Hansard for the Period January, 1985 to December, 19921199 10 May, 2012
Mr. Greenidge: I rise to speak to the motion in my name concerning the unavailability of a considerable number of the transcripts of our proceedings. As it were, I was in the course of doing some work, by way of private research, and came to use the library, downstairs, and discovered that all of the documents were not there. In spite of the best efforts of the staff, the quest to find the missing document turned out to be fruitless. Let me take the opportunity at this point to say that in a subsequent discussion with the office I am informed that the actual documents that are missing, as of now, are those of 1988 to 1992, for the entire years in question.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge, are you saying that you are amending your motion? Are you satisfied that…?
Mr. Greenidge: I have not seen them, but I took the word of the office. In substance, nothing has changed. There are a number of years missing and the intent of the motion is to have the House put in place arrangements to find the documents or to reconstitute them, if that is possible. That is it, in essence. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Allow Mr. Greenidge to make his presentation, please.
Mr. Greenidge: Those documents are a very importation part of our history. Let me say, first of all, that the explanations which have been rendered to us have, to me, been less than convincing. The initial set of explanations, when I spoke to various officials, was that they believed that the documents might have been stored somewhere over the refectory, or somewhere else, and they may have been wet, and they therefore might have been lost at that time. I think that at the time of the parliamentary briefing, at the beginning of these sessions, the Clerk informed us, after enquiring with his colleagues, that the documents had been, probably, sent to the printer, and the printer had not been paid, and, as a consequence, they had not been returned. That also sounds rather astonishing to me. It is, I think, necessary to ascertain who the printer was and whether, in fact, the printer acknowledges having receipt of the documents and making arrangements to return them.
I believe that, in the last analysis, the Speaker of the House, at the time, has the responsibility for ensuring that those records are complete. I would be grateful therefore if you could see your way towards having the Clerk and his team undertake a thorough search for the documents, in the first instance, and, in the event of them still being unable to find them, instituting an inquiry into their disappearance or destruction and to make recommendations for their reconstitution. [Mr. Neendkumar: Go and ask Mr. Sase Narain.] I am glad that you are aware as to when they disappeared. You can contribute to the inquiry.
For those who do not know…[Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, allow Mr. Greenidge to make his presentation, please. We all have ample opportunity to speak to this motion. Mr. Greenidge, I apologise for having to interrupt you, but I cannot even hear you.
Mr. Greenidge: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I understand your discomfort and I accept the apology.
In spite of the fact, Hon. Attorney General, that Dr. Jagan might have been in the House, his speeches never disappeared from this House, so you might like to bear that in mind. These documents are a very important part of our history.
For the benefit of the two Ministers, including the Attorney General, who seemed to feel, at various points, when I had asked about this matter before, that they had the answer by waving about speeches that I made. The Hansard is not the speeches that would have been found from individual Ministers. It is a full record of the transcripts that the House had been engaged in – the activities over time. In fact, this nation’s parliamentary records – I think we should be proud of this – go back quite a long way. The Court of Policy documents are documents that historians have worked with over the years and, I gather, as regards the modern Hansard, we seem to have records dating from November, 1928, and that is very good. It is unfortunate that with such a store of information we should have a gap arising from either carelessness or accident.
What I am saying is that those records constitute an important record of our history, our trials, our successes and our frustrations. Even, if it can be recalled, the period of 1929, when the first set of records would have been in place, those were of great significance, was the time of the first political party in this country, with some of the first national political rulers. It would be important to ensure that those records are complete.
In the words of the British Speaker in the House of Commons, who in addressing the editors of Hansard, said that, above all, “the Hansard is the chronicle of history and such is its importance to those who share our constitutional background.” In the English House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, who you may know, I think, her fame spread far beyond the United Kingdom, in a 1996 conference spoke the following words to the editors, saying that:
“Behind change lies an unchangeable requirement on you all, the challenge and responsibility to maintain your traditional standards of accuracy and impartiality. This is crucial because accuracy and impartiality are the hallmarks of Hansard and whatever changes come along parliamentarians, all of us, look to you to hold fast those guiding principles.”
The “you” are those who are charged with safeguarding, protecting and producing these documents.
When I delivered the third Desmond Hoyte Memorial Lecture I had cause to mention the case in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which a driver was able to retrieve from a pile of documents two scorched documents, one of which was the volume of the law journals of British Guiana. The staff member who took it to Mr. Desmond Hoyte reported that there seemed to be an exercise to destroy all of the records that the new Government had laid hands on in that particular set of institutions. [Ms. Teixeira: In 1992 the fire was on in Office of the President (OP).] Mr. Speaker, the fire in question was in 1994. Given the importance of the issue, I would prefer not to have to speculate on the cause of the disappearance of those documents and the real reason. Suffice it for me to note that it is not the first time sections of the post-1964 records have disappeared, and I would urge that we make arrangements to ensure that they can be quickly found or replaced.
I think we have to mature with time and this is an important sign that we can deal with these challenges that face us. In the light of that I would like to urge that Members on the other side embrace the motion. [Applause].
Mr. Greenidge (replying): I wish to thank our colleagues for the very fulsome way in which they responded to this motion. The motion is a fairly straightforward one. First of all, it does appear that some of my colleagues are having difficulty with the language. The motion in the first instances accuses no one of anything. It is a fact. The fact is that the documents are missing and that is something that cannot be denied. The motion request the House’s support to have the matter looked at, and in my presentation I urge that the staff be encouraged to look for the documents and also, if necessary, then to find out why it is they disappeared. I really cannot see why anyone would have a difficult with that at all.
I have learned also of an explanation concerning what has happened at the National Archives, what has happened in various other institutions. All of that is irrelevant. I am really not interested in addressing those matters. The motion is about the Hansard and that is what I ask the House to address. The point is that the motion points to the fact that documents are missing for a key period; it does not mean that one is unhappy with anything that the staff have done. In fact, as I think many people have attested, the staff have been very helpful, and, indeed, in my own intervention I made it very clear that the staff lent me their support in trying to find the documents. So we need not be diverted by these attempts to deflect us from what is really an urge to try and get something fix which is not in order.
The point is this, that there are, according to Dr. Anthony, bodies that assisted in putting together the digitalisation and recording, or the transfer of the document from the hard copies to the digital versions, and also building what is now the library. We could perhaps, if those documents still can be found, ask them whether they could advise us as to where those documents could be or whether they have, themselves, passed through their hands. There are a number of options I think we can pursue, but at the end of the day, as the Hon. Member Mr. Moses Nagamootoo was indicating, we do require a timeline and I think that is quite in order.
The concern as to whether this is not an important matter, I think, is unfortunately we should get there. I think all of the speakers have attested to the importance of those records to our own history. The fact is that some of those who are concerned that this issue is of no relevance have themselves contributed, far more than anyone else, in lengthening the time taken in the debate. That, it itself, I think, suggest that they think it is important. If it were not important then it is very surprising that they should have spoken so long and tediously about the issue. So the point is this, that it has been confirmed that the documents, I think, have not been available. The fact that we could be told that some of the records were not published and, at the same time, have been told that a search has yielded some subset of those documents indicates the state of confusion that some of our Members have as to regards what it is that we are doing.
We are saying, whether or not the documents have been published, the teams that were working on the records of the meetings sent to Ministers…I, myself, received a number of the typed scripts from the House which were corrected and sent back to them and they have to be in some place. If they all can be found that is great; if they cannot all be found, let us find means of supplementing them. That is all that the motion states, and I do not think that Members should have a difficulty with that very simple exercise.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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