When the going gets tough…

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It is an insult to our intelligence as a nation. 

After the prime minister’s lengthy visit to the US and the UK, followed by a long rest and, as a two-month parliamentary break was about to come to an end, the population started looking forward to getting some answers to its pressing questions – scandalous nominations, equally scandalous dismissals, a death in police custody, drugs, a deteriorating law and order situation etc. etc. The next thing we heard was that the prime minister had to go to India to attend a very, very important conference. Our national broadcaster started rupturing our ear drums about how important this conference was to the survival of this country and that – please don’t clap yet! – Anerood Jugnauth would come back to this country with this very important award conferred upon him by the organisers of the conference: The 17th International Conference of Chief Justices of the World!

I thought you might want to know about the conference that your prime minister left everything behind for to go and attend.

First, the conference was not organised by the State of India – as the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the visit may have led us to believe. It was not even organised by the state of Uttar Pradesh where the city of Lucknow is. It was organised by a SCHOOL: City Montessori School – nursery, pre-primary, primary and secondary. How important the conference is can be gleaned from the media coverage it managed to attract: all in all, 224 words (six sentences) in the Times of India.

On its website, the school boasts that there are 340 confirmed participants from 57 countries. I don’t disagree with that. But here’s the snag: countries like the UK, Germany, Holland and Italy do not figure on the list. Take heart, though, there are other countries… like the Kyrgyz Republic. Now please don’t sound ignorant. If you have never heard of the country, you must, I hope, have heard of its capital, Bishkek, or at least its president, Almazbek Atambayev. 

And don’t tell me you have never heard of countries like Nauru, Bhutan, Suriname or Tuvalu! Or that you thought Zanzibar was a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania. It is listed as a separate country, taking the number of countries up to 57.  

There are naturally other countries like Togo, Poland, Eritrea, Paraguay and even South Africa and France. And of course Mauritius. All the 57 countries are represented either by judges – mostly retired – or, in a couple of cases, past presidents. One of these is Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, who – I don’t blame you if you have forgotten – served as president of South Africa for about eight months, following Thabo Mbeki’s resignation. 

Among the 340 confirmed guests at the conference are Motlanthe’s wife, his personal assistant, his paramedic, his medical practitioner, his health officer, his ‘police official diplomatic’ and FIVE ‘Police Official Protectors’. I had to stop there in case his massage therapist also turned out to be a guest at the conference.

That record was broken by our small country: at least 13 delegates! One of these is the prime minister accompanied by his wife. Apart from Guyana’s, he was the only minister. The only prime minister. The highest-ranking person they have probably ever had sitting with Motlanthe’s paramedics and official protectors. If only for that, he deserves the Gawtam Budh award conferred upon him.  

As a country, we share in his pride and accept this great award with humility. Never mind all the parliamentary questions dodged due to his absence from the national assembly. It’s not democracy and accountability that we need! It is awards from Indian schools. If anyone deserves awards as well as insults, we do!

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