Kodiyeri, Chennithala spar over mobile phone ‘gift’

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Saturday feuded over whether it was proper to participate in a raffle organised by a foreign consulate and accept a prize.

Mr Balakrishnan said that Mr. Chennithala had admitted that he had participated in a lucky draw held at the UAE consulate here. If so, Mr. Chennithala had violated Section 38 (c) of the protocol that governs such interactions.

The rule forbids citizens from participating in lotteries and draws organised by foreign entities. The law viewed the violation of the section as an offence under the Indian Penal Code and not a legitimate diplomatic activity, Mr. Balakrishnan said.

He added that Mr. Chennithala had lost the moral right to criticise Minister for Minority Welfare and Waqaf, K. T. Jaleel, for accepting Koran and food kits as Ramzan charity from the UAE government. Dr Jaleel had conducted a genuine transaction within the bounds of the rules of official conduct.

Mr. Chennithala said he had attended the UAE national raising day function at the consulate as the chief guest last year. The organisers had welcomed him with a shawl, which he gave away immediately. He had not accepted any other gift though there was a raffle for attendees. A personal aide of his received a watch.

An officer in the protocol section had received a mobile phone. The government employee was on Mr .Balakrishnan’s staff when he was Home Minister, Mr. Chennithala said.

The controversy had acquired an intensely political edge because gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh was the master of the ceremonies at the function. At the time, she was a senior consulate staff.

The 2019 function came under a severe spotlight after the builder contracted by the UAE Red Crescent to construct dwellings for the poor at Thrissur via Life Mission had ‘revealed’ in a court filing that he had bought five expensive mobile phones at the behest of Swapna.

He reportedly claimed that Swapna had said that she intended to gift the phones to dignitaries invited to the event, including Mr. Chennithala. The builder alleged that the mobile phones were a minor component of the substantial bribe he had allegedly paid Swapna and other intermediaries to bag the UAE Red Crescent construction contract.

Mr. Chennithala petitioned the police to identify the phone users. He hinted that they might include the kin of ruling front leaders.

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