The opening ceremony of the 3rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Asia Regional Conference held at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo yesterday where the Speaker of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) Meira Kumar was the guest of honour was a nightmare not only for journalists but also for invitees.
While journalists were kept waiting for more than four hours before the conference began, the bigger mess-up was seen in the seating arrangements. Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody had to leave the venue as he had no seat.
The lack of protocol was so shocking that delegates, diplomats and special invitees were seen vying for a place to sit and in one instance an employee of the Indian High Commission had to stand by and safeguard two seats for senior members of his mission.
The confusion was such that many were unaware the Indian Parliament’s Speaker had walked into the hall and was seen seated alone at the head table for a while till Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratna who was the chief guest was heralded in by Kandyan dancers and drummers who could barely manage to squeeze through the narrow ally of the hall.
When it was time for the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, the compere Arun Dias Bandaranaike read out 14 names of those who would be lighting the lamp but not before asking the cameraman present not to intrude too close to the lamp due to the “problematic space.”
As to why the smallest hall available at the hotel was selected to hold the conference when the two other bigger halls were both available last mornings is puzzling. Instead the ballroom has been arranged for participants to have lunch.
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