The Prime Minister of Tawa – 42
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Rhymala seemed to be the only minister who was at work in Seedaland when news of the agreement with Bendron Corp filtered in. Rhymala heaved a sigh of relief and called Hanoleeyan. The phone rang and rang, but no one picked it up. It was quite unlikely that Hanoleeyan was in his office. His mobile phone was switched off as well. Rhymala walked out of her office and sauntered around the building. A few ministers were at their desks but attending to matters which were definitely not matters of state. A sentry stood outside Hanoleeyan’s office, rifle in hand.
‘Is he in?’ Rhymala asked the sentry, nodding at the name plate on the door.
‘No, he is not.’
‘Where has he gone?’
‘Must have gone home, to be with his wife. Where else would he go?’ The man then made a dirty joke of it, but Rhymala pretended not to hear him.
‘Do you know when he will come back?’
‘Whenever he is through with whatever he is doing at home with his wife.’
Rhymala was tempted to tell the sentry off but decided not to. He was a man in his early forties and must have known Hanoleeyan for many years in the SFF. Rhymala walked out of the building. All the minister’s vehicles were parked in front of the building. Autonomous Council of Seedaland, Central Secretariat, the large blue lettering on top of the building proclaimed. Is this what we fought for? Rhymala wondered. To replicate here in Eko all that they have in Hepara? Rhymala walked over to her vehicle. Her driver was dozing off in the front. Rhymala tapped on the window, and he woke up. ‘To the Big Chief’s house,’ Rhymala instructed him.
Hanoleeyan’s bungalow was not very far away and Rhymala reached there in a few minutes. There were two sentries at the gate, but they let Rhymala’s car drive through and park inside. Inside Hanoleeyan’s house, Rhymala waited in a large guest room for around thirty minutes before Hanoleeyan made his appearance, the top buttons of his kiree still undone. He looked as if he had just woken up from his sleep.
‘So, what’s up?’ Hanoleeyan asked Rhymala.
‘The agreement with that American company has been signed. It has been announced.’
Hanoleeyan grunted. ‘Have they said that the factory will be inside Seedaland?’
‘Yes, they have.’
‘Good. Maybe we will have lasting peace.’ Hanoleeyan did not look too happy about it.
‘You would rather pick up your rifle and fight, wouldn’t you? You are bored to death, aren’t you?’ Rhymala asked Hanoleeyan with a smile. To her shock, Hanoleeyan did not deny it, but merely gave her an embarrassed smile. ‘Nothing of that sort. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk and reading files and signing papers.’
‘So how will the Council function if the Big Chief will not sign any papers?’ Rhymala asked Hanoleeyan teasingly.
‘Oh, I’ve asked them to come here in the evening and get my signature if they need it.’
‘You mean, you want to convert this into your office. So, shall we sell off that Council building? We should get some good money for that.’
Hanoleeyan gave her another one of his wan smiles.
‘And you will soon get tired of working from here as well. And then you can shift your office to one of your old hideouts.’
Hanoleeyan would not be drawn into an argument, and he remained silent, leaning back on the sofa.
‘How’s your wife doing?’ Rhymala asked politely.
‘She’s fine. Let me call her. You haven’t seen her in a while, have you?’
‘Please don’t bother your wife. I’ve come here to discuss the dam project with you.’
Hanoleeyan was about to call his wife but stopped when Rhymala said she was there on work.
‘We ought to find out from Maheshdas-raan details of the villages that will be submerged and speak to the people in advance. It’s better if they hear it from us than from any other sources.’
‘All in good time. They have just announced the project. It’ll be a while before they do anything about it. Frankly, I don’t expect to see that factory in my lifetime.’
‘Don’t be too sure. These large companies are very different from the government. They have to make a profit and pay their shareholders. They tend to work very fast and get things done.’
‘So, what would you like me to do?’ Hanoleeyan gave every impression of wanting to terminate the conversation and get back to his bedroom.
‘Can you please call up Maheshdas-raan and ask him for more details of the dam to be built?’
‘Why don’t you do it?’
‘How can I? I am the minister for technology.’
‘So, who should be in charge of this thing?’
‘I don’t really know. The minister for industry?’
‘Why don’t you take charge if you are… since you are so concerned. Find out from Hepara what’s going to happen and...’
‘When we were negotiating, they did say that four or five villages will be submerged and that they would resettle the people who have to leave.’
‘There you go. You already know that. So, why are you so worried?’
‘I’d like to know which villages are being submerged and when the people should be evacuated.’
‘I’m sure there’s lot of time for all that. They have to start building the dam first, don’t they? We can ask the people to move when the water level goes up.’
Rhymala sighed. Hanoleeyan did not seem to be particularly concerned about matters of governance. ‘I’ll find out from Hepara more details of this dam. And then I might visit the villages that will be affected. I’ll let you know before I go to those villages.’
‘Do that,’ Hanoleeyan said with a yawn and got up, ready to walk away.
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