The Burning Lavalin Question

civil service

The most striking revelation of the recent House of Commons Justice Committee hearings, for me, was not that the Prime Minister’s Office might have applied pressure on the Attorney General in a prosecutorial matter, not even that the top civil servant might have gone beyond the call of duty in effecting the Prime Minister’s will; no both of these scenarios fall, in my estimation, into the grey zone of governance – the realpolitik that belies the purported exemplitude of Euro-American democracy. No, what amazed me the most was the statement by the sitting Privy Council Clerk (the most senior civil servant in the Canadian government) Michael Wernick that, in the run-up to the crisis, he took a phone call and  Chairman of the Board at SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch. According to Marie-Danielle Smith’s report on his testimony Mr Wernick said the following, “Mr. Lynch as the chair of the board expressed his frustration that he did not understand why a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) was not being considered and he knew that the board in its trustee relationships for the shareholders in the company was going to have to take some tough decisions in October and November.”

Again, it is not the fact that the purportedly impartial Clerk of the Privy Council took the frustrated call from the Chairman of the SNC-Lavalin Board per se that raised my concern, but the familiarity suggested by the tone and content of what seems to have been said, as well as the fact that the said Chairman, Kevin Lynch, was a former Clerk of the very same Privy Council! What kind of impartiality can we expect from our top civil servants while they serve in government if such powerful corporate positions are theirs for the taking in the wake of their governmental roles? More precisely, the burning question arising from the Lavalin affair is this, ‘What kind of impartiality can we expect from civil servants when their ilk, their peers, these former servants now communicate and advocate on behalf of the most powerful sector of the national polity?’

It seems to me that the parliamentary opposition’s accusations of partiality towards the Liberals directed at Mr. Warnick might be misplaced. Political partisanship does not seem, to me, to the kind of impartiality that is in question. Instead, what we might have been afforded, thanks the clerks own unflinching, unembarrassed, incontrite testimony, is a rare vista on the workings of what might be called the Canadian ‘administrative-industrial complex’ – the imbrication of money (corporations) and power (the civil service) in Canadian governance. There has been a more delicate suggestion that the Clerk’s testimony risks the perception of party bias.  To the contrary, I believe that while while, Mr. Wernick may have shown excessive fealty to Justin Trudeau, there is no clear indication that this loyalty has been towards the leader of the Liberals and not to the Prime Minister of Canada. There is however, indication of a more fundamental complicity in the relationship between corporate Canada and, what I shall call the political machinery of Canada. This will only manifest as political bias if we ever elect a party to government that is not, in one way or another, beholden to these corporate interests.




scaleMass is Kollywood jargon for massive or hit or popular or something like that! Whatever it actually means, the one thing that is clear is that Indian cinema is all about a sense of scale! This is also the mechanism or mechanics of democracy … the majority of the people … mass!!!  Tamil Nadu has been governed by Mass since the days of Annadurai … MGR, Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha ……


Indian Vote: Entha Kabali?

Kabali Teaser Stills-Photos-RajinikanthKuninju nendra Kabali endru ninechengala? While I see myself as a Malaysian  first and an Indian second in the cultural aspect of my Identity, in the political sense I insist that I am an Indian first. There is not as yet a possibility of a post communal political identity for Malaysians! Even the opposition has to be organized on the basis that to beat the race card of Barisan you have to play the race card yourself. Yes communalism seems to be a necessary pragmatism, an underlying reality even! … anyway  this reality leaves me no choice but to look at the present situation as an Indian. While, it is technically not correct for me as a Jaffna Tamil to say, within the categorization of our national apartheid, that I am an Indian. I have claimed this identity in spirit and untill my Indian brothers and sisters insist I stop, I will continue to do so …

So with polling day around the corner and a Malay, nay Malaysian Tsunami is an imminent possibility. The vote looks like being really close. Many good Malaysians are crying out for change at any cost and by any compromise … I too feel that, at the very least, it will establish, in practice, the democratic principle of ‘the limited term of office’, something that Malaysians have enjoyed only in theory since Merdeka. Whatever happens in the voting, it looks like it is indeed going to be close and, perhaps, the Indian vote is going to be important.  The highly respected activist and former leader of Bersih, Dato Sreenevasan, recently wrote in Malaysiakini, “In my view, not one Malaysian Indian or Orang Asli* vote should go to the BN”.

Although the sentiment rings true and the logic is sound this idea has a familiar aroma to it … Indians being herded again… being told how to think and what to do one way or the other! … it smells like cow dung (this is not an insult to Indians, certainly not to Hindus anyway) …  While the Indian vote owes Barisan sweet Fuck All … does the opposition look like they will treat us any different? Just look at how they made unholy exaggerations and unfulfillable promises on the Stateless Indians issue. Please lah! Annai, Thambi, Acca, Thangachi, realize that your vote is your most important right. It is a right to exercise as you will  … and even not to exercise it at all … what if neither side is looking worthy … should they not be shown that the Indian vote, just like the vote of the other communities, has to be earned?

Decades of Barisan promises … yet nothing achieved, Hindraf ‘s absurd promise of fighting for compensation from the British and now the opposition claims and promises on the all-important stateless Indians issue – If we are to be pragmatic in our voting as Malaysians to achieve the best result for the nation … then Malaysian Indians might likewise consider being pragmatic in their voting as a community … At least Barisan has an electoral inducement blueprint of some kind … and a budget is promised (yes, promises have been broken before!) …. while it stinks (unlike cow dung … which does not smell bad!), for what its worth, it seems to be real. In this light … I prefer what commentator Gokula Kumar Appalanaido said (6/May/2018 at 3:41:12am) in response to the Malaysiakini article …. “We will vote according to our conscience”! Kabali Da!

* I am not forgetting the Orang Asli … but that is another sad Malaysian story of injustice that needs to be addressed on its own terms.