The Parliament Office is investigating a security breach after a woman, dressed in a Santa suit and ringing a bell, managed to storm into the parliament chamber as Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo was making his presentation during the debate on the 2018 national budget yesterday.
After a walkout by a majority of the government Members of Parliament (MPs), Jagdeo was minutes into his presentation when the sound of a ringing bell filled the chamber and the woman in the Santa suit, complete with full beard and a hat, emerged from a doorway to the right of the Speaker’s chair. “Ho, ho, ho,” she said, while ringing the bell incessantly.
The woman’s unannounced arrival clearly startled Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Barton Scotland and left MPs confused. The Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, who is responsible for the security of the Chamber, quickly held on to the woman, who had a dictionary in hand and led her back out.
However, despite the fact that presidential guards were standing there, no attempt was made to arrest her. Government MPs standing on the corridor appeared in shock and attempted to ascertain what was happening.
It appeared that with all the confusion, the security personnel did not know what to do and they kept inquiring from each other what was going on, while the woman managed to exit the compound through a back gate. Again police officers who were standing in the compound made no attempt to detain her. She made her way down Hadfield Street before turning right into High Street and disappearing from sight.
Subsequently, a row erupted over how she managed to make her way into the building in the first instance.
Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs described the incident as a “serious security breach,” while opposition MP Anil Nandlall opined that the intent was to physically attack Jagdeo.
Isaacs told reporters that the Parliament Office’s security was investigating the incident and that the Speaker was scheduled to meet with members of the Parliamentary Management Committee to discuss it.
“Apparently, the person came in properly dressed and changed his or her clothes in the MPs washroom. So the person didn’t’ come through the gate dressed in Santa’s uniform. All that was done inside of the Public Buildings,” Isaacs noted.
The authorised entrance for public use is at the north of the Public Buildings, where visitors walk through an electronic scanning machine and the uniformed policemen and women check bags for suspicious material. This is also the authorised exit from the building.
Told that no attempt was made by security officials to arrest the unidentified person, the Clerk informed that he was told by the police at the Public Buildings that a stranger “snatched the person and whisked him or her out… The person was escorted out of the compound by another stranger.”
Isaacs, while not wanting to given an opinion about the explanation given to him, added that the police sergeant at the Public Buildings related that he was running and shouting for the two persons to stop but to no avail.
There are no security cameras at the location and according to Isaacs efforts will be made to change this next year. He noted that the incident was unprecedented.