Welcome me back with a stiff one, cheerful reader, I’m coming to this party a little late. While I was away on vacation, naively assuming that the Government had matters well under control during vacation time, it seems that the powers that be have been at the brandy snifter on the sly.
There I was raising a toast to good old Mangy and his enterprising Budget when someone went and kicked the bucket of sick over well and good. On closer inspection (of the kicker, not the contents of the bucket) it transpires that the thrower of spaghetti at the ceiling – not to mix metaphors, much less sundry types of sick stuff – is no less than Maithri.
Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle – or a lapsed imbiber of single malts suffering from a bad case of monkey shoulder (look it up, do.). Just when you thought coalition politics couldn’t mix a headier cocktail, someone goes and invents a new party game.
Having been at hand to witness the lurid happenings, you don’t need a rehash of the sordid details. It seems that every monkey and his uncle are up to date with the res. But now that the sick has hit the fan and the powers that be are busy or appearing to be busy cleaning up the splashdown, it’s worth revisiting the scene of the vomitus.
Man up, and try not to puke, as yours truly runs an alternative scenario by you. I’m all for interrogating the circumstances with a short straw called ‘the hermeneutic of suspicion’, so pardon me if I stir the cocktail in such a way as to leaven nothing unshaken.
First the conventional wisdom. Mangala’s “mangala aya-veya” proposes liberalising the alcohol purchasing regimen – much to the delight of the town soaks. Maithri baulks at the prospect, feeling the displeasure of his conservative supporters who give him black marks and black looks at such an appalling prospect for our civilised ‘sadaachaaraya’ and ‘aithihaasika sangskruthiya’.
Screwing up his courage to the sticking point, the Prez takes steps to reverse the liberalisation with a neat two-step that includes not having read a gazette he signed in the first place and then reversing the order he never made by signing a new gazette he signed as a second thought. Much to the Premier’s amusement and the ire of the fairer sex in the city, all hell breaks loose in the liberal quarter of civil society.
The President is condemned for his patriarchal approach to patronage. The Prime Minister is commiserated with that his liberal agenda is not appreciated by the Neanderthals who pass for national leaders. And journalists who can allegedly be bought for a bottle of the ‘XO’ hooch we produce in ample volume hesitate to empathise with a visibly crestfallen Finance Minister whose budgetary policies called for these cock-ups in the first place.
Then the conspiracy theory. An ambitious President was getting too big for his boots. His stern take on the misdemeanours of his erstwhile coalition partners was sending strong signals out to the riven party he evidently intended to reunite while simultaneously setting off alarm bells with the green camp.
A former Prez was sitting indulgently on the sidelines casting aspersions at the incumbent’s asking the question about term limits and such stuff, rattling sabre in the most unconscionable way for a former dictator who was unceremoniously ejected from an office whose perpetuity he clearly craved at the end of two terms.
The greens were feeling the heat from a hotting up probe on the bond issue as it was becoming abundantly clear that the elephant in the room was their perennial party leader.
Something had to be done. Say, why not inveigle His Executive Personage into a quick two-step – open mouth, insert foot – to stave off some of the heat… at least in the short run up to LG polls? Yes, let’s give him some rope… and the dope will hang himself on it. Easy as piña colada with a pretty straw umbrella!
But that’s not how the common or garden theory goes. Every mother’s daughter who likes a little self-determination when it comes to tickling one’s own tonsils was up in arms over the sheer paternalism of it all. As if being patronising and two-faced wasn’t bad enough in a head of state, the poor man in the hot seat was reminded of his unsalutary past… from medieval punishments for discarding one’s supportive underwear in public to asking the wrong question about his presidency’s expiry dates.
Much ado about nothing, perhaps – even the fundamental rights issue spearheaded by eleven angry women (see their FR case for details of their umbrage and understanding of the law) may be a damp squib if the prohibition itself has been misunderstood. For the ban on women buying booze in taverns may not be as prohibitive as far as supermarkets and hotel restaurants go.
Be that as it may, it was enough to detract attention from the more pressing issues of the day. Which is why I’d like you to take a little test – think of it as a breathalyser, except you’re not in the driving seat… to see how sane and sober we have been about the whole brouhaha.
If Presidents are P, and Term limits T, also Abuse of power A, ask why we don’t abolish the PTA, but don’t beg the question, as some presidents have recently done… (NOTE: The time limit for this question is five minutes, NOT six, as some askers of questions have recently assumed.) Discuss the future of the executive presidency in the light of patriarchy, paternalism, and political patronage in the negative sense of the concept. If none of this makes sense, ask yourself who might think of his own lack of access to and absence of success in securing the plum as such sour grapes so as to inveigle his drinking partner into a colossal gaffe that serves his own future prospects well.
