Panacea

Panacea

A cabinet minister shows his secretary how to deal with problems, such as an outbreak of truth-telling. Food blogs will never be the same again. Read the full play below .

The play is published in the “Conflict/Resolution” collection, featuring winning plays of the 2nd Kakiscript Playwriting Competition of 2009. It was described, by Kathy Rowlands in the forward, as a play that “takes the State’s desire to silence dissent to a metaphorical extreme”.

image

The 10-minute play was also staged in “This Cannot, That Cannot”, a collection of Malaysian short plays directed by David Lim, on Mar 2-6, 2011 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Watch the trailer.


ACT I – MINISTRY OF MISCELLANEOUS AFFAIRS
The MINISTER practices his golf swing on centre stage. Enter his SECRETARY of private affairs.

SECRETARY
Yang Berhormat, we’ve got a problem. There’s been an outbreak of disease!

MINISTER
Sabar, dik. Sabar. What does it say outside the door?

SECRETARY
Uhm, the Ministry of Misk Affairs…?

MINISTER
What? Miscellaneous! It’s the Ministry of Miscellaneous Affairs! I’ve got to find someone who can both pronounce and spell that word. The Ministry of Diseases, Pandemics and other Hysterics are just down the corridor. Go talk to them.

SECRETARY
But the PM just had a cabinet reshuffle. Didn’t you get the SMS? And it’s all over the news, too.

MINISTER
Ahhh, the only SMS I get are death threats, even the ones from my wife. And I don’t read the news, because I made them up! Besides, I thought I had a Secretary of Private Affairs to deal with all these boring matters.

SECRETARY
Uhm, that would be me, YB.

MINISTER

Who’s the office boy, then? Nevermind. Why are we involved in this outbreak again?

SECRETARY

Well, the Department of Health in the Ministry of Diseases, Pandemics and other Hysterics have merged with the Ministry of Tourism. They’re now called the Ministry of Medical Tourism. They only deal with communicative diseases if a rich orang asing’s yachting blister gets infected. We get everything else.

MINISTER
So they give us the poor TB-infested orang asing who came in by a crowded sampan? Talk about discrimination!

SECRETARY
True, true. We cannot always blame the poor orang asing for causing pandemics with their disgustingly unhygienic ways. Poor things.

MINISTER
What are you talking about? I meant us, they’re discriminating against the Ministry.

SECRETARY
Oh.

MINISTER
So. We’re in charge of this outbreak now, are we? Rats.

SECRETARY

How did you know?

MINISTER

What?

SECRETARY

The outbreak. It’s caused by rats, YB.

MINISTER
I, uh, I suppose I know more than I let on. Lets round up some party members to sit on our rat committees.


ACT II – MINISTRY OF MISCELLANEOUS AFFAIRS

MINISTER
Take this down. “A Minister’s Standard Operating Procedure on How to Deal with Outbreaks.” Eyes only. Rule number one: Inform everybody that there is no need to panic. Keep denying that it is a problem until you run out of places to hide the bodies. We cannot let tourism and the economy be adversely affected. Remind people of past successes on dealing with outbreaks.

SECRETARY
Sorry to interrupt, YB. But what if the mode of transmission is different and we cannot contain the disease?

MINISTER
If anything bad happens, we blame the disease! Next! Rule number two: Get on TV everyday.

SECRETARY
To give updates and reassure the public, YB?

MINISTER
Have you been paying attention to anything I say? Political mileage, boy, political mileage.

SECRETARY
But what if the outbreak gets out of control? Wouldn’t that make you look bad?

MINISTER

If anything bad happens, we put the blame on the press for misquoting me! Next! Rule number three: Tell them something different everyday.

SECRETARY
Why?

MINISTER
Must you be so curious? I thought they’ve beaten it all out of you in school. For power, my boy, power. So that they know who’s in charge. It keeps them on their toes. And before you ask, if anything goes wrong, we blame the private practitioners for not treating patients properly.

SECRETARY
Right…

MINISTER
Rule number four: Make sure that the publicity campaigns are vague and simplistic. Add some cheese to it, if possible. You know, a ditty of some kind.

SECRETARY

I suppose this is because the public cannot be trusted with complicated information? And when things go wrong, we blame the public for not taking us seriously?

MINISTER
Ah, you grew up so fast! I’m so proud of you!


ACT III – FIELD OPERATIONS ROOM
The SECRETARY is wearing a combat vest and the MINISTER a camouflage-patterned golf hat.

MINISTER
Another day, another outbreak! What is today’s flavour?

SECRETARY
People in this small pekan were bitten by mosquitos that carry a new virus. The virus induces inflammation in a specific part of the brain, which then causes people to lose all inhibition.

MINISTER
Why is that a bad thing? I thought, you know, it would be fun to be less inhibited.

SECRETARY
Imagine if you can’t help but tell everyone everything that you’re thinking or doing.

MINISTER

Aiyoh! That would be a disaster. Particularly for me!

