Our democracy’s dirty little secrets

Psst! Heard the latest? The Opposition Leader has accused the Powers That Be of trying to keep their constitutional reforms a secret. He has asked the Head of State and the Head of Government to keep not only the people, but their own party members informed about alleged goings-on. This is the first time in the history of our nation-state that constitutional reforms are being carried out behind closed doors, he has charged.

Let us let you into a secret

Well, for once, it’s nice to note that the Opposition is not in the dark. And also that its leading lights are keen that more light should be shed on dubious proposals and dastardly plans to rob the people of their sovereignty.

We can all sleep a little easier at night, now, knowing that Those Who Oppose on our behalf will not be caught napping, awaken one fine day, and ask: “Hallo, hello, hullo, what’s going on here?” The discovery that not all policies and programmes of the incumbent administration are in the public interest. Well done, dears, we take our hats off to you! But permit us to clue you in to what we think may be closer to the true state of affairs…

The secret is not that constitutional reform is taking place unbeknownst to all and sundry, but that even if it does take place in broad daylight, not a butter-brinjal will change anytime soon for the better in the land we call home today. The surprise is not that the Constitutional Council is to be shelved, but that it has been on the backburner for so long without anyone who cares a jot or tittle for democratic safeguards being able to do or say anything effective about it. The shocker is that given the state of the nation – war victory, triumphal parades to boot, and increasingly centralized power – that anyone is talking about constitutional reform at all.

Reform these

No, friends, the thing that we all should be worried about is not that there is some measure of secrecy about the Machiavellian machinations in the corridors of power. If we were smart enough to know and sensitive enough to care, the things that we should be up in arms about are of an altogether un-secretive nature.

To wit, it is an open secret that republicanism aside, real power resides in a few favoured friends and family members to the exclusion of the genuinely talented, truly skilled, and really deserving. For instance, that petty sycophancy is so much the order of the day that creeping nepotism and crawling cronyism has given the bad and the ugly the permanent upper hand over the good, the fair, and the just.

Last but not least, that one by one, the independent institutions of a free and a fair society – academics and professionals with a conscience, business with a purpose, civil society with a mind, a heart, and a soul – have been slowly but surely stripped of their positions, their privileges, and their powers.

All of this is no secret to anyone who has lived with their eyes open for the last five years – nay, the last 25 years. Let us not kid ourselves. It is common knowledge that governance has gone from bad to worse--winning battles against terrorism and skirmishes against the world of international opinion abroad, but losing the all-important wars against crime, poverty, and corruption at home.

We should all be ashamed of the open secret that beggars sleep on the streets of our capital; while politicians climb into the beds of criminals who steal, kill, and destroy for a bribe. We are all guilty of creating these monsters, or for letting them live on – only to prey on the poor, the weak, the voiceless in our society. As for the Powers That Be, that’s an altogether different story. The fact there is still something rotten in the state will come as a shock and a surprise to them… the secret is out!

Founding fathers of a forthcoming tyranny

But don’t be ashamed to shape constitutions to meet your own ends, dears. Until you get caught or caught out, that is. And don’t feel guilty about feathering your own nests either, folks. Unless your sleeping conscience wakes up and pricks you, or your more ethical colleagues’ sense of justice pokes you in the ribs. For now, you can keep it all a big, open, public secret – and the country, its craven citizenry, and the cowardly patriots who can’t tell a constitution from a political agenda will only thank you soundly and roundly.

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