Parliament in the pandemic

Parliament in the pandemic

Dear Editor,

The ghosts of past generations of Parliamentarians have been waiting, some more patiently than others, to help to arrange accommodation for the next entry of their colleagues in what for the latter would be a new dispensation. For as real ghosts they are confident that they have the intelligence to advise new, and not so new-comers to rise to the demands of ‘virtual reality’ imposed by the pandemics respectively incited by COVID-19 and GECOM 2020.

Their varied experiences would have taught them to observe and speak from different angles and positions: standing, sitting, lying; upwards, downwards, across, and close enough to refuse to shake hands. They would mutter and shout as circumstances demanded, and still be understood.

But now there would be need for more ‘pandemic’ space, informed by the irony of actually masking what each has to say, while being unrecognised in the first instance – a distinct advantage for the newcomer.

Even though the parties would have already exhausted their share in the exchange of abrasive disagreements before being officially allowed into the historic debating sanctuary, they would still have to be appropriately distanced – providing interesting challenges for necessary photographic and recording technologies.

For if all were to show leadership and comply with the rules of communication required of a pandemic environment, it is not inconceivable that accommodation will have to be extended to the outdoors, with accompanying provision made for ‘zoomed’ debate, with less than accustomed rancour, and certainly more secured from spectator intervention.

The situation inheres new challenges, not only for procedures to be ruled upon by the Speaker, but also for the range of services to be provided by the Offices of the Clerk and Staff of the National Assembly.

Of course consideration would have to be given to weather constraints, that may probably induce new or different conditions of service for staff, and at the same time, new allowances for Parliamentarians.

The excited public may well have to resort to separate technological retreats: cell phones, laptops? Who pays?

In the milieu the provision of snacks, refreshments, etc. may become a ‘virtuality’ that has to be translated into satisfying ‘real’ appetites.

All must survive – a substantive security and safety issue that should offer the Police Chief the long awaited opportunity to effectively address the irrationalities of the traffic arrangements in the surrounding Stabroek confinement, and the repercussive implications for the indifferent commuters.

Fortunately this is one critical exercise that cannot afford to be ‘paperless’, however sophisticated the technology utilised. The past and present are obligated to be recorded for the future.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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