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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
President Mahinda: the Maestro Blue Dyer
3 February 2007
The following joke appears in Freud’s classic work, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. I reproduce what the Father of Psychoanalysis had presented:
Hardly anyone can doubt that the metaphorical punch packed in this joke is of Freudian elegance. Blue being the color of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party currently led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, isn’t Freud’s joke an apt one where he had anticipated Mahinda the Maestro blue dyer. The Dukes who had rode into Mahinda’s dyeing parlor (or pragmatically tagged as a dying parlor, considering the decision of why a long-standing UNP bigwig, Mr.M.H.Mohamed, switched sides to ride into his sunset as a Minister) are political scavengers looking for food and shelter. They had arrived from various tents; UNP deserters, Indian Tamil representatives, Muslim representatives, and wise Mullahs of Buddha’s Order.
No one should underestimate President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s capacity to project himself as an equal opportunity dispenser of cabinet portfolios, irrespective of ethnic creed and prejudice. A cabinet portfolio was available for asking for anyone who is a current member of parliament (MP) since April 2004. One can feel only pity for V.Anandasangari, the self-made President of rump-TULF. He missed the bus, in haste. If he had timed his desertion, after being elected as a nominal MP from the Jaffna district, Anandasangari would also have been recognized as a Cabinet “Minister for Non violence, Tolerance and Ethnic Harmony” by President Mahinda.
The Parade of 52(and climbing) Cabinet Ministers
The January 28th announcement which released the list of 52 “Cabinet Ministers” was a beauty. The designed and designated names of the portfolios and not the personalities deserve a second look. Here is the complete list of 51 cabinet portfolios, assuming that the ‘Minister of Defence and Finance’ portfolio is held by President Mahinda, released by the Ministry of Information.
To place the number of Cabinet ministers in proper perspective, one should view the number in totality of Sri Lankan parliament’s legislators. Between 1947 and 1959, there were a total number of 101 MPs, and the mean number of Cabinet ministers were 14, for a ratio of 1:7. Between 1960 and 1977, the total number of MPs increased to 151, and Sirima Bandaranaike second term of office in 1970 (the longest, between 1960 and 1977) had 21 Cabinet ministers. Again the Cabinet ministers to total legislators ratio stood almost 1:7. In 1977, the total number of MPs increased to 168. And J.R.Jayewardene’s first Cabinet in 1977, had 24 Cabinet ministers; again the Cabinet ministers to total legislators ratio stood at 1:7. Now 30 years later, in 2007, the total number of legislators is 225 and the number of Cabinet ministers had climbed to 52 and subsequently 53. The Cabinet ministers to total legislators ratio had climbed to 1:4.
The Project of Cabinet Minister Deflation
There is no doubt that in a mega cabinet meeting, the presiding President Mahinda wouldn’t care who is holding which cabinet portfolio. One merit which would accrue by this type of dispensation is that no one, even mentally retarded patients, will hereafter take the Sri Lankan cabinet minister rank seriously. Looking from this angle, the on-going pet project of ‘Minister deflation’ carried out by President Mahinda may sound good in paper.
The Unlucky Nine MPs in the Government Ranks
The weekly satirical columnist who writes under the byline “Koththamalli” for the Colombo Daily Mirror, had the following comment on President Mahinda’s mega-cabinet.
But “Koththamalli” could say it only softly. If I were to state the reality, I’d put it this way. President Mahinda of the failed state had provided opportunities for the carrion feeders to feed on the rotting carcass of Sri Lanka. It is my hunch that these nine pitiable souls missed out, because the wordsmiths under the pay in Presidential Secretariat couldn’t make out new ministries. I have come forward to help these wordsmiths, gratis.
When we read the list of cabinet portfolios, one word – “Affairs” – stands out glaringly. Let me list all the “Affairs” I could count; Home Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs, Women’s Affairs, Youth Affairs, Consumer Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Cultural Affairs. So, how about creating some more “Affairs” portfolios of cabinet ranks? Here are my four suggestions and reasons:
Minister for Marital Affairs: In the past decade, two or three Cabinet ministers have their ‘extra-marital affairs’ (a la Bill Clinton) scrutinized in the Colombo’s pulp press. Thus its better to have a separate Ministry which can provide consultations for persons in need of mending and dissolving marriages.
Minister for Post-mortem Affairs: The number of un-natural deaths in the island had shown drastic increase since President Mahinda assumed his throne in November 2005. Apart from this depressing statistic, millions of loyal citizens of the blessed island believe in karma. If the Minister of Health is in charge of the living citizens, then one can be put in charge of departed souls as well to check where do these souls peregrinate in their post-mortem phase.
Minister for Tax Affairs: Carrion feeding from the coffers of Exchequer cannot be avoided. But, shouldn’t someone be in charge of checking who took how much and when for housekeeping purposes?
Minister for Underwear and Loincloth Affairs: If carrion feeding is the obligation of the Cabinet rascals, shouldn’t someone be in charge to look after the proprietory interests of the commoners who have a want to be provided with underwears and loinclothes to protect their modesty?
Since Independence, Sri Lankans have always had a Minister for Information and a Minister for Justice. How about the other side of these two coins? We should also have a Minister for Disinformation and a Minister for Injustice.
We have a Minister for Sports. Frankly speaking, cricket is the only prestigious “sports” in Sri Lanka at global level, but cricket is an alien sport. So, it may pay to have a Minister for Indigenous Sports (akin to ‘Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition’ and ‘Minister of Indigenous Medicine’), say someone who can promote exorcism and devil dancing (tovil) to international audience.
Quite a percent of Sri Lankans now live beyond the boundaries of the island as expatriates, exiles, migrant workers and refugees. So, how about having a Minister for the “Out of Sight” Sri Lankan citizens?
Last, but not the least, there should be one Minister who has to do the dirty job of ‘dog catching’ from the Opposition ranks. He/she could be aptly given the designation as Minister of Cabinet Expansion. One shouldn’t rest on his laurels of having created a world record. One should always attempt to break one’s previou record. Thus, the Minister of Cabinet Expansion will have to play a big hand in this front.
On January 30th, after reading the new listing of Cabinet Ministers posted in the webpage of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Information, I sent the following feed-back via email:
I’m still waiting to hear a simple acknowledgment from the Ministry of Information for my comment and suggestion. I just wanted to check the efficiency of the “Ministry of Information”. Seems like, whether Cabinet expansion or not, things will remain the same forever in Colombo.