Colombo Telegraph

Shutdown

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

A phrase that does not have much meaning with the rest of the world yet an integral part of the American political way of life. A distinct dysfunction of a working democracy in that. A default mechanism that works wholly and totally against the people. If you are a federal worker you’ll find yourself working without being paid.

How can this term be associated with a working democracy? Uncle Sam supposedly the champion for people’s rights depriving lawful wages for his people, how ironic? A true democracy labours assiduously to fulfil the needs and wants of the people yet we hear of these inbuilt closures and cessations that essentially impede true action orientation towards the people.

Ivan Simmons, an Illinois resident and working for the Federal Government, has not been paid for almost three weeks now. He works for the National Museum as a “Closing” clerk.

We are being told that a government shutdown in the United States of America occurs when Congress fails to pass sufficient appropriation bills or  resolutions to fund federal government operations and agencies, or when the President refuses to sign into law such bills or resolutions. Wow? A president refuses to sign? Essential employees are still required to work without pay until the government reopens. Most governments of the world including Sri Lanka consider themselves democratic, at least in name. As per its much taunted and lauded academic definition one would assume such governments postulate a sincere predilection towards the wellbeing of the people, right? Wrong?

In a democracy, people are sovereign at least academically that’s how it’s defined and taught. Supposedly the highest form of political authority. Power we are told flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily, let me repeat only temporarily.

The above represents an ideal. The greatest irony of all is that most democracies of the world especially those in the third world are in eternal shutdown and its people have no clue. There is an ever deepening and widening chasm between the people and their elected representatives. The reality of democracy in these countries is deceptive if not demoralising.  Every executive minute unutilised, improperly utilised or under-utilised vis-à-vis fulfilling the needs of the people is a definite shutdown plain and simple.

Sri Lanka emerges as the classical example. A doctor works hard for his patients, a lawyer works hard for his client. These are defining professional attributes. A politician is elected out of the many who show up for a much nobler purpose. And when he/ she squanders, dissipates and prostitutes an entire system, making it profusely questionable and placing it to great disrepute this tantamounts to a blockade, drag and impedance which constitutes an unofficial shutdown.

Short-​termism has become embedded in the political and business culture of modern democracies. By design all politicians have relatively short political horizons and this is worse in Sri Lanka; they find their official and expected duties  interrupted by precious time abuse and misuse by way of  conspiracy, connivance, counterplotting, contending, combative sports and of course the never ending elections. As a consequence there is hardly any substance emerging from deliberations, signs of a perpetuating shutdown.

Politicians naturally drawn to focus their efforts on seducing their electorates with short-​term sweeteners and nocuous doosras keep the mob busy with inebriating laced intoxicants, they’ll continue to chant “jayaweeva” till the cows come home.

A political impasse was triggered on 26 October and a possible culmination of the shutdown was witnessed. What ensued was unprecedented. President Maithripala Sirisena said he would not reinstate Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister even if he was able to prove his majority in Parliament. “I will not appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister in my lifetime. Even if they have a majority, I have told them not to propose him as I won’t appoint him as prime minister.”

It’s remarkably astounding that a man who couldn’t have gone much further than a senior cabinet minister was enthroned in the highest seat of the land with the help of the UNP, unceremoniously pulls out the rapier from the holster and pursues to chop the head of the very man who was instrumental in putting him there. Let me remind that gratitude is an embedded and enshrined trait of a practicing Buddhist.

In the last decade the Sri Lankan political arena had burgeoned to a mega titillating soap opera. Instead of serving the people corrupt politicians had formed a tight knit cabal and carved this de facto shutdown. Their modus operandi quite clear. They want to save themselves from possible incarceration hence subverting the process as much as possible both within and without the parliament and by extending credence to none-issues, non-existent phantoms they think they’ll survive. They possibly will.

Democracy – letting people choose leaders who govern them as the best way, the only legitimate way, to ensure the well-being of a country is no longer a source of inspiration for millions around the world. Intriguing line from John Adams, America’s second president still continue to reverberate and intrigue people. “Remember, democracy never lasts long,” Adams wrote. “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

President Donald J. Trump has already put the noose around his neck and it’s only time before someone kicks the stool. President Maithripala Sirisena had already demonstrated an amazing proclivity and tons of enthusiasm to be an avid fan and disciple of Donald J. Trump.

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