Public Records Are the Nation’s Assets4380 10 May, 2012
Mr. Scott: The presentations by the Hon. Member Dr. Frank Anthony, the Hon. Member Moses Nagamootoo as well as Comrade Gail Teixeira left me in no doubt, whatsoever, that there has been an eloquent case for the second Resolved clause, that there should be an inquiry into the disappearance or destruction of those records.
I consider this disappearance of those records for the period 1985 to 1992 to be a very serious matter. For this and other reasons that have been stated, I rise to endorse the motion before this House this evening. We have developed an international reputation for poorly kept archives and our national archives are in a terrible state. But, if in one sense, we might understand, if not forgive the treatment of newspapers for the period of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, how is it possible for fairly recent and important national records, as the Hansard, to be treated in an similar fashion? Perhaps the essential difference is that in this instance the missing documents, in this case the Hansard for a particular period of our history, can be deemed as a modern mischief. The inexcusable disappearance of the Hansard, especially in the period 1985 to 1992, is an assault on an important element of our national history.
Moreover, the political direction is very clear in this disappearance of these Hansard. Why? What is there about this particular period that makes this criminal erasure of our past history possible? The answer is not hard to discern. The Hoyte’s period, and especially the economic management of our economy by our esteemed Member of Parliament and former Minister of Finance, Hon. Member Mr. Carl Greenidge, the architect of its success, is truly subversive to the this Government, because it demonstrated economic management and competence at the highest level. I will return to this shortly.
But there is also the democratic issue and, more specifically, the freedom of the press at work, in this period, that stands in stark distinction to attitude of this Government to the press. Mr. Hoyte, you might recall, Mr. Speaker, prepared the way for a full free press freedom, an environment in which Stabroek News newspaper was born.
What did the Jagdeoite PPP do more than a decade, in 2006? It cut Government’s advertisements to the same newspaper. Kaieteur News newspaper too had its share of pressure, an indictment which is now confirmed even by Government’s spokespersons. What more proof do we need of the egregious display of power and control of information? Now we are faced with this Hansard scandal. It is my humble contention that these issues are all connected together.
If the period of 1953 to 1985 represented the exciting era of Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, the rise of socialism and the fervour of national ownership of the commanding heights of our economy, and the distinguished membership of the then newly conceived Non-Aligned Movement and the concomitant struggle for full self-determination and economic growth in the face of hostile forces determined to extinguish any spark of success for the socialist experiment, then the era of Desmond Hoyte, in the period 1985 to 1992, is confirmed by history as one of courageous transformation and signified by the courage of a man who understood the realities of power politics as it affected small developing countries as ours. We felt the pressure in the period, now marked by absent Hansard, and our economy suffered then for it. But in the face of great resistance from his own party, and from the Opposition, Mr. Desmond Hoyte resolutely pursued his vision to chart a new economic path for his country. Mr. Hoyte explained his objective in the introduction to his book Guyana's Economic Recovery when he wrote, and I quote:
"To complete, as rapidly as possible, the evolution of Guyana, as a country of free people, practising free enterprise in an open society."
Mr. Hoyte eschewed the militant and revolutionary approach and adopted the economic platform geared, as stated in the introduction to his book, “to the search for investment, the resolution of the debt problem and the reconnecting of the Guyana economy with the regional and global ones.”
The man he chose to lead that rebirth was the distinguished economist and internationalist, the Hon. Member Mr. Carl Greenidge. The PNC Government and the party, now a committed member of the Partnership for National Unity (APNU), whatever else may be said of it, cannot be accused of lack of courage at any stage of its history, be it the 1950s, 1960s and up to 2011. Hon. Member Mr. Carl Greenidge steered our state back to economic stability and success, so that when the PPP/C acceded to office in 1992 it inherited a buoyant economy with an economic growth rate of 6.6 per cent. It is my contention that this success, garnered in the period of Greenidge's management of the economy, is the overriding reason for the disappearance of the one chronicle that accurately preserves, for all time, the triumph of that period of our history. It is more than the passing strange that the period 1985 to 1992 is the only period strangely and inexplicably missing from our well kept parliamentary records. In other words the Hansard has surreptitiously vanished.
The PPP/C has built on the success of the immediate pre-1992 period, to such an extent, that it has become a reality that it has great difficulty in accepting. Its own propaganda traps it in its twisted logic. For it, the great things only began when it took office. We are aware of the efforts of senile misguided souls, who, like debauched Caesars of old, truly believe they can rewrite history. The artful success of propaganda gives the illusion that current affair is permanent. They also do not realise that history always corrects itself; it always corrects the false present and restores the true order. The Government Information Agency (GINA), and National Communications Network (NCN) and the Guyana Chronicle, with all their arrogance and rewrites of history, cannot detain the process we are embarked on today. It is our sacred duty to posterity, and to ourselves, regardless of party affiliation, to ensure that those Hansard, those records, are found and the criminals guilty of this deed be exposed and brought to justice.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, I have to say “the alleged”, because we are asking for an inquiry and we cannot make any findings of fact that there is criminality, or so afoot, if we are going to have an inquiry, because you are making life very difficult for me to…
Mr. Scott: I agree Mr. Speaker. It is the “alleged”. The Hansard, as a complete record of all that is done and said in this Assembly represents truth. Indeed, it is the definitive record of Guyanese politics. The works of all of our leaders are preserved for all time. Any attempt to tamper with this record is an attack on press freedom. It is an attack on the media and an attempt to fill that gap later on with revisionist history. We have seen this happened in Stalinist Russia. All self-respecting and patriotic parties and Members of Parliament must join in condemning this deed and demand a full investigation. Our living recorded history therefore demands that those copies of Hansard be found and restored to their rightful place.
For this country to go forward, uncomfortable truths must be faced. The PPP has tried in vain throughout its term in office to present itself as the standard bearers of democracy. Nothing can be further from the truth. The recent press freedom index assessment has put us lower down the scale of countries with press freedom. The Hansard scandal is another nail in the coffin of the PPP’s desire to control what every Guyanese see or hear. It will fail.
I call upon this House to condemn the absence of the Hansard for the period identified and for all of us join together calling for an investigation of the disappearance.
I thank you. [Applause]
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