HISTORY-making abounds in Parliament these days, but there is not likely to be anything that will quite match what was recorded in the Hansard on Tuesday.
“Excuse me, Madam President, I’m getting wet here,” said Social Development Minister Donna Cox in the Senate as she wiped her forehead and looked up at the ceiling. “There’s a leak.”
No one gainsays the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott)’s statement that there will always be issues to address with any new construction or restored building from time to time.
But the Red House was reopened in January last year. Back then, a leak made its presence known over the rotunda, hours after a grand reopening. A leak was also found in the Senate chamber and water blew under the door of the House chamber.
All of this after a restoration process that cost at least $441 million. That process itself had been dragging on since as far back as 2004, when Udecott first assumed responsibility for it.
As far as we can tell, the rain has been falling for a very long time in this country.
It defies belief that after so much effort and expense, so much planning and application of expertise, the authorities are unable to guarantee to members of the legislature that they will not get wet in Parliament if it rains.
What is worse is the fact that the leaks are not the only issue with the newly-restored premises.
A few months ago, one of the main gates fell down, injuring a police officer.
These incidents suggest there may well be other matters that have yet to come to the public’s attention.
Can there be any better indication of the need for our legislature to stop getting lost in distractions and internecine squabbles and instead attend to the basic issues in the country that need to be addressed?
Infrastructure is a huge problem in this country, with people protesting poor roads and inadequate water supply, and government buildings and facilities seemingly buckling daily under wear and tear.
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan has said $40 million in budget funds will be used to address the need for repairs to secondary, minor, agricultural and forestry access roads all over the country. But much more might be needed than that.
The maintenance of heritage buildings is definitely a complex matter, and it is good that Udecott has a crew standing by at the Red House.
But if events such as Tuesday’s can happen to the ultimate heritage building in the country, what can we expect of other, less prestigious heritage sites, notwithstanding recent private-sector tax incentives in the budget?
That water came down on the Parliament on Tuesday may well have been a blessing in disguise. Some might say it was because holy water is needed.