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There was a time when record-keeping was tedious. Way back when, people had to take notes in writing. That led to the development of shorthand. Reporters of yesteryear also had to learn that type of notetaking.
And I have seen some excellent note takers. One reporter who is still around, George Barclay, would go to court and come back with verbatim reports of all that transpired. I couldn’t read his notes, but I did read the final story. It was very detailed and accurate. In fact, it was so detailed that I had to take out the less interesting portions.
Technology changed many things. The tape recorder emerged. Of course, in the courts of Guyana tape recorders are not allowed for obvious reasons. Some statements that are ordered struck from the records would still be recorded. It was the same for note takers in the National Assembly. They were proficient in shorthand—very proficient. To this day anyone can go to Parliament and see the records of every sitting. These are compiled in what is known as the Hansard. And these Parliamentary note takers were not paid anything much. Less qualified people today earn comparatively more.
Things have moved so far ahead that anyone with a phone can record whatever is being said and done. Therefore, when people say one thing, then try to deny it, the evidence is always there. This often causes embarrassment. Bharrat Jagdeo in recent times, has been caught making statements that he has sought to distance himself from. While in Opposition he was critical of the oil contract signed with the foreign company. He criticised the then government for signing such an agreement.
Then he stood up in the National Assembly to proclaim that should his party return to the seat of power, he would renegotiate the contract. He is still to do so. In fact, he has changed his tune. He openly said that he would not be renegotiating the contract. Indeed, he was asked about his initial statement. He hemmed and dodged and dawdled. Constant questioning forced him to say that he would not be renegotiating the contract. Except for those who have an interest in Guyana, society is silent on this broken promise.
Then he was recorded, in the face of the territorial controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, as saying that he was supportive of providing Venezuela access through the disputed territory. He was actually ceding territory to Venezuela. I suggested that this was akin to treason since the government and the wider society were not interested in allowing Venezuela access to an inch of territory.
When I reported this, he told his press conference that he never made such a suggestion. But in this day and age, whatever one says is there in living colour to be repeated. People simply went into their archives and played Jagdeo making his bold statement. I have not heard any other denials. There were many other such instances of the Vice President saying one thing and denying it until exposed. But such is the nature of politicians.
Jagdeo is not alone in spewing things that are not true or are distorted. Deodat Indar and President Irfaan Ali blamed the blackout on the coalition government that preceded the return of the PPP to office. They contended that the coalition allowed the turbines and generators to deteriorate by not spending any money on the electricity system. And some believed until people like former Board Chairman Rawle Lucas, and former Minister David Patterson set the records straight.
And up to two days ago Indar suggested that the amount of power in the system back in 2020 was way below the consumption. He failed to recognise that there were fewer blackouts back then so his contention could not have been correct. Many were due to a fault in the distribution system. But that didn’t matter. Blame the opposition for anything negative that is happening today. Lucas said that he could not understand how people could lie and still expect the society to respect them.
I was at the Amerindian hostel for an occasion some time back. Pauline Sukhai told me, an active reporter who has been on this earth much longer than her, that it was not until 1992 that children in Guyana began to get an education. I was shocked but I was quick to ask her how did she get hers. That was the end of the conversation. And indeed, many were pushing the fact that nothing existed prior to 1992. They could not deny some of the existing structures like the schools, particularly the multilateral schools with their laboratories and home economic centres and handicraft centres.
So I think somewhere along the way things changed, and changed drastically. I found out that the blackouts resulted from contracts to buy spares. Any clever person seeking to make a quick dollar would look for the cheapest source of spare parts. And the Chinese are proficient at making cheap replicas. So spares did come but they did not last. Money was spent but the desired results were not achieved. I understand that some of the spares bought are now in the stores but they cannot be used because other parts of the generators collapsed so the machines are idle.
This is reminiscent of the large number of imported transformers that are still lying in the Sophia compound of the Guyana Power and Light. Vegetation has taken over these now useless items that were bought but were never put to use. There was talk about three-phased as opposed to two-phased transformers. Then there are skilled people from the Garden of Eden station who were sent packing to be replaced by less competent people.
Many of these skilled people who were responsible for repairing the system have been gobbled up elsewhere, like the nurses, about 400 of whom have left these shores this year alone. And the claim that many big companies have returned to the grid thus the increased blackouts, is not substantiated. They left in the first instance because the cost of electricity was higher than self-generation. The cost hasn’t gone down. So they haven’t come back.
And while many focus on generation, the distribution is in shambles. Indar talks about increasing generation. How is he going to get the power to the consumer?