Touria Prayag's Blog

l’express Weekly, 17 June 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 20, 2011

Pdf weekly 17 juin

The good the bad and the hopeless

I don’t give a damn about being popular,” the minister of Commerce
said in an interview in l’express-dimanche. For his sake,
I sincerely hope he meant it. For, if last Tuesday’s parliamentary
session were a popularity contest, Michael Sik Yen’s fi rst performance
as a minister promoted to Commerce would have put him at the
bottom of the heap. For someone who boasted that he gets home at two
am and carries on working at night and through weekends, one cannot help
but wonder whether the minister could not do with some sleep instead.
Many of us would be capable of a much less mediocre performance if we
prepared for the questions in our sleep.
Watching the parliamentary exchange, I could not help but sympathize
with the leader of the opposition and share in his frustration
and helplessness. It was impossible to get anything across no matter
what language one spoke. The contrasting style of a well-prepared Paul
Bérenger, who had done his homework thoroughly, and a diffi dent
minister who suddenly discovered, with obvious shock, that the power
bestowed upon him and which he seems so proud of comes with responsibilities,
created a burlesque situation verging on the tragi-comic.
In one session, Michael Sik Yuen beat the record for dodging questions
without managing to wriggle his way out of trouble. First, he asked
for the simplest of questions to be repeated, then he tried his luck with
the vaguest of answers and, caught by an opponent with a reputation
for not pulling his punches, said that a committee was looking into the
matter, then another committee, before he took refuge in the promise
that he would look into the matter himself. In the end, he plucked up
what heart he could and admitted, almost pleadingly, that he had taken
on the portfolio only a week before! Waw Waw! For someone who states
that he works day and night! Sometimes silence IS golden. Besides,
wasn’t he the minister of Business, Enterprise, Cooperatives and
Consumer Protection? How was he protecting our interests all this
time if he did not have a clue what was going on in the STC?
When he fi nally sat down, arms crossed like a pupil who had just been
scolded by the headmistress, the smile on his face was ambiguous: was it
embarrassment or relief that one could read? Or perhaps gratitude. For he
owes quite a few ‘thank you’ notes: fi rst to the speaker who tried several
times to rephrase the questions. Second, to the prime minister who must
have been so embarrassed by his minister’s performance that he tried to
advise him through a row of ministers. And, believe it or not, he even owes
a ‘thank you’ note to Showkatally Soodhun, who must have felt so much
pity that the initial smug expression on his face was wiped off and the selfsatisfi
ed look replaced with concern as he tried to murmur some strategy
to bail his colleague out. Fancy! I wonder whether he will have the modesty
to send another note to his advisors and press attaché who, throughout
the dismal performance, were running left, right and centre like headless
chickens trying to get notes to him to try and fi sh him out of his misery.
Well, if Michael Sik Yuen has not realised that there is a great
difference between talk and action, he has at least the merit of having
made everyone else realise it.
Some ministers need to be put out to grass. Seriously. This is a
patriotic piece of advice.

Idon’t give a damn about being popular,” the minister of Commerce
said in an interview in l’express-dimanche. For his sake,
I sincerely hope he meant it. For, if last Tuesday’s parliamentary
session were a popularity contest, Michael Sik Yen’s fi rst performance
as a minister promoted to Commerce would have put him at the
bottom of the heap. For someone who boasted that he gets home at two
am and carries on working at night and through weekends, one cannot help
but wonder whether the minister could not do with some sleep instead.
Many of us would be capable of a much less mediocre performance if we
prepared for the questions in our sleep.
Watching the parliamentary exchange, I could not help but sympathize
with the leader of the opposition and share in his frustration
and helplessness. It was impossible to get anything across no matter
what language one spoke. The contrasting style of a well-prepared Paul
Bérenger, who had done his homework thoroughly, and a diffi dent
minister who suddenly discovered, with obvious shock, that the power
bestowed upon him and which he seems so proud of comes with responsibilities,
created a burlesque situation verging on the tragi-comic.
In one session, Michael Sik Yuen beat the record for dodging questions
without managing to wriggle his way out of trouble. First, he asked
for the simplest of questions to be repeated, then he tried his luck with
the vaguest of answers and, caught by an opponent with a reputation
for not pulling his punches, said that a committee was looking into the
matter, then another committee, before he took refuge in the promise
that he would look into the matter himself. In the end, he plucked up
what heart he could and admitted, almost pleadingly, that he had taken
on the portfolio only a week before! Waw Waw! For someone who states
that he works day and night! Sometimes silence IS golden. Besides,
wasn’t he the minister of Business, Enterprise, Cooperatives and
Consumer Protection? How was he protecting our interests all this
time if he did not have a clue what was going on in the STC?
When he fi nally sat down, arms crossed like a pupil who had just been
scolded by the headmistress, the smile on his face was ambiguous: was it
embarrassment or relief that one could read? Or perhaps gratitude. For he
owes quite a few ‘thank you’ notes: fi rst to the speaker who tried several
times to rephrase the questions. Second, to the prime minister who must
have been so embarrassed by his minister’s performance that he tried to
advise him through a row of ministers. And, believe it or not, he even owes
a ‘thank you’ note to Showkatally Soodhun, who must have felt so much
pity that the initial smug expression on his face was wiped off and the selfsatisfi
ed look replaced with concern as he tried to murmur some strategy
to bail his colleague out. Fancy! I wonder whether he will have the modesty
to send another note to his advisors and press attaché who, throughout
the dismal performance, were running left, right and centre like headless
chickens trying to get notes to him to try and fi sh him out of his misery.
Well, if Michael Sik Yuen has not realised that there is a great
difference between talk and action, he has at least the merit of having
made everyone else realise it.
Some ministers need to be put out to grass. Seriously. This is a
patriotic piece of advice.

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