March 03, 2006

fountain of beneficence

Wholesome apologies to the distinguished half dozen members of the cabinet and members of the parallel advisory cabinet, and to the uncabineted VIP’s, and above all to the authorities that ordered these and other cabinets, for the lukewarm and unexcited reaction shown by the mainstream to the new royally ordered fountain. We regret this act of ingratitude to a noble gratuity, as some people prove themselves adamantly unreceptive to surprise offerings, be it a constitution or a fountain, from the rulers to the ruled. We also wish to take this opportunity to humbly plead with you to properly baptize it as Al-Fateh Fountain.

As in other instances, the spiteful and spoutful will jump on the occasion to make a political splash if not a theory out of a watery thing. As per habit, they will exploit the plight of the population who can’t tap into a drizzle of water on weekends for an ablution for a prayer’s command, to demand water towers for the affected islanders rather than a fountain in strange proximity to guested mariners of another strategic command. But we are all glad that the symbolism of the occasion is lost on them.

In a way, to govern is to hydraulically engineer (both belong to the science of fluid power), and as such a fountain can be a good model of the mediating processes at work in a constitutional ownedship. One has only to recall that parliament, in its original and ideally unadulterated form before it got deviated to unruly role, was a “parlement”, or spouting place, for the commoners. Like a fountain, it is assembled out of a reservoir, pump and hump, control valves, and spraying nozzles, to put out a delightful, clime moisturizing show for all. Likewise, the quality of intake is crucial and a mechanism for filtering out as much incoming impurities as possible must be in place. You have ultimate and flexible control over hours and periods of operation, switching it off and on at will, or on special occasions when high power dignitaries are in town, or tout its beauty when you are overseas. As for the populace, they can do their pilgrimage, close their eyes and toss their coins and dreams at it, and wait for the lord of the fountain to answer them. No blasphemy is intended here, but if the closing of eyes and the beseeching is done in right bow and pitch and bisht, then the odds are actually much higher for the commoners' wishes to come true.

Who said reform in our part of the world is hot air? Nothing could be further from the truth’s misty and dewy shore.

cabinet affairs

Speaking of cabinety but dry matters, the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs has been making many headlines of late. Last week, he announced that all is set for electronic voting; a move that will certainly please tens of thousands of newly naturalized islanders everywhere. Why bother to travel in or cross the causeway to cast a piece of paper for your favourite candidate, when you can do it all from the comfort of your living room anywhere. Not computer-literate? No problems, the chiefs of your tribes will be able and willing help, and may even do it for you. Just hand them your username and password.

And today, he is again on first page refusing to take a no for an answer. You may recall that the Civil Service Bureau -in uncharacteristic move- decided to poll the public sector employees on shifting the weekend to Friday-Saturday instead of the current Thursday-Friday. The results are in, and 72 % of the employee preferred things as they stand now. A result berated by the Minister as reflecting sheer ignorance on the part of the employees of their better interests and the higher interest of the country. So, the honourable Minister is refusing to honour the referendum he commissioned. (The govt was muted over the result for a while until pressed over it). It may very well be the last time they come to ask for your opinion about anything.


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