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‘Bull’, Zero Bull, ‘Infinity Bull’ And Cock And Bull

by Gamini Weerakoon

(August 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Jack Anderson, the controversial American columnist of the 1970s, in his work The Anderson Papers, quotes a tyrannical CEO of the notorious American corporate giant ITT addressing a meeting of ITT executives: ‘Gentlemen, I have been thinking. Bull times zero is zero bull. Bull divided by zero is infinity bull. And I am sick and tired of the bull you’ve been feeding me.’

The bull that citizens of this country and the remaining few of its well meaning leaders are daily fed with took us back to this saying of three decades ago. Could only a sharp and hard hitting CEO like Harold S. Geneen (referred earlier) be qualified to say that they are being fed up being fed with ‘zero bull’ or ‘infinity bull’?

Daily Bull

On Thursday, the Daily News, now claiming itself to be ‘Sri Lanka’s National Newspaper’ had a headline in coconut sized (pol gedi) lettering ‘No Job Loss’, as a result of the GSP+ withdrawal by the European Union for Sri Lankan exports। The person responsible for this revelation was Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena. What made us ponder about this profound wisdom was whether it was the result of the Deputy Minister’s intense patriotism (these days patriotism is vital for survival), his love for his leader and party or it was the usual ‘infinity bull’ that is being dished out daily to the people.

There had been no factory closures as a result of the GSP+ withdrawal; there were 7,400 job opportunities in approved garment factories it was claimed।

This, if true, is indeed wonderful news. No Sri Lankan would want garment workers who are from the poorest sections of society to lose their jobs. But the loss of an estimated Euro 80 billion (1 EUR= 142.18 Lanka Rupees) by an industry and not have had an impact even on a single garment factory makes us wonder whether the Deputy Minister is dealing out ‘infinity bull’ to all of us. Abeywardena had admitted that ‘certain factories’ are being closed down for ‘other reasons’ such as ‘high wages’, labour laws and management disputes but this was not due to deprivation of the GSP+, he has argued.

Infinity Bull

The Deputy Minister may be bowling a doosra on the impact of the GSP+. It was withdrawn only this month (August 15) and the impact of it will not be immediately felt but to convey the impression that the withdrawal of this massive concession would have no impact on the garment industry in the immediate future, appears to be ‘infinity bull’ dished out to the public. While claiming that the impact was negative, he has also said at the same press conference that the government would continue negotiations with the European Union to regain the withdrawn facility. The obvious question is: Why bother if the withdrawal has had no negative effect?
Abeywardena argues that Europe imports only 30 per cent of our garments while the rest goes to America. While the American labour unions too are threatening garment imports to their country on non compliance with certain labour laws it has to be pointed out that any industry which is not concerned about losing 30 per cent of its market must be living in cuckooland.

Bull headed

Those concerned with ‘national interests’ should think abut the impact of the Abeywardena pronouncement on the minds of the ordinary citizens of the country. 1.24 billion x 142.18 is simply not kadjunuts or peanuts. Not only will this have a direct impact on the garment industry, its workers and their families but on the general economy. The reason for penalising Sri Lanka is that the Rajapaksa government has refused to comply with the demand made by the European Union to sign three UN Human Rights Conventions: International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention Against Torture (CAT) and Rights of Children on the grounds that it is an affront to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and amounts to interference in the internal affairs of the country. This indeed could be considered as a just and valid reason for refusal to comply but has the Rajapaksa government been as finicky in keeping out foreign interference in other instances?

Bull in a China shop

The Indian government has openly demanded that Sri Lanka accedes to its proposals for granting rights to the Tamil minority and even demanded that Sri Lanka should desist seeking defence purchases from China and Pakistan। The most recent aggrandisement has been the demand to establish a consulate in Hambantota even though there are no Indian residents in the area. A demand has also been made to establish a consulate in Jaffna and even in Jaffna there are no Indian citizens. The basic function of a consulate is to provide assistance to its citizen’s resident in that town or area.

It does appear that our Indian brothers want to have their bazaar up north but don’t want the Chinese brothers have one down at Hambantota.

Bullish Wiles

The Rajapaksa government it could be seen has double standards in its commitment to the defence of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty where India is concerned but adopts Simon Pure standards to Europe. It could be argued that India has its compulsions and lessons have been learnt by Sri Lanka but the billion Euro loss sustained annually by Sri Lanka too is a stinging lesson although a brave front is being put on to indicate that it is not even a pinch. This is another example of ‘zero bull’ that is being sold to the people at large.

Do those who provide us with this ‘bull’ in news papers, radio and TV really believe in it? H.L.Meneken described ‘a person who preaches doctrines he knows to be quite untrue to those he knows to be idiots’, as being a demagogue. Another said that the ‘secret of being a demagogue is to appear as dumb as his audience so that the people can believe themselves as smart.’ Let’s hope that people will learn to pick up demagogues at least in the near future.

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