Opposition leader claims Kerala government hiding details of deep-sea fishing contract allegations

Chennithala furnished documents of the land allotted for the project and the MoU signed between the Kerala govt and EMCC during the ASCEND 2020 in Kochi
Ramesh Chennithala
Ramesh Chennithala

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has again raised allegations against the LDF government over the deep-sea fishing contract. During a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, Chennithala claimed that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is hiding the contract details.

Chennithala said that the American company EMCC held talks with the Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma in New York. “Earlier, Mercykutty Amma had rejected the proposal of EMCC. However, Industries Minister EP Jayarajan had convinced the company and allotted land to them so that they can carry out the project,” Chennithala said, adding that an agreement was signed with the American company to build fishing vessels.

During the press conference, Chennithala furnished documents of the 4-acre land the government allotted to the company for the project. The opposition leader also released the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Kerala government and the American company during the ASCEND 2020 – Global Investors Meet in Kochi.

On Saturday, Chennithala had released photos and documents, addressing the meeting between Mercykutty Amma and EMCC officials. He released documents, which referred to a meeting between Mercykutty Amma and EMCC International India Pvt Limited (EMMC India) President Shiju Varghese in New York in April 2018.

Soon after Chennithala furnished evidence of the meeting, Mercykutty Amma told reporters that while she might have met with the company executives, there was no discussion on the deep-sea fishing project.

However, when the first allegations emerged, the minister had claimed that neither has she not met with anyone nor did she know anything about the project. In the latest press meet, she admitted that she “might have met” with them in New York, and she saw them in Kerala but did not discuss the project.

Chennithala criticized Mercykutty Amma for issuing contradicting statements.

The documents furnished by the Opposition Leader notes that EMCC India wrote a letter to Industries Minister Jayarajan referring to their “meeting” and “discussion” with the Fisheries Minister in New York for the deep-sea fishing project. They also added a concept note, as well as a deal with KSINC for manufacturing trawlers within the state.

However, addressing the allegations, Mercykutty Amma has told Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that neither she nor her department has anything to do with the alleged “agreement” that has been entered into with EMCC India during the ASCEND 2020 investor’s meet. According to the documents, the company signed an MoU with EMCC India on February 28, 2020, with an outlay of Rs 5,000 crore. The Fisheries Minister alleged that certain officers had done so with specific political intentions. “I cannot be held responsible for the actions of that particular officer, and just because he/she signed an MoU doesn’t mean that the plan will come to fruition,” Mercykutty Amma told reporters, adding that such a deal is contrary to the policy.

Meanwhile, members of the coastal communities have decided to organise a hartal on February 27 against the government’s alleged contract with the company. They will also block the KSINC office on February 22, and organise a march to Mercykutty Amma’s official residence in Kollam in the evening. The coastal communities alleged that the government entered into such a controversial deal while the communities are facing a severe shortage of fishes.

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