Chapter 60 - An Alternative Version

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 60

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Many months later, when Mash reviewed the events of February, he was unable to decide if Nedeem had intentionally double crossed him, or if he was just an incompetent fool. Ultimately, the entire blame lay with the Prime Minister, Mash knew. But he was only the Prime Minister and was entitled to rely on people who reported to him, wasn’t he? No, not according to the newspapers or according to the opposition parties which staged large demonstrations calling on the Prime Minister and his Interior and Defence Minister to take responsibility for their mistakes and resign.

Mash got to hear of the shooting of the Seeda ruffian from Nedeem. A bunch of Seedas who were protesting in front of the garrison’s compound had started firing into the garrison compound. The guards on duty had returned fire and one of the protestors was killed. When the demand to handover the soldier was made, Mash called a meeting of the cabinet. The Army Chief of Staff was also invited to attend.

‘There’s no way we can handover the soldier,’ all the ministers said. ‘It was not his fault. He was only acting in self defence.’

The Army Chief of Staff did not even bother to repeat that. You civilians don’t appreciate what we do. I won’t be surprised if you people decide something stupid and destroy the morale of our soldiers, the scornful look on his face seemed to say.

‘Why don’t we offer to hold an enquiry?’ Mash asked. ‘Will that placate them?’

‘It might. But with Seedas you never know. They are war mongers by instinct.

‘Why don’t you make that offer to them? We’ve got nothing to lose,’ Mash said, more as an order than a suggestion.

‘We’ve got nothing to lose, other than a loss of face. We’ll look silly, stupid and weak in front of everyone. Everyone! Not just the Seedas,’ the Army Chief of Staff said.

Nedeem quickly took the Army Chief’s side. ‘I agree. I don‘t think we should make such an offer at all. A bunch of protestors try to kill our soldiers and we agree to hold an enquiry!’

Dimanan and the new Minister for Land Transport and Shipping sat on the fence, waiting to see which way the wind blew. Vikan, on the other hand, sided with Nedeem.

‘Maheshdas-raan, please don’t compromise with these terrorists. Anyone who kills a terrorist should be given a medal. There should be no question of holding an enquiry.’

Mash did not insist on implementing his suggestion at that meeting. Later when the Seeda MPs offered to disperse the mob if the Tawan government agreed to try the guilty soldier on their own, Mash decided to accept the offer. ‘Now they are offering to us what I was willing to offer them. Let’s offer to hold an enquiry. If the enquiry throws up any evidence against the soldier, we’ll try him as well,’ he told Nedeem. ‘And I want you to make that offer immediately’

However, Nedeem did not make that offer immediately. Instead, after he walked out of Mash’s room, he called up the Army Chief of Staff and informed him what Mash was planning to do. The Army Chief, accompanied by the Chiefs of the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, called on Mash to reconsider his decision.

‘Maheshdas-raan, how can you accept an offer made by the MPs who have defected to the enemy? Those bastards took an oath on our constitution and now they are helping the SFF. How can we even consider such an offer?’ the Army Chief demanded of Mash.

Mash was furious with Nedeem for having spoken to the Army Chief when he was not supposed to. ‘I don’t care who makes the offer as long as it is sensible. I intend to accept the Seedas’ offer,’ Mash angrily told the service chiefs.

‘In that case Maheshdas-raan, please allow all four of your Service Chiefs to resign before you do so,’ the Air Force Chief told Mash. Mash was forced to back down.

‘We’ll handle this crisis and keep you posted, Prime Minister-raan,’ the Army Chief told Mash as he left with the other three chiefs. Later when Mash was informed by Nedeem that the Seeda mob had started to scale the walls of the compound, he called up the military HQ and demanded to speak to the Army Chief.

‘Things are under control Maheshdas-raan. Our helicopter gun-ships have been sent in for the second time.’

‘Tell them not to fire at the crowd. Ask them to just scare the mob.’

‘And how does one scare the mob without firing at them?’ the Army Chief angrily asked Mash.

‘And why were they sent for the first time?’ Mash asked.

 ‘To drop food supplies,’ the army chief replied. That was news to Mash.

‘Did you order helicopters to drop food supplies inside the compound?’ Mash asked.

‘I guess you would rather we wait till our soldiers die of starvation,’ the army chief bitterly responded.

When news of the helicopters being forced to fire into the crowd to prevent it from scaling the walls of the compound was relayed to Mash, he knew that it was all over. An emergency cabinet meeting was convened.

‘We need to send a relief column to Eko if we are to prevent our soldiers from being massacred to a man,’ Nedeem said in a heavy voice. Mash could do nothing, but quietly acquiesce.

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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