I was glancing through the newspapers last week and noticed an article which mentioned that foreign observers would be invited to monitor the upcoming elections in the Eastern province.
On the face of it, this seems to affirm some commitment by the Government to holding free elections. In the light of the disaster that was the invitation to the IIGEP, it seemed a bold step.
A closer look at the countries from which the monitors were to be drawn reveals a fairly motly collection. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Indonesia and a handful of others. The actual newspaper is not in my possession and I can't seem to find the story on the web, so I don't have the full list of countries.
Bangladesh is still under military rule, Pakistan is still in transition from military rule to civilian rule, Afghanistan is still in a very shaky stage of its first experiment with democracy, Taiwan a full democracy but with almost no official recognition as a state (and thus with minimal political influence).
In other words, a set of monitors who are likely to be, how shall we put it, understanding of the governments position? Rather like the African Union monitors who have endorsed many an election Zimbabwe.
Perhaps the Government has not been so bone-headed after all, perhaps they have drawn some rather useful lessons from the experience of the IIGEP.
In the meantime, the Defence Secretary has criticised the media yet again and has apparently demanded that restrictions be tightened on reporting. Most reporters have taken heed of the Governments outbursts in the past and have already toned things down, something that the The Sunday Times columnist was already complaining about here.
Of course, many people, burdened with the high cost of living have little time to worry about a minor provincial election. Should they be? I guess not, just so long as some of these seemingly unconnected events are not a dress-rehearsal for other, bigger things to come.