Congress MLA reads out ED report on Life Mission case in Kerala Assembly; CM warns Opposition against intimidation

When Kuzhalnadan used a remand to allege the involvement of the chief minister in the alleged kickbacks, it provoked the latter.

ByK A Shaji

Published Feb 28, 2023 | 2:20 PM Updated Feb 28, 2023 | 2:20 PM

MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan. (mathewkuzhalnadanofficial/Facebook)

Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, 28 February, witnessed unruly scenes after Opposition Congress member Mathew Kuzhalnadan quoted a remand report of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the sensational Life Mission Case.

When Kuzhalnadan attempted to use the remand report against M Sivasankar, former principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to allege the involvement of the chief minister in the kickbacks, it provoked the latter.

An angry Vijayan responded by warning the Opposition that intimidation and misinterpretation would not be tolerated. He had also asked the Opposition Congress why it is playing second fiddle to the ED, which is targeting Congress leaders everywhere else outside the state.

The ED is investigating the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act in the Life Mission, a flagship housing project of the Left government.

Meeting between CM, the accused

Kuzhalnadan contended that, according to the report, Sivasankar told the central agency that there was a meeting between him, the chief minister, the UAE consul general and Swapna Suresh  — also an accused in the gold smuggling through diplomatic bags case.

He further contended that, as per the report, Sivasankar has said that he briefed Vijayan after Suresh was appointed to the post of operations manager in the Space Park project under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd.

Kuzhalnadan asked, in the House, whether the chief minister can deny these allegations in the report to which Vijayan responded by categorically denying that anything as read out by the legislator ever happened.

To this, the Congress MLA questioned why the chief minister was not moving the court against such a wrong remand report and Vijayan responded that he does not need legal advice from Kuzhalnadan regarding steps to take.

Also read: Kerala Opposition protests in Assembly over police brutality

Uproar in Assembly

During the questions posed by the Congress MLA to the chief minister and after Vijayan’s reply, several ruling front lawmakers left their seats and created an uproar in the House by trying to shout down Kuzhalnadan.

State Law Minister P Rajeeve initially said Kuzhalnadan should table in the House the contents of the document he was reading from and later contended that a remand report being considered by a court cannot be discussed in the Assembly.

Kuzhalnadan, thereafter, said he was willing to table the remand report and sought permission from the Chair to do so.

However, the shouting match between the Opposition and ruling front MLAs continued and Speaker AN Shamseer was forced to briefly adjourn the House.

The Assembly proceedings were disrupted on Monday too following heated exchanges between the ruling Left Front and the Opposition UDF on an adjournment motion by the latter to discuss the alleged police brutality recently against youth wing workers of the Congress and IUML.

Related: A humanitarian gesture threatening Kerala government

CBI filed FIR

The CBI had in 2020 filed an FIR in a Kochi court under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) on a complaint by the then Wadakkanchery Congress MLA Anil Akkara listing Santosh Eapen, managing director of Unitac Builders & Developers, Kochi, as the first accuse,d and Sane Ventures as the second accused.

The two companies had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered with them by Red Crescent, an international humanitarian movement, which had agreed to provide ₹20 crore towards the Life Mission project.

Congress has been alleging that there was corruption involved in the selection of the contractor by Red Crescent.
The alleged FCRA violation and corruption in the project had snowballed into a major political issue at that time with Opposition parties charging that Swapna Suresh had admitted before an NIA court that she had received ₹1 crore as commission from the project. She had reportedly claimed that the money was meant for Sivasankar.

However, the Life Mission CEO had submitted before the Kochi court that Unitac and Sane Ventures had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered into with them by Red Crescent and had directly accepted foreign contributions from Red Crescent, which is a foreign agency.

The CEO also contended that the companies which signed an agreement with the Red Crescent do not come under the categories of persons prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution as per Section 3 of FCRA.

Opposition leaders alleged that Vijayan was flexing his muscles targeting Congress legislators who expose the unholy nexus between him and corrupt elements. Opposition leader VD Satheesan said no threats from the chief minister would be entertained and the opposition continue to expose the government.

(With PTI inputs)