It would amaze me how the foreign media houses could easily go way back in time to resurrect information about anyone or any event. A leading person dies and there would be clippings of things that involved that individual decades ago.
Such easy access to records is testimony to how much attention countries pay records. And it is not only the media. One can go into libraries and find just about anything. Documents that were once recorded on paper have been transferred to electronic storage.
Guyana has never set much store in archiving material. I remember walking into the archives when it was located on Main Street and seeing important documents on the floor. One of the documents was a letter written by the famous Berbician, Coffi or Kofi, to the governor of Berbice.
That is a priceless document, especially as it was a testimony to the intelligence of the slaves in Berbice. That document must have been relegated to the trash by now.
The registry is somewhat different. There are records dating back to the 1800s. Just for fun, I asked to see a record of my marriage back on July 3, 1971. They found it quite easily. There I saw my nervous signature and other things that made me remember the day.
However, there are no records of my early working life. I started working on November 1, 1966, at St. John the Baptist Anglican School. There is no record either at the school nor at the Ministry of Education. It is as though I never existed.
When I graduated from the Government Teachers’ Training College, I went to Bartica Government Secondary School. There is no record of my stint at the school where I attained the position of Senior Master by 1973.
In jest, I told one of the clerks that had I stolen money from those institutions, there would have been no record today. She smiled.
When Guyana went to the courts with Suriname over the maritime boundary, this country had to reach out to Holland for records. We simply have nothing about our history. I would suppose that for this country what is past is past and is of no consequence.
I can remember my great grandfather, but I doubt that I can go much further back. In other countries, people have been able to trace their ancestry to Abraham Lincoln and that is going back to the 1700s.
In some countries, people can trace their ancestry to the days of the Tudors.
To its credit, the Guyana Chronicle has a very good library. I have gone there from time to time and I have found reports on issues going back to the 1800s. Some of the bound volumes may be in need of repairs; the pages are coming loose and must be handled with care.
At one time, USAID offered to help Guyana put its record on microfilm. For some unknown reason, we never took up the offer to the extent that we have lost so much.
Perhaps the worst destruction of national records occurred at what was then the Film Centre. There was a change in Government in 1992 and a lot of material, especially, video material, was stored in the archives.
In addition, there was material from the then Ministry of Information that was meticulously stored by Norma McGowan and some other efficient women. People came from all around for information. When a Government Ministry wanted something, the go-to person was Norma McGowan.
Those records were moved to Homestretch Avenue where they ended up on the floor. The floods of 2006 destroyed everything. It was the same with the films created by Brian Stuart-Young and Jean Harding. Jean was the editor.
There were so many documentaries, many featuring Forbes Burnham, but recording a stage of Guyana’s life. You cannot find anything, because these records were intentionally improperly stored. No one cared to remember Guyana’s past.
If Guyana’s political past is of no importance then the country is in a sad state. I have seen television stations putting together obituaries in a flash. Some of the video footage captured a person way back in school.
President Donald Trump was at pains to order schools not to release his school records. I do not have to take that course of action. In fact, if I invite them to release my records, they would gaze at me as if to query my sanity.
At the National Insurance Scheme there are many who have problems with the record of their contributions. I know this because many have come to me for help. I remember Dr. Roger Luncheon talking about putting the records on computers.
That process took some time, but there was a gap of some ten years for many people. I am not certain if those missing records were ever captured. Instead, people are being asked to get testimonials from people who knew them and could testify that they worked at a particular place at a certain time.
I remember getting a letter from my first headmaster, the late Edgar Jordan. I submitted that letter to the Ministry of Finance. Last week when I visited the Ministry, the authorities could find no record of that letter.
I am required to go after people who would have remembered me from those days in 1966, and they must be reputable. I can’t got to some old labourer who would have been young when I was there.
These days, record-keeping should be easier with the advent of computers. I know that the prisons have computerised most of their records, so criminals cannot have the benefit of lost records.
I understand that the Georgetown Public Hospital has records of patients—their blood type and their medical history. That is good.
I wish there were records of my early employment.
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