Sunday 16 December 2012

It’s time to probe what killed Jacintha Saldanha (Sunday Times)


Jacintha Saldanha’s husband, Benedict Barboza (c) along with son Junal, 16, and daughter Lisha, 14, at Westminster Cathedral in London for a memorial service for Saldanha on Saturday. AP/PTI
here has been no flow of information relating to her death." This from Naveen Saldanha, the brother of Jacintha, who was found dead soon after an Australian radio station broadcast details of a prank call involving the British royal family. We have yet to know what was in Jacintha's suicide note, or the reaction within the hospital administration to her inadvertently putting through a call by two radio jockeys pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and her son Charles. Clearly, Ms Saldanha had not been among those familiar with the British Queen's voice, else she would have instantly discerned that the impostor had a far lower decibel level than Her Majesty. Apparently, Ms Saldanha was not the only staff on duty at the hospital that night to be taken in by two pranksters, whose giggles were only clumsily muffled during the conversation with the two nurses.
The real Prince Charles had the proper take on the incident, making light of the whole matter when asked about it by the media. But what about the Duchess of Cambridge? While more than a few aver that Kate remained "her own sweet self" even after being informed of the prank, others say that the young mother-to-be was (not surprisingly) furious at the way in which she had become — albeit indirectly — a figure of fun. To have details of one's own retching and sleep habits get broadcast over the airwaves is not the most pleasant of occasions, hence it would be understandable were Kate to have got into a fury about one nurse's error in putting through the prank call and in the other giving details of her condition. Say this for the Australian radio jockeys though, they immediately went on air with the details, rather than seek to auction their scoop to the highest bidder.
There has been complete silence on Kate's reaction to the episode, barring an anodyne statement from her and Prince William referring to the medical and nursing staff of the hospital as a whole. As for the hospital, it would have the world believe that its administrators took the same healthily humorous attitude towards the prank as did Prince Charles, an individual who has spent a lifetime being seen as less than what he is. No mention has been made of any reprimand or show of temper, no word on whether the nurse from Shirva in Karnataka's Udipi district was brought before any of the hospital administrators and given a scolding. Again, had this happened, it would have been understandable. The hospital in question suffered a huge embarrassment, although the fault (if any) of the two nurses involved was minuscule. Once both believed they were indeed speaking to the Queen and the Prince of Wales, it followed that they would be deferential and eager to reply to any queries the "royal pair" made to them. If we are to believe the hospital, they reacted not at all — or perhaps with simply an amused smile — to the prank and to the nurses.
Of course, judging by the conversation of the two radio jockeys, it seems clear that the nursing staff in the hospital in question do not take a very exalted view of the Queen's speech. The language used during the telephone call revealed a complete lack of breeding and manners, clearly a tad below what could be expected from the inhabitants of Buck House. While this columnist is no royalist, he is among those who has a very high level of respect for Queen Elizabeth, as well as for Prince Charles. Both have demonstrated a calm maturity that does credit to their race and to its traditions.
However, the total absence of information of what actually took place between the time the prank call was made and Jacintha Saldanha took her own life is very un-British. Clearly, the Leveson Report seems to have converted the lions of the British media into mice. Once Rupert Murdoch ran away from the battlefield and closed down a publication whose editors were only doing what was expected of them, it became clear that the days when the press in the UK was untamed may be over. Which is perhapss why there are about as many details from London of the Jacinta Saldanha suicide as there would be from Pyongyang.

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