Feb 27, 2024
Feb 27, 2024
by Vinod Joseph
The Prime Minister of Tawa – 50
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Fortunately for Mash, Horan and Peelee were in town. Nedeem was not and neither was Dimanan. Vikan however was around. Nedeem and Dimanan had gone to visit their constituencies. Nedeem was supposed to return to Hepara in a day’s time. As for Dimanan, his secretary was not too sure when he would return.
‘It doesn’t matter. I just want Horan-raan and Peelee-raan for this meeting.’
‘So, I needn’t invite Vikan-raan for this?’
‘No you idiot! My entire cabinet, whoever is available. And Horan-raan.’
‘So shall I schedule the meeting after Nedeem-raan and Dimanan-raan return?’
‘Kamel! How stupid can you get? I don’t want to wait for anyone. Okay. I want the meeting at the earliest. But if Horan-raan or Peelee-raan cannot make it, we’ll have to reschedule it. Okay?’
Kamel was a nice guy in his early forties, who was reasonably intelligent, except when he had a bad day. I shouldn’t shout at Kamel, Mash told himself. After all, Kamel was a civil servant who was quite high up in the service hierarchy. However, subscribing to London office manners in Hepara was easier said than done. For one, even though he spoke in Keenda, his thought process was in English. And so a lot of stuff got lost in translation. And then he was the Prime Minister. Which meant he was under a lot more stress than he had ever been when he worked in London. And finally, the chances of him being successfully sued by Kamel or any other government employee for harassment or bullying was practically zero. If it were possible for Kamel or others to sue him, would he be more careful with the way he treated them? Possibly. It couldn’t be helped. He was a man in a hurry. A man with a mission. There were a million things he had to do, and it didn’t make any sense to worry too much about his assistant’s feelings.
Kamel came back to report that Horan and Peelee had confirmed their attendance. Vikan had informed earlier than he would make it to the meeting whenever it was scheduled. Nedeem was indeed in his constituency but was planning to return to Hepara by nightfall. If Maheshdas-raan felt it was important, he would somehow make it back by five. At that Kamel gave Mash a quizzical look.
‘Tell him it’s important. I’d like him to be here.’
Kamel lingered around. ‘Nedeem-raan asked me what the meeting was about. He said he didn’t want me to ask you, but if I could tell him.’
‘Tell him you have no idea at all, but that I am very, very keen to have him here.’
Mash glanced at the report in front of him. It was a proposal by a private organisation which proposed to replicate Bangladesh’s success with the Grameen Bank in Tawa. If only the government would give them a grant of a five million puvees, they could get started. Give a few million puvees to one or two individuals with no track record and he would never see the money again. Mash sighed as he wrote REJECTED on the report and sent it back to Dimanan. For all he knew, the individual making the proposal was someone close to Dimanan.
The large clock on the wall struck twelve. Mash had to attend a function organised by the Women Police Officers Welfare Association at two in the afternoon. Altogether, there weren’t more than a few hundred policewomen in the whole of Tawa. Of which, not more than fifty were officers. Why couldn’t there be a single association for both the female constables and the officers? Was there an association of female constables at all? Mash grunted. The monsoon had abated, and it was very warm. He wished he could switch off the air conditioner and let some fresh air in. Another five hours and he would be able to put his cards his front of his cabinet colleagues. Anyone who failed to stand by him would have it. He would be out of the cabinet in no time at all.
Dimanan and Vikan would definitely stand by him. Nedeem was a bit of a mixed bag, a slippery customer. Nedeem did not get on well with either Horan or Peelee, but he still had some sort of understanding with them. Horan and Peelee had suffered the most under General Naranin. They had led the movement which caused the General to flee to Switzerland. Yet, they had never wanted to see General Naranin punished. They never wanted to have General Naranin’s men removed from their posts. If was as if they had made their own private peace with General Naranin. Like hell they had. They had no business making their own private peace with the Army. It was his father who was hanged like a common criminal. It was he and his mother who had to live on their own in the UK for so many years.
Time dragged on very slowly for Mash. Finally, when it was five, Mash walked out of his office and went to the meeting room. Vikan was already there. Within a short time, Horan and Peelee walked in, talking to themselves. Today, they were in a meeting room smaller than their usual one which was having a large plasma TV screen mounted on its wall. Horan and Peelee sat opposite Mash. Vikan sat to one side.
‘Shall we wait for another ten minutes to see if Nedeem-raan can make it?’
‘I was just telling Horan-raan that you are very good at holding meetings. When Horan-raan was the Prime Minister, he never organised meetings,’ Peelee said.
‘These guys never did what I asked them to do, even if they were important things. It was impossible to get them to come to a meeting room and follow an agenda.’
‘So how did you have discussions?’
‘Horan-raan would come to my room and sit on my table. Or I would go to his and perch on his table. And after that we would pick up the phone and tell others what we’d decided.’ Peelee roared with laughter.
‘He actually broke one of my tables, sitting on one of its edges,’ Horan burst into laughter as well. He and Peelee seemed to be in extraordinarily good spirits.
Nedeem walked in at a quarter past five. His kiree was slightly wet.
‘Is it raining outside?’ Horan asked. The curtains were drawn in the room and it was not possible to see through them.
‘Yes, it’s drizzling,’ Nedeem said.
