Guyana’s Case of the Missing Hansard

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Above: Parliament in Guyana

By the Caribbean Journal staff

The Parliament office in Guyana has been given a period of two months to find and submit full Hansard records of the country’s National Assembly for the period January 1985 to December 1992, following a motion by the Opposition A Partnership for National Unity.

Hansard is the term for the transcripts of parliamentary debates in the English-speaking Caribbean, after Thomas Hansard, the early publisher of these transcripts.

The motion was filed by APNU’s Carl Greenidge, who said the Hansards contain “very important information,” noting that it was not the first time that post-1964 records had been displaced.

If the documents are not found or are found to have been destroyed, the motion mandates the Speaker of the House to institute an enquiry within one month.

Though it’s not clear why the call came now for the nearly 30-year-old records, the government’s Chief Whip called the motion “a storm in a teacup” and a “wicked piece of work,” calling on the government to support the essence of the motion and not the “mischief in its intention.”

Greenidge’s motion said the Hansards during the aforementioned period pertained to the management and debates over the Economic Recovery Programme and other “critical” decisions in the management of the political economy of the country.

Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony said the motion implied that the documents were destroyed or deliberately misplaced, calling Greenidge’s words “very strong.”

Anthony, who proposed amendment to the motion, said the Hansards were invaluable records that should be properly maintained and catalogued, a task “easier said than done.”

“Anyone found guilty of destroying or disappearing public records should be met with the full force of the law,” he said. “However, I am not convinced that there is any deliberate attempt to destroy these records. I think our lax record-keeping and poor cataloguing may be the reason why our records are not readily available.”

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