Nov 29, 2023
Nov 29, 2023
by Vinod Joseph
The Prime Minister of Tawa - 21
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Judy was as much delighted by the results of the election as Mash was. She had vaguely known that Mash was planning something with Urush’s help, but hadn’t known all details of the coup until Mash brought her up to speed the day before he announced the ministerial allotments at a press conference. Judy was getting the hang of Tawa. She started to read the Hepara Herald regularly. Her woman’s intuition told her that Peelee was not to be trusted. She thought that Vikan was a nice guy, very polite and all that. She wasn’t sure what to make of Horan who had the most passive face ever possible for a politician. But of one thing she was certain. She did not want to meet Fennee ever again. Now that Horan had been sidelined, it was quite possible that she would not run into Fennee again.
Judy and Heather attended the swearing in ceremony which was held in the Central Secretariat building. Urushambo and Barbara were there as well. The Hepara Herald described them as family friends of the Prime Minister. After the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tawa had sworn in Mash and his ministers, the ministers and all the invitees went off to have high tea.
The chiefs of all four services, the army, navy, air force and the marines, were also present. They came up to Mash along with Nedeem Balvanee, the new Interior and Defence Minister, to formally pay their respects, but kept their distance afterwards. They did not look particularly unhappy with the new Defence Minister and Mash saw all four of them chatting with Nedeem. It was as if they wanted to tell Mash, ‘we’ll do our jobs, you do yours and we’ll all be fine.’ Mash wondered how close the army chief was to General Naranin. He must have been a subordinate of General Naranin when he was in power. The Army was the only service that really mattered. The Navy was in reality the coast guard whose main function was to rescue fishermen and prevent smugglers from using the eastern coast of Tawa for any of their nefarious activities. The Air Force did not have more than three or four transport planes and a dozen helicopters. The Marines had been formed to satisfy General Naranin’s vanity, but in the absence of a half-decent Navy or any amphibious landing capability, it was a toothless force of not more than a few hundred soldiers who had been sent on deputations from the Army. The Army was quite huge for a country the size of Tawa. It had more than eighty thousand men under arms, most of whom had not received more than a couple of months’ basic training. A rabble in uniform, a foreign journalist had once described them. But with the wrong leader at their helm, they could do a lot of damage. ‘I’m going to keep a very close watch on you bastards,’ Mash promised himself.
After the service chiefs moved off, various ministers and MPs clustered around Mash. Kemon Padusee came up to him and congratulated him. Mash remembered Kemon from his father’s days. He was a tall lanky man with a ready laugh that never reached his eyes. Kemon had the air of a man who expected to be rebuffed. But Mash went through the motions with Kemon.
‘I know you won’t believe this Maheshdas-raan, but I am so glad that you are back in Tawa. I really am,’ Kemon told him.
‘I believe you, Kemon-raan,’ Mash told him without batting an eye-lid.
Kemon was not the big fish who killed his father. The man responsible was now in Switzerland, breathing the clean air of the Swiss Alps in Interlaken or Lucerne or going for long walks along Lake Geneva. He would bide his time for the moment, but he would get General Naranin back to Tawa to face justice. One day he would do that.
Mash was throwing a party for various foreign diplomats the next day. He was expecting a decent turnout, with many diplomats based in Colombo, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore expected to fly in for the ceremony. The diplomatic reception was one where Mash could use his western education and training to his advantage. It would obviously be a relief to the diplomats to be able to deal with Mash, rather than a person like Horan or even Kemon. And Judy could wear some of her normal clothes. There was that expensive dress which she had bought from the House of Fraser to be worn at an occasion just like this.
Mash had personally supervised the seating arrangements. He wanted to sit next to the American ambassador, a jovial Californian named Ted Hoffman. Ted had paid him a visit immediately after the election results had come in. It was hard not to like Ted. Ted was a self-made billionaire who had set up his own firm at the age of thirty and retired at the age of fifty. But Ted found retired life to be a bore. So he had become a fundraiser for a presidential candidate who happened to win the US elections. The diplomatic post at Tawa had been Ted’s reward. Ted and his wife had been at Tawa for five years now. It was a quiet life without too many social events to attend. The most important skill which Ted brought to his job was his ability to listen to people. Ted had listened to what Mash had to say. Give me some time to repay the money we owe you, Mash had asked.
Mash knew that Tawa would be a tough sell to corporations willing to put in money to build factories and tourist resorts in Tawa. It would be easier to entice tourists and attract investments in tourist resorts once he had a peace treaty in place with the SFF. And he was determined to have that in place pretty soon. A ceasefire had already been declared by both parties. But even before that, could Ted please sound out his business contacts to find out if someone wanted to invest in Tawa? Enticing the first investment would not be easy. Once a high profile investment had been made, others would follow suit. Yes, the western markets were saturated and everyone was looking for a half-decent place to invest. Yes, Mash knew that better than anyone else. He hadn’t been a tax consultant at Halboroughs for nothing. One good high profile investment was all he wanted. Of course, he would be happy to provide tax breaks. For the first investor, he would go out of his way to make things happen. Once Tawa’s economy was in a decent shape, the first thing they would do was to repay the United States. No, Tawa would not borrow more money from the World Bank. What was the point? Without a peace treaty in place, it would not even be invested properly.
Mash did not expect Ted to have found an investor in a week’s time. But Ted would, in any event, have pride of place at his table.
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More by : Vinod Joseph