The Prime Minister of Tawa – 46
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There was silence for almost ten seconds and then Dimanan burst out, ‘Peelee-raan and Horan-raan jointly own half the shares in the insurance company! Peelee-raan’s cousin and Horan-raan’s son manage their investment for them!’
‘Is that true Peelee-raan?’ Mash asked Peelee.
‘No, it is not. My cousin and Horan-raan’s son jointly own fifty percent of the insurance company. My cousin is a businessman. Horan-raan’s son is a businessman. They are good friends and they have teamed up to invest in the insurance company when it was being privatised. Just because we are in politics, why should our family members be prevented from making investments or doing business? And that’s none of any body’s business.’ Peelee looked around him angrily as he spoke.
‘And how did your cousin and Horan-raan’s son get half a billion puvees to buy fifty percent of the insurance company? And why is their ownership not being made public?’ Why does the House of Wong claim to have total ownership when it owns only fifty percent?’ Dimanan would not let go.
‘That’s enough both of you,’ Mash said. The entire room became very quiet. ‘Dimanan, there will be no witch-hunt against the Hepara Herald. Is that understood?’
Dimanan did not reply, but merely shook his head and went back to looking down at his feet.
Mash did not manage to get out of the central secretariat building till five forty-five. I hope they start the play late, he prayed. There was no earthly reason why the play should not be delayed. So many things in Hepara got delayed every day. The play could also be delayed. In any event he would get to Heather’s school before the play got over. The ride took well over thirty minutes. Just when his car drove into Heather’s school’s compound, his phone rang. It was Vikan.
‘Vikan, is this really important?’
‘Please forgive me Maheshdas-raan, but I found out something.’
‘What’s it Vikan?’ Mash asked as he opened the car door. A bunch of teachers and a few students were waiting to receive him. Mash gave them a vacant smile and then frowned as Vikan said something.
‘Just repeat that Vikan,’ he said as his security guard opened the door for him. Mash got out of the car. A student came forward and garlanded him.
‘The Hepara Herald story was planted by Peelee-raan.’
‘Hold on,’ Mash said. He held up his right hand as if he were a traffic warden and got back into the car, the rose garland still around his neck.
‘How do you know all this?’ Mash shut the car door and sat back in his seat. The teachers and students waited outside.
‘Philip Zheng came to see me,’ Vikan said. ‘He swears that this is the mischief of Peelee-raan.’
‘I see. And how does Philip Zheng know?’
‘He says he paid some money to a few people who work for the Hepara Herald and they told him.’
‘So, what do we do now?’
‘I don’t know Maheshdas-raan!’
‘Vikan, thanks for this. Let me think it over and do something. Okay?’
Mash wrinkled his brow and thought. If Peelee had actually planted a story against one of his colleagues, then it would not be long before he did something similar to Mash himself. He ought to fire Peelee. But if he did that, Horan would take it to heart. He might even quit his post as the general secretary. Let them quit, Mash told himself. He would appoint a new general secretary and a new minister for land transport and shipping.
Mash decided to seek Urush’s advice. He called up Urush from his car.
‘Urush, Vikan tells me that today’s story in the Hepara Herald was a plant by Peelee. I am tempted to fire him. Shall I? Peelee and Horan in one go.’
‘No Mash No. This is not a good time to do that. They could join the PDA and then claim that you dismissed them since they asked for Dimanan’s corrupt head.’
‘Let them. What does it matter?’
‘If they say that at this stage, they may be believed.’
‘So, what should I do?’
‘Keep them on. After a few months, you can fire them both. Not today. Not till this dies down.’
Mash reflected on Urush’s advice for a few seconds. ‘Makes sense. Right oh! Got to go.’
He got out of the car once more. The teachers and the students had polite smiles on their faces. The security guard managed to keep a poker face. Were the teachers and the students standing by when he was on the phone to Urush? It didn’t matter. He was the Prime Minister. These things happened.
‘I hope the play is not over,’ Mash told the teachers.
‘Unfortunately, Maheshdas-raan, it is. We could not delay the play because ….’
‘Why didn’t you delay it by a few minutes?’ Mash asked them angrily.
‘We have Prince __________ in the play as well and Prince __________ and Princess ___________ had come to watch him perform.’
There was nothing much to be said. The miserable royal family always took precedence over him.
‘Where’s my daughter?’ They led him into the building and through a corridor which was filled with students and their parents. Before he reached anywhere, he was Heather and Judy walk towards him. Heather still had some make-up on her face. Judy was carrying a crown made of leaves in his hand.
‘Honey, I’m so sorry that I was late. You won’t believe it. I did my best to get here.’
‘Dad, I do believe you. I’m sure you did your best to get here. You’ve been doing so much for the family recently, haven’t you?’ One of Heather’s teachers nodded at Heather, missing her sarcasm completely.
Mash, Judy and Heather went home together in silence.
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