1st of 3 reports by anonymous
Thursday October 26: 2:00 to 2:30 PM
This was our third attempt to enter parliament and there was some difficulty involved. The second time we came was at 10:00 am this morning, only to find Parliament closed. What kind of office opens at 2:30? Our Parliament! And we were told to come back at 2:00. This was a good thing because I realised why it is difficult to access parliament sometimes.
On the first attempt, we were told that the public gallery was full. And sure enough, there were two school groups waiting at the public entrance today at 2 PM. One of the parliamentary clerks was not happy about the numbers but confirmed that they would all fit. On entry into the chamber with the students, we found that there were about two other school groups already seated inside waiting. The seats filled up quickly, but there were a few random seats that were used to accommodate the whole group.
Later, another group of students filed in and were seated on the opposite side of the chamber, where invited guests of MP’s or parliament sit. So it appears that there’s a crush of students most days from about 2 to 4 PM and officials thus lock out members of the public from attending. This appears to dissipate from after 4 PM as students are taken back to their schools.
From 2 to 2:30 we sit quietly with the students facing an empty chamber. There are nervous coughs in the galley as we observe clerks of the house walk in, test the audio equipment, bring in the copies of the order paper, and other tasks as they wait for the session to start.
At 2:25 a bell rings (sounds like a school bell) and the doors of parliament are opened. MP’s file into the house and most stop to pick up copies of the order paper at the door. Women MP’s also have to leave their handbags at the entrance. As a sergeant carrying a ceremonial mace walks in, the whole room, parliamentarians and public, stand up at attention, and he is followed by speaker Kaparo. He goes to his seat and the mace is held up, MP’s on both sides bow in tune then it is laid down. Speaker Kaparo leads MP’s in words in a short prayer before they all take their seats. And the session starts..