Peelee got up and drew one of the curtains to see if it was indeed drizzling. It irritated Mash no end. Why did he have to have a minister who behaved like a schoolboy? Wasn’t it good enough that Nedeem said it was drizzling?
‘Gentlemen, shall we start?’ Mash said. Peelee went back to his seat.
‘Today morning,’ he began. Peelee was not paying attention. Instead, he had stood up and was readjusting his sarong. Mash waited for Peelee to sit down. Once he had General Naranin extradited, he would fire Peelee, he promised himself.
‘Today morning, I had a chat with our Attorney General. Osirial-raan wants to quit. He has tendered his resignation.’ Mash waited for his words to sink in. They didn’t have any impact.
‘He’s quite old isn’t he?’ Peelee said.
‘Yeah, he must have decided he wanted to stay at home,’ Nedeem added.
‘So, we need to replace him?’ Horan said. Horan’s eyes were darting to and fro. Did he suspect something? No, he was just smart enough to know that Mash was unlikely to call an urgent meeting to inform them that Osirial Mennee was quitting.
‘I already have a person in mind. A senior lawyer named Ibraheem Shimanee, one of the leading lights of the Hepara bar. Ibraheem-raan is a highly successful lawyer and he will actually be taking a huge cut in his income in order to serve the country.’
‘When did you say Osirial-raan quit? This morning?’ Horan asked. Though his face was relaxed, his eyes were not.
‘Yes. This morning.’
‘And you already have a successor in mind?’
‘Well, I know Ibraheem-raan slightly. I had picked him out as a possible successor to Osirial-raan if he were to quit at any point. As you’ve said, Osirial-raan is not the youngest lawyer in Tawa,’ Mash said with a laugh.
Nedeem and Vikan smiled at his joke. Horan and Peelee did not.
‘Anyway, let me come to the point. I have asked Ibraheem-raan to re-examine the government’s actions when General Naranin fled Tawa and went to Switzerland. You know, the statement you released saying are no charges or claims against General Naranin. Well, Ibraheem-raan thinks we can retract from that position. You know, declare that statement to be void. I know that you made it with the best of intentions. You wanted to avoid bloodshed. But Tawa cannot march to a new tomorrow unless we clean up our past. And for that we need to extradite General Naranin.’
‘Hold on, hold on. Are you saying that this Ibraheem is going to invalidate the statement I made? Who the heck is he to do that?’ Horan burst out with uncharacteristic anger.
‘He will be the Attorney General from the day after,’ Mash responded.
‘I thought you said Osirial-raan quit today morning, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, I did.’
‘And you have already decided on a new attorney general, and he has already decided to invalidate what I did?’ Horan pressed on.
‘Okay. Let me confess that I expected Osirial-raan to quit and for that purpose I’ve been talking to Ibraheem-raan.’
‘You’ve been doing all this behind our back!’ Peelee accused him. It was difficult to determine who was more offended – Horan or Peelee.
Mash looked to Nedeem for support. After all, he was supposed to be Horan’s enemy. But Nedeem sat there silently. Even Vikan seemed to be unhappy.
‘What’s wrong with you all?’ Mash burst out. This man killed my father. I want revenge. It’s as simple as that. I want to bring him back to this country, give him a fair trial and put him in jail for the rest of his life. I may not hang him. But I want him to suffer. And why shouldn’t he suffer? I suffered! You all have suffered! Why aren’t you all totally on my side in this matter?’
The ministers and Horan continued to be silent.
‘So, you are going to request Switzerland to extradite General Naranin?’
‘Yes I am. After Ibraheem-raan takes over and gives me an opinion that it was wrong to have assured Switzerland that Tawa does not have any charges against General Naranin, we will formally request Switzerland to send General Naranin back to us. It’ll take us a month to get all papers ready and send the request to Switzerland.’
‘Is this what you’ve called us here for?’ Horan asked him.
‘Yes. And I’d like your co-operation. I’d really like your co-operation.’ He clenched his hand and held them forward. But none of his ministers came forward to join hands with him. Vikan half got up, as if he wanted to support Mash, but since none of his colleagues showed any willingness to help Mash, he hesitated.
‘Vikan, do you support me?’ Mash asked Vikan.
‘Maheshdas-raan, I support you, Vikan said with a quiver in his voice.’
‘I don’t support you,’ Horan said with venom in his voice. ‘I think you are being stupid. I was the Prime Minister then. And I made a settlement in the interests of this nation. And I expect all future prime ministers to honour it.’ Horan walked out of the room. Peelee followed him.
Nedeem and Vikan stayed behind. ‘It’s okay Maheshdas-raan, they’ll cool down in a while,’ Vikan said. ‘But you should also proceed with caution. The Army will not be happy. And we’ve just had our peace deal with the SFF. In case, the SFF starts fighting, we need the Army on our side. And we have all that construction ….’
‘Stop blabbering Vikan,’ Mash said. They are all totally unconnected. Nedeem-raan, what do you feel?’
‘Maheshdas-raan, I feel you’ve bitten off too much. Let me advice you. Please don’t do this. Nothing good will come out of this.’
‘I’m sorry Nedeem-raan, but I will not change my mind.’ Mash walked out of the room. As he left the room, he shouted at Nedeem and Vikan. ‘Come what may, I will have that bastard extradited and punished.’
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More by : Vinod Joseph