What’s cooking in the Kitchen Cabinet?
With politics getting more spicy and bitter each day we have it from Minister Rauff Hakeem that there is a Kitchen Cabinet in operation today.
The phrase goes back to the early days of US democracy, coming from the time of President Andrew Jackson, but there have been ginger groups and other special advisors to national leaders, and manipulators for them, who have been called kitchen cabinets, to separate them from the regular or Parlour Cabinet.
There was a time when Dr. N. M. Perera, having resigned from the office of Finance Minister, stated how Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, would ask the woman who worked in her kitchen about the latest on the cost of living, when Cabinet meetings took place at her Rosmead Place residence. He did not call that a Kitchen Cabinet, but a kitchen input on strategic Cabinet thinking.
With our Cabinet of Ministers, plus Deputy Ministers and Ministers of State, now going up to 82 – yes, that is the latest – with all signs of more to follow, a kitchen cabinet must have become a necessity for President Maithripala Sirisena to prepare dishes of yahapaalanaya for his supporters; to keep them within his grasp in the midst of all this political rivalry.
With the abundance of crossover politics that is taking place today, it is no surprise that the living image of yahapaalanaya or Maithri Chintha, has thought it necessary to have a kitchen cabinet, to attend to his very special political needs. Minister Rauff Hakeem and others who did their own cross over to the yahapaalana side, somewhat late in the Common Candidate strategy, cannot expect to be part of any kitchen cabinet in today’s governance; where the limited success of 19A has led to a bigger problem with the 20A, and there are signs of much more crises to follow in the politics of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
There must be a wide range of dishes being prepared each day and night, with varying recipes to suit the different political situations of each day, or even each hour today. There must be some soups and other dishes prepared that will please the first line of crossover politicians who came over with the Chief Chef Maithripala Sirisena, offering the Sri Lankan people a 100-day menu of yahapaalanaya, the flavour of which has long been lost.
Those who decide on the daily recipes at the Kitchen Cabinet are not faced with any easy task, when one looks at the political taste of those who keep crossing over and taking offices in governance that were never heard of before. It is clear that what they would wish for most are dishes that will give them more buckshee just now, and ensure them of having even more, if they remain on the same side till after the General Election, that will be held, with a much bigger menu offered to the voters than for the feast on January 8.
There must be a great deal of culinary planning in this Kitchen Cabinet on the dishes, soups, finger foods, main dishes and desserts that must be prepared every day and night to please those on the rival side – who are thrilled with the flavours and spice of Hambantota, and seem to have little interest in the tastes of Polonnaruwa cuisine.
President Sirisena has come out in public against the waste of public funds to put banners, cutouts and other political décor that hits the public purse. It is interesting to know whether there are, or will be, any audit checks on the expenses involved in maintaining this Kitchen Cabinet, that has become a necessity to stem the decline in image of Maithri Chinta, as politics move to a huge divide in the ranks of the Blue Brigade – with clear rivalry between the ranks of Polon and Hamban.
The challenges faced by the chefs and their assistants a in the Kitchen Cabinet are by no means easy, when one considers that it has to produce recipes that are blends of peace and reconciliation, as well as those with sufficient spice and flavor to keep alive the majority Sinhala mood, without letting it move to Hambantota tastes. There is the added problem of having dishes that will please the minority communities – making sure there is plenty of veggie stuff for the Hindu ranks and definitely keeping out even a trace of pork for the dishes served to the ranks of Islam. Things do get tougher in this Ramadan period, with the need to have to more meals servings at night because of the traditional fasting by the Muslims.
Things are taking an even more interesting twist when we learn that political astrologers, who held sway over power during the last regime that was defeated by the people, have made important entries into the new structures of yahapaalanaya. They will soon have their own inputs into the food and drinks prepared in the Kitchen Cabinet.
In addition to the huge taste for money and profit that is the base for all recipes and menus now being served, there will also be importance attached to the exact time when the political menus were cooked, making sure they are in keeping with the best movement of the Maithri planets. A major problem that is already being seen in this Kitchen Cabinet, is the incapacity of most of those who are cooking there, including well paid political advisors, who must have retired from any kitchen long ago, and the officials and coordinators who do not seem to have a clue about any form of administration, whether in an office or kitchen. That is problem that can contribute to making the best of dishes turned out in this Kitchen Cabinet, not pleasing as expected, by those they are offered to.
It seems good for someone to think of making this Kitchen Cabinet into something like the Witches Brew in Shakespeare’s "Macbeth’., with a good mix of politics being thrown into the pot and stirred to give the deadly result of a bewitched yahapaalanaya.