KOCHI: he stand-off between the state government and the top bureaucrat who signed the controversial multi-crore deep-sea fishing deal reached a boiling point with the fisheries minister reiterating on Thursday that the state was kept in the dark and the officer refuting her claim.
While Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma pointed fingers at Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) MD N Prasanth regarding the signing of the memorandum of understanding — permitting US firm EMCC to conduct fishing off the Kerala coast — the IAS officer is learnt to have submitted his explanation to the chief minister, with evidence strong enough to clear his name.
“To whom did he communicate about the MoU? He has not informed anything about the deal to anybody in the ministry. Also, he doesn’t have any right to sign such an MoU with a foreign firm. We are waiting for the report of an inquiry against him based on which we’ll initiate appropriate action,” Mercykutty Amma told TNIE.
Prasanth may make evidence public if govt pushes further
The state government, in an order cancelling the MoU on February 22, stated that KSINC had signed the controversial deep-sea fishing deal with EMCC without informing or consulting the state government.
“As a fully owned government company, KSINC is bound to comply with the government policies in all its actions. But (regarding signing of the MoU with EMCC), the KSINC has proceeded without consulting or even informing the government. The MoU has led to incorrect information being spread that the government of Kerala has taken a decision to grant deep-sea fishing right to trawlers of corporates whereas no such decision has been taken.”
As the order is seen as an attempt by the state government to wriggle out of the sticky situation it is currently in by putting the onus of the controversial MoU on Prasanth, the officer is learnt to have submitted his explanation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. In it, the officer is learnt to have listed the procedures that were followed before signing the MoU with EMCC and the official communication he had made to apprise the government of the MoU.
Though Prasanth was not available for comment, sources close to him said the officer had all the necessary documents to prove that he had not breached any official protocol and that he had communicated to the government prior to signing the MoU.
While Mercykutty Amma had said that KSINC does not have any role in construction of trawlers or fishing vessels, the Memorandum of Association of KSINC specifically states “to establish, maintain and operate shipping services and to purchase, take in exchange, charter, hire, build, construct or otherwise acquire, and to own, work, manage, and trade with steam, sailing, motor and other ships, tankers, trawlers, dredgers, drifters, tugs and vessels of all descriptions.”Sources said if the government continues to blame the officer for the fiasco, he will make the evidence public, which would be the last thing the LDF government wants with the assembly polls fast approaching.