Public Records Are the Nation’s Assets1787 10 May, 2012
Mr. Nagamootoo: I wish to state the position of the Alliance For Change (AFC) on this motion, that we are in unequivocal support of it and we believe that this would have not been a subject of any contention, whatsoever, because the Hon. Minister Dr. Frank Anthony, himself, has articulated orally the great value of our history. I wish to, in this Parliament, applaud him for his own effort in producing the Guyana literary classics, because it shows to the world that we are a nation of intellects; we are a nation of writers and people who could imagine and who have vision. A lot of what has been preserved in the classics had gone back so many years. In the same way, we would want, as part of our Guyanese civilisation, to make available our statesmen’s contributions, our leaders’ contributions and our people’s representatives’ contributions in this august Assembly, in their pristine form, as accurately as we could possibly preserve and record them.
I cannot for, one moment, try to lay blame on anyone, on any side, to say that there might have been a conspiracy to destroy the Hansard or speeches that would contribute thereto. I believe that we cannot go back and ascribe motives for things that have disappeared, because if we start doing so, we would end up…
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Nagamootoo, at one time, you were the Minister of Information, around that period, and that is why you are saying that you cannot impute any bad motives.
Mr. Nagamootoo: Sir, those who throw stones must not live in glass houses. We must always believe that, because while I regretted, when we took office in 1992, then, when I was with the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), there were files that were missing, Cabinet documents,…because I discovered those myself. I also regretted, very deeply, that when I went to the Guyana Public Communications Agency (GPCA), most of the records of an earlier period…I looked with sadness and I was aghast to see utter despoilment of what the record that I was told was. We, ourselves, then, when we removed some of the documents in the possession of the GPCA – then so-called Ministry of Information – we did not preserve them in the way that we ought to, and I regret that very much.
If we start to apportion blame, we will only see the evil in each side and not what is the primary objective of the motion. That is, if there had been fraction and there had been destruction, we should now try to make a diligent search so that all of us could be rehabilitated, so that we can, in a sense, present our history to our young students – our scholars of tomorrow from the school of excellence - what has been done in this House on their behalf. It is not a matter of debate whether or not we should have our Hansard.
We must also say that while we appreciate…Right now, while we speak here, since these debates, a few days after, I would receive a draft copy for minor technical and other corrections to be made, to the speeches that have been made. I applaud that because it shows that there is a deliberate purpose behind producing Hansard. I went to the library and I was able to access Hansard for several years. I was shocked to know that I could actually download them. That is in fact what all of us must aim to do and not simply to say that we have Hansard in a haphazard manner. It is so important that we must recognise and give credit where credit is due. But we are saying that it is not enough. If it is found that there was a period for which Hansard was missing, there should be a purposeful search to locate where those Hansard, document, files, records, audio tapes, or even if there was video tapes then - I am not too sure - and not to apportion blame. Just in case that they cannot be located, one must reasonably assume that they could have been destroyed; they could have been misplaced. Because of the importance of this matter we should set a timeline and that is what this motion seeks to do. It is not to leave this open-ended. It is to set a timeline within which it ought to be done. No one of any reason could come back to the National Assembly, if it is said…even if it is the Hon. Minister…that a diligent search had been made and certain conclusions have been come to. No one could reasonably impugn the Minister, or try to impugn anyone, if we are told by the Minister that we tried, in cooperation with the Parliament Office…I think that the Hon. Minister knows what I am talking about because he has a residuary position that he has committed himself to. [Ms. Shadick: It is inspiration; it is different from legislation.]
I will do not distracted from what I am trying to say. I think that the Hon. Member is trying to distract me but I am addressing the issue that it is absolutely necessary that there ought to be a timeline by which we should have the Parliament Office enquire whether those documents are available. If it comes and says that the documents cannot be found, we should then pursue, as the motion seeks to pursue, what has happened and who is culpable. There must be a culpable party if those documents are not located.
Speaking about culpability, I know the grief missing and destroyed records can cause and I refer to a booklet, The Political Situation Guyana and the Way Forward in Guyana: A Discourse on the Implications of the 1997 Elections. Sir, this was edited by one named Mr. M.Z. Ali, a great friend of mine, who died two days ago, a subeditor. He was the Chief Information Officer. He was Hon. Minister Irfaan Ali’s uncle. We had been together in the 1960s. This analysis, made by me in a speech, had called for the formation of a government of national unity in Guyana. That we should eschew the politics of winner takes all. I knew that when I was summoned to Freedom House just to be told that this book had to be withdrawn and destroyed. There were piles downstairs, which I saw with my own eyes, ready to be burnt. Those who are trying to cast stones, must remember what I said about the glass houses. You cannot live in glass houses. It is reasonable to impute that there could have been destruction of records in the Parliament Office. [Interruption]
If this is so, then this motion seeks to give a timeline whereby we could have rehabilitation of the records or an account given for them. I will fully support this motion and the AFC categorically and unequivocally supports it. [Applause]
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