SECRETARY

Exactly. We’ve sealed the pekan and accounted for every resident. Even the dead ones.

MINISTER
This disease is fatal?

SECRETARY
Well, apparently, the Penghulu’s bini was having an affair.

MINISTER
Really, ah?

SECRETARY

Yaaa… and then, she told her husband about her affair…

MINISTER
And he chopped her up with a cleaver!

SECRETARY
Ya… No! He didn’t do anything.

MINISTER
Then how?

SECRETARY
Then the bini got angry, because her husband didn’t care. So she killed his beruk with a parang.

MINISTER
Wah, so drastic.

SECRETARY
Yaaa… and then only he got angry, so he grabbed his senapang patah and shot her 10 times!

MINISTER
So tragic.

SECRETARY
Got some more. Then the man that the bini was having an affair with showed up.

MINISTER
And he killed the penghulu with a cleaver!

SECRETARY
No lah. Both of them never liked the wife anyway, so they went out for kopi at the warung.

MINISTER
Bodoh! Wasting my time.

SECRETARY
I was just giving a status report. Sorry. Sorry!

MINISTER
Ish. Did you cut off their landlines, TV, cellphones, internet, etc.?

SECRETARY
They’re totally cut off from the world. Why, ah, YB?

MINISTER

Well, if you weren’t so busybody like some makcik at the pasar, you’d see why.

SECRETARY

Yes, YB. Sorry, sorry. Er, why?

MINISTER
Because right now, they’re worried about their own personal issues. But once that’s resolved…

SECRETARY
Yes, YB?

MINISTER
Look here.

SECRETARY

It’s a blog.

MINISTER
What is it saying though?

SECRETARY
It’s a food review of a 5-star restaurant. Wau, that’s nasty. The chef got negative five stars. Haha, so funny, the blogger said that the burger stall at the pasar malam make better food.

MINISTER
This food reviewer has trashed every 5-star, 4-star and 3-star restaurant in the nearby areas. All in the past week. Within that period, he built a reputation internationally as the food blogger with the sharpest tongue and wit. And you know what? He lives here, in this pekan.

SECRETARY
And… so…

MINISTER

And so, we know that the symptoms started roughly a week ago. This man has been getting more aggressive on his blog as time progresses. Prior to this, all he wrote in his blog, if he wrote at all, was “Life sucks” in 12 different variations. So we can’t take the chance.

SECRETARY

Oh?

MINISTER
We’re going to torch the place.


ACT IV – FIELD OPERATIONS ROOM

SECRETARY
YB. I don’t think this is a good idea.

MINISTER
Good thing you’re not being paid to think.

SECRETARY

But they’re people! And they’re ill! We can’t just cull the whole lot of them like sick chickens.

MINISTER
Look, it starts like this. First they learn how to use the internet. Then they start to write pathetic blogs about their personal lives that nobody wants to read.

SECRETARY
But it’s just a food blog.

MINISTER
And then, they start questioning things, small things at first, but it gets bigger. And they get more critical in their writing, and then they start calling themselves citizen journalists!

SECRETARY
But it’s just a food blog.

MINISTER

Next thing you know, they’re questioning all of the policies that are meant to keep them safe!

SECRETARY
That’s a bit of a stretch. It’s just a food blog!

MINISTER

Just a food blog, my foot. Commence firing!


ACT V – FIELD OPERATIONS ROOM

SECRETARY
They’re all gone. All of them. Mothers. Fathers. Children. Babies. Dogs. Cats. Chickens…

MINISTER
Our boys did a good job with it too. Very neat. They even put up a fake durian dusun where this place used to be. And they’ve already erased this pekan from the archive maps. Excellent cleanup. Excellent. Must give out commendations or something.

SECRETARY
They’re all gone…

MINISTER

I think I’ll keep a troop of soldiers in this area, just in case some relatives in the city come to see why there’s no one answering the phone. Or, I put a fake Pak Dusun here to sit with the durians. So he can tell everyone that he’s been living here all along. That’ll mess with their heads.

SECRETARY
They’re all gone… You’re, you’re despicable!

MINISTER
What?

SECRETARY
You didn’t have to kill them. Just give them antivirals or something.

MINISTER

My dear boy, there was no time. This was the only way. We know best. We can’t have people questioning all of our policies! Can’t you see?

SECRETARY
All I see is a fat, bloated, disgustingly corrupt, poor excuse of a man in front of me.

MINISTER
Oh dear.

SECRETARY
You’re not even a man! You’re a snake! No! Worse than a snake, you’re a politician!

MINISTER
Oh dear, oh dear.

SECRETARY
I can’t believe I looked up to you all this while! What was I thinking? I wanted to be just like you!

MINISTER

Oh dear. I’m so sorry it had to be this way.
Takes out a gun and shoots the SECRETARY, whose body falls to the ground.
Dear, dear. I did have such high hopes for him. He must have forgotten his mosquito repellent. Gosh, I hope I haven’t been infected as well. That would be the end of my political career. Dear, dear.

END

top

Advertisements