Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran has shed more light on the ongoing public debate over the food and drink bill racked up at Parliamentary sittings, recalling instances when at least one MP requested specially prepared curried duck.
“The quarrel in Parliament over food and drink is most unusual because it is MPs themselves who created this situation,” Ramkarran stated in his Conversation Tree blog.
Kaieteur News, reporting on costs recently associated with sittings of the National Assembly, the country’s highest law-making forum, quoted the Clerk of the National Assembly, who disclosed that an estimated $700,000 was being spent on food on each occasion.
The news sparked a raging debate about costs and even the work of MPs, in context of the seemingly high bill for food.
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo had suggested that the cost for alcohol might be just as much as the cost for food. However, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes declared that it was not only 65 MPs eating $700,000 every sitting. She said the amount covers food for Parliament staff, media and other Government staff.
Explaining the evolution of food and drinks served to MPs, Ramkarran explained that when he entered Parliament as an MP in 1997, MPs were served “tea”, consisting of non-alcoholic beverages and sandwiches.
He stated that he resigned his seat in Parliament in 2000 at the request of President Bharrat Jagdeo to sit on the Elections Commission for the 2001 elections.
However, when he returned to Parliament as the Speaker in May 2001, a full lunch was served in paper plates with plastic forks and spoons.
“Consistent agitation by MPs led to the improvements in the presentation and quality that now prevail. The past and current governments have approved the parliamentary budgets after detailed consideration. It is hypocrisy to complain now,” Ramkarran noted.
WHOLE DUCK & EGGS
Ramkarran stated that peculiar situations arise. He said meals are chosen with an eye to the broad dietary choices that prevail in Guyana for religious and cultural reasons, but special consideration may apply to individual MPs.
He stated that some years ago, one MP informed the Clerk that for religious reasons he/she could only consume duck, and an entire duck at a time, prepared in a special way, which he/she indicated.
“The Clerk thought it odd but complied. The MP consumed the duck in two meals at one sitting,” Ramkarran stated. The former Speaker did not name the MP.
Another MP, he noted, learnt of the special treatment and demanded six curried boiled eggs per meal at every sitting.
According to Ramkarran, the Clerk again complied and soon, another MP heard of these peculiar requests, and demanded, more modestly, curried chicken.
“Fearing escalating demands, the Clerk then referred the matter to me as Speaker. I revoked his decisions, to the chagrin of the MPs, particularly the MP with the religious predilection for that popular member of the waterfowl species,” Ramkarran highlighted.
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