Sunday, June 12, 2005

Another ocean of dishonesty (or, Buckets has a 'stout Cortez' moment)

Update Another Punjabi speaker has offered a different translation to a part of the translation that was left out of the translation/transcript of this discussion. I give them both to you below. If other Punjabi speakers want to listen to the tapes and give their opinions, I will add them below.

The important point is that my initial conclusion that this proved Dosanjh had told the truth may have been incorrect. I will update this post as more opinions come in.


One of the most widely circulated quotes in this affair has Ujjal Dosanjh saying "Cabinet right away". This is taken to be either a promise or a hint of a promise of a future cabinet post for Grewal. The problem, however, is that most of this conversation is in Punjabi. It seems, however, that not only has the editing of the tapes been done in a misleading way, but so too has the translation/transcription.

Here is the first transcript (released, with a highly edited tape of the conversation, on 31 May):
The conservatives released a new tape on June 1; and a new transcript on June 5. The red line shows where something new has appeared in the new transcript, where the yellow hi-liter shows what has been added there. (The blue line marks where this new transcript is missing something that can be heard on the new tape.)
It now appears that not everything what was in the new tape made its way into the new transcript. "Raj", a native Punjabi speaker, answered my call for help with translating. He says that what he hears here is quite different (I quote his transcription/translation, putting in bold what has been left out at the blue line in the preceding scan):
UD: . . .I think this (Belinda's crossing the floor) has made it easier for you . . .(inaudible)
GG: Yes, that is true. But two things have become clear because of this.
UD: . . infact. . ..huh?
GG: Two things have become clear. One is it's easier, and the second is they can't say that we will do something later, because they have done right away, for her.
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: Cabinet can happen right away.
Otherwise (inaudible) . . . in order for parliament to work, they have shortage of members, in the meetings.
UD: (inaudible) you don't want to lose the advantage. If you do cabinet right away you lose the advantage of numbers. Those are the issues.
What has been left out here completely changes the meaning of the exchange. Dosanjh did not offer or hint at offering 'cabinet right away', as both the first and second (supposedly correct) transcripts suggest. Quite the contrary. He insisted that a cabinet post was impossible. This had presumably been the position he had tekn the night before, when the two met for Pizza. But things had dramatically changed since that meeting. Only two hours before Dosanjh and Grewal meet the Belinda bomb-shell explodes. Grewal had been told that an immediate cabinet position was impossible. Now he sees it is not impossible for her and insists on getting the same deal that Belinda got.

(If Punjabi speakers can have a listen and confirm, correct, or improve the translation here, please email me at The mp3 can be downloaded here under the 'meeting with Dosanjh …' rubric. This is at about the 2 minute 3 second mark.)

Update. Another emailer (who informs me that he/she is not a member of any party) hears the following in this section
UD: I think with this for you it has made it easy
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible) you wanted...(inaudible)
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible).... infact this has.... (inaudible)
GG: Two things are clear now
UD: Huh?
GG: Two things are clear now. One it has become easy now. Second now they can not say they will do something latter. Because it happened right away for (her/him)
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: Cabinet right away can be had
In this rendition, the question of what is being asked for and what is being offered is more ambiguous.

(Please note that I noted that there was something wrong here last week. It is a good index of how dishonest the transcript is here a non-Punjabi speaker can be closer to the truth than the corrected transcript.)

Anyway, friends, I assume that you're shocked. As was I (despite half-guessing that it was so.) There is a whole new level to the mendacity of these transcripts that's here to discover. It reminds me of one of my favorite poems is Keats' sonnet, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer" (here, with commentary), where Keats describes his experience on reading a new translation of the Greek poet Homer. Chapman's translation opens his eyes to a host of literary possibilities. The poem begins with references to Homer, which Keats implies he did not truly appreciate,
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific--and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise
Silent upon a peak in Darien.
Keats compares these new possibilities to Cortez, who--after crossing the Atlantic, fighting his way across Mexico, and winning a new empire for Spain--comes over a hill and sees the Pacific. A whole new ocean to cross, a new world to conquer! So too, now, with the Grewal tapes. There is a new ocean of questions to cross.



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