The comments made by Minister Cathy Hughes necessitate a response, given that she makes three completely erroneous claims, in attempting to respond to criticisms about spending under the APNU+AFC Coalition Government – criticisms that were voiced by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, in response to questions from the local media corps at his last news conference.
Firstly, the Minister distorts an issue that dealt with the spending under the budget head ‘dietary’ at the Parliament Office by attempting to make the issue about meals provided to Parliamentarians, Parliament staff and others present during sittings of the House. The problematic issue is not about spending on meals; rather it is about the spending on alcohol during the sittings.
Secondly, she is quoted by the Department of Public Information (DPI) as saying that: “I don’t know which lounge Mr. Jagdeo goes into, but the lounge I go into…that lounge does not have alcohol. There’s a range of teas, coffee, milo and there’s two sets of juices and there’s water.” The Minister is shameless in peddling this untruth. The reality, as known by all Parliamentarians, as well as Parliament staff – but unconfirmed by the members of the media who are not allowed in the Parliament lounge – is that at sittings of the National Assembly, since the APNU+AFC Coalition took office, there is a plethora of alcoholic beverages being served in the lounge. Minister Hughes only has to go back to a recent ‘drinking spree’ at Parliament office, where staffers of the Parliament Office were made to remain on duty to accommodate a ‘session’ that went into the wee hours of the morning.
Thirdly, Minister Hughes claims that Parliament usually concludes at 22:00 hours, but during budget debates, the sessions can run until 03:00 hours. I challenge the Minister to point to the last time this happened. Under the APNU+AFC Coalition Government, sittings that ran into the morning hours, to ensure the completion of substantial work to benefit Guyanese people, have become a thing of the past.
I find it strange that the Minister would talk about the “height of fake news” while she peddles untruths.
The fact is, and remains, that the primary objection about spending by the Parliament Office relates to the use of taxpayers’ monies to fund ‘drinking bills’ and this was a position made clear in response to queries from the media local corps on the use of taxpayers’ dollars.