aware whether it was a public inquiry such as this? Did they have public hearing? As far as you are aware, just say yes or no.
Ms. Dow: I do not recall, it certainly has not left any indelible impression on me.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: I see. Are you aware of the International Commission of Jurists’ Report? Have you ever seen it?
Ms. Dow: Not that I can recall.
Mrs. Samuels-Brown: Thank you very much. Thank you, Counsel.

On the issue of vindicating rights in the Courts

Mr. Pieters: Yes. Thank you. In respect to the numerous arrest and detention etcetera that you testified your experience in 1977 to 1984 and I have no doubt of your experiences. Did you ever lodge an action against the Government of Guyana seeking to redress your constitutional rights?
Ms. Dow: I think I filed on The Right to Travel.
Mr. Pieters: You did?
Ms. Dow: I think so.
Mr. Pieters: What was the disposition of that action?
Ms. Dow: That was the only right we were ever assured in the Courts of Guyana that would be defended, the Rights to Travel.
Mr. Pieters: And you learnt in action in respect to…
Ms. Dow: I am that clear, we filed things and they never went anywhere and you proceeded along so that was hazy in my mind because it was par for the course.
Mr. Pieters: Do you know what became of that action if at all?
Ms. Dow: There were instances where the rights to travel was granted, I am not sure, I had filed it, I did not have a passport, I could not travel at one time, but as you know that was par for the course to be dealt with it.
Mr. Pieters: I do not understand your answer to be quite…
Ms. Dow: In other words it was not an unusual to me and to other people so it is not as you know a matter… we knew that our lives were restricted and things would happen and you tried to keep safe and alive and function.
Mr. Pieters: Ms. Dow, this is my last question, just listen to it and answer it directly, please. You mentioned that you launched an action in respect to The Right to Travel, correct?
Ms. Dow: I said I am not sure.
Mr. Pieters: Okay, very well. Those are all my questions for this Witness.

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