Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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President Mahinda

The Master Blue Dyer

by Sachi Sri Kantha

If I were to state the reality, I’d put it this way: President Mahinda of the failed state has provided opportunities for the carrion feeders to feed on the rotting carcass of Sri Lanka.

The following joke appears in Freud’s classic work, ‘Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious.’ I reproduce what the Father of Psychoanalysis presented:

“While Duke Karl of Wurtemberg was riding horseback, he met a dyer working at his trade.

‘Can you color my white horse blue?’

‘Yes, sire, if the animal can stand the boiling.’”

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, in which Freud anticipated Mahinda, the Maestro blue dyer.

The Dukes who have ridden into Mahinda’s dyeing parlor (or more pragmatically tagged a 'dying' parlor, considering the decision of long-standing UNP bigwig, Mr. M.H. Mohamed, to switch sides to ride into his political sunset as a Minister) are political scavengers looking for food and shelter. They 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 the 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 the 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 Nonviolence, 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, not the personalities, deserves 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.

Prime Minister & Minister of Internal Administration

Minister of National Heritage

Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition

Minister of Ports & Aviation

Minister of Petroleum & Petroleum Resources Development

Minister of Highways & Road Development

Minister of Agricultural Development & Agrarian Services Development

Minister of Education

Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs

Minister of Youth Empowerment and Socioeconomic Development

Minister of Posts & Telecommunication

Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development

Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare

Minister of Housing and Common Amenities

Minister of Community Development and Social Inequity Eradication

Minister of Water Supply and Drainage

Minister of Science and Technology

Minister of Constitutional Affairs & National Integration

Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services

Minister of Plan Implementation

Minister of Supplementary Crops Development

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs

Minister of Export Development & International Trade

Ministr of Power & Energy

Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs

Minister of Enterprise Development & Investment Promotion

Minister of Public Estate Management & Development

Minister of Land and Land Development

Minister of Youth Affairs

Minister of Media and Information

Minister of Indigenous Medicine

Minister of Labour and Manpower

Minister of Sports and Public Recreation

Minister of Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs

Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights

Minister of Construction and Engineering Services

Minister of Special Projects

Minister of Tourism

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare

Minister of Vocational and Technical Training

Minister of Rural Industries & Self-Employment Promotion

Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils

Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

Minister of Livestock Development

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Cultural Affairs

Minister of Higher Education

Minister of Irrigation and Water Management

Minister of Industrial Development

Minister of Transport

To place the number of Cabinet ministers in proper perspective, one should view the number within the totality of the 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's 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 at approximately 1:7. In 1977, the total number of MPs increased to 168. 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 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 on 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.

“In earlier decades this country had a few leaders who were wealthy and gave what they had to the country. Now it seems totally a case where they come to plunder and pillage the remaining wealth and resources of the country and the people. With 53 cabinet ministers, 33 project ministers and 19 deputy ministers, 104 of the 113 MPs on the government side have posts with all sorts of powers, perks and privileges, which as usual are likely to be more abused than used. It is probably another dubious world record for a poor country. It might be interesting to have a separate roll called for the unlucky nine who are ordinary MPs with no posts…” [Colombo Daily Mirror, Jan.31, 2007]

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 has 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 only because the wordsmiths in the pay of the Presidential Secretariat couldn’t make up 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 rank? 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, it's 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 has shown a 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 these souls peregrinate in their post-mortem phase.

Minister for Tax Affairs: Carrion feeding from the coffers of the 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 of looking after the proprietory interests of the commoners who have a need to be provided with underwear 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 “sport” in Sri Lanka at a global level, but cricket is an alien sport. So, it may pay to have a Minister for Indigenous Sports (akin to the ‘Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition’ and the ‘Minister of Indigenous Medicine’), say someone who can promote exorcism and devil dancing (tovil) to an 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 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 one's laurels of having created a world record. One should always attempt to break one’s previous record! Thus, the Minister of Cabinet Expansion will have a big hand to play on 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:

“Dear Sir:

On the 'New Cabinet of Ministers'

What a list! What a list! Isn't this the worst record for the Sri Lankan Government? 51 foxes and the conductor top guy, constituting a cacophonous orchestra. I have one comment and one suggestion. The comment is, You should delete the prefix 'Hon' in front of each name. All are not honorable. They have lost their honor when they became politicians. The suggestion is, since you represent the Dept.of Information, for the public record, would you care to find out how much these 51 foxes paid as personal taxes since 2004, when the last general election was held? Thank you for the courtesy.”

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.