B. Short Answers
I. Are people never going to learn even a sobered up executive presidency must go – patriarchy and paternalism included? (If NO, why not – why in heaven’s name not, you parliament of jackasses?)
II.“Kawda Horaa?” (NB that the premier is exempt from being named or shamed.) If you can’t answer that, try this: “Kawda Kapatiyaa?” (Refer at will to the PRECIFAC report. Rumours and speculation about the role of Central Wankers, er Bankers, in bankrolling election campaigns while feathering their own nests over the decades under this Government as much as previous regimes will not be tolerated. It’s simply begging the question, isn’t it?)
C.Multiple Choice Questions
a. Are you ready even now to abolish the executive presidency* altogether?
- Don’t know, because I might still have an outside chance at securing the plum
- Can’t say yet, because my party leader wants another stab at it, and that means perks for me too, because crumbs off the exec’s table are better than no bread
[*Alternatively, are you prepared to hang, draw and quarter the Finance Minister? Or drink to the health of the Excise Commissioner? What are you prepared to do, O eleven angry women?]
b. Begging the question means…
- Asking for it (NOTE… NOT asking for a wee dram of a drinkie over the counter, disguised as a Scotsman, when you’re actually a lady in your own drag, so to speak)
- Boru hila, êka thamai mamath kiwwé
- Concluding that your answer is correct before the question is asked
- Denying even a superior court the right to make up its own mind with your premature ejaculations (shh, don’t mention the AG.’s Dept.) that prove a damp squib in the end
c. Could you identify the real cause of power corrupting?
- Ah, why, it’s all that booze which makes one hang out of windows when ousted
- By the way, let us deny that our party favourites are crooked because they are not criminals; by all means let us affirm that dirty campaign financing and permissive money laundering practices are par for the course under good gubernatorial policies: because it doesn’t pay to kill the golden goose who lays eggs for the blue-eyed boys who support our election campaigns
- CBK! She is the sacred cow we don’t care to blame for anything anymore; not even the temperance movement that is not sweeping the ranks of aristocratic women or civil-rights activists
- Democracy (“I’ll drink to that…” – Winston Churchill)
D.Fill In the Blanks
I. Aiyo, _____ (Sirisena/Cicero/Caesar/Nero)
II.Loyal to _____ (Nation/State/Self/Royal)
III.Mahinda must be laughing all the way to _____ (a Loo/the Bank/a House by an Oya/that third – or fourth – term). Mangala might be doing the same up to _____ (his neck/his next budget)
IV.A liberal is _____ (a loose drinker/a stinker of a cynical criminal who lets others carry the can for his cause/someone who insists you’re free to do as he or she says)
V. Women are _____ (voters, too/VIPs in these polls)
“Power tends to _____ (check/cancel/corrupt/intoxicate), and absolute power corrupts _____ (absurdly/absolutely/unconstitutionally). Great men are almost always ____ (drunk/great/good/bad) men. There is no greater heresy than that the office _____ (saves/shows up/sanctifies/sozzles) the holder of it.”
One last thing
I might be a bit woozy on the big picture of what went down with the whole alcohol ban business. But I do know that even the most egregious mistake-making politicos are playing for the highest stakes in a game that hasn’t gone away since the plum of the presidency downed one for the road.
Since conspiracy theories and alternative interpretations of the conventional wisdom are generally laughed out of court, I won’t even begin to ask why on earth the likes of Mangala would even bother to slop the pail of archaic laws when women desirous of buying alcohol were doing fine sans his own brand of paternalistic reform, anyway. There are charitable commentators who cite his desire to rectify an anomalous law that discriminated unconstitutionally against women, while others sceptically attribute it to mammon and the hungry belly of Treasury coffers being swelled by unladylike imbibers.
However, with all due to respect to any politico keen to persevere with a flagging reform agenda, may I say sincerely (Cheers! Here’s to all that!) – Bottom’s up, lads… we’ve come this far, but there’s a long way to go. Therefore if it’s women rights and best interests we’re truly concerned about, let’s make the LG polls not about winning the favour of the fairer sex – but truly safeguarding their health and the wealth they bring to the nation-state, to say nothing of the shekels they rake in to treasury coffers.
(A senior journalist, the writer is Editor-at-large of LMD. He has made a career out of mixing business with pleasure and leaving our elected leaders to kick the bucket or clean up the mess.)