Government yet to receive legal opinion
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced here on Friday that an all-party meeting proposed on the controversy over Halcyon Castle at Kovalam stood postponed as the government had not received legal opinion on certain aspects of the settlement proposed with the RP group, which claimed ownership of the Castle and its appurtenances.
Mr. Chandy denied that the Tourism Department had prepared a note for discussion at the meeting proposing lease of land near the Castle to the hotel group for 99 years (which was equivalent to sale). The terms of the lease were the issues to be decided at the all-party conference and the government never wanted to pre-empt the matter.
He added that the reports that the government proposed to hand over the Castle and its compound to the hotel group were baseless. Though the hotel group had won the case against the Ordinance issued by the previous United Democratic Front government, the government was confident of winning the appeal. However, the settlement was proposed to avoid delays. The Government Order in that respect was clear that the settlement and lease of land near the Castle was subject to the hotel group accepting government ownership of the Castle, its compound and appurtenances.
Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran on Friday hit out at the ruling and Opposition coalitions’ “new consensus style” that would facilitate the handing over of the Halcyon Castle, popularly known as Kovalam Kottaram, to a private resort owner. He urged Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to take all legal, administrative and political measures to ensure that the government retained possession of the property.
Mr. Sudheeran, in a sharply worded letter to the Chief Minister, referred to the persistent attempts by private vested interests to take possession of the Halcyon Castle during the last several years.
He alleged that these attempts had the overt and covert support of top officials. “It is unfortunate and highly condemnable, if not surprising, that moves should be made at the government level to protect the interests of private resorts instead of processing the case before the High Court in such a manner that the ownership of the property cannot be questioned in future on the strength of all the documents that would attest to the government stand on the issue.
The objective of the relevant Government Order issued in this connection and the proposed all-party meeting cannot but be construed as a