The House of Israel religious organisation came under the microscope on Tuesday as the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry entered its second day.
The elder brother of the late Dr. Walter Rodney, Lawrence Rodney took the stand and spoke about the relationship he shared with his brother. He said Walter Rodney was very “bright” and would always pull a crowd whenever he would go out to speak at public meetings. The elder Rodney who said his father was a supporter of the Peoples Progressive Party explained that the family lived a stone throw away from the Camp Street jail.
Dr. Walter Rodney died when a bomb exploded in his car outside the Camp Street jail in June, 1980.
During his testimony, Rodney spoke about the formation of the House of Israel and its leadership under Rabbi Washington. He said the organisation which was housed and is still housed in Alberttown appeared as if it were a group formed to rally black Guyanese from different classes.
He said the group would be involved in meetings of the Working Peoples Alliance and of the Peoples National Congress. There was a point, he said, when members of the House of Israel would protest outside meetings of the WPA without being prevented by the police. He explained that the reason for such a move by the Police may have been because of the size of the crowds at those rallies. The Commissioners quizzed the witness about the membership of the House of Israel and whether or not the group had any political affiliation.
The Commission was told that the House of Israel was allowed a radio programme just after its formation and that programme which was titled the “Voice of Prophecy” was hosted by members on the state radio station. The main political opposition party at the time, the PPP, according to Rodney was not allowed a programme of its own on the radio.
Rodney was asked whether he knew of any member of the House of Israel ever being arrested for any criminal activity. He said some of its members were arrested and charged for the murder of Father Bernard Darke. He said among those arrested and charged was the Leader of the House of Israel, Rabbi Washington, who he said was already a fugitive of U.S justice. He testified also about Gregory Smith who was the army officer that was named as a main suspect in the death of Dr. Walter Rodney.
The Commission is headed by Sir Richard Cheltenham, K.A, Q.C, Ph.D, and comprises Mrs. Jaqueline Samuels-Brown, Q.C., and Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C. Assisting Lead Counsel Hanoman are Attorneys-at-Law Nicola Pierre and Latchmie Rahamat while the People’s National Congress (PNC) are represented by Attorneys-at-law Basil Williams, Joseph Harmon and James Bond.
Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980, when a bomb exploded in the car in which he was sitting. He was 38 years old at the time. Nine years ago, Parliament unanimously approved a motion to establish a commission to enquire into the circumstances surrounding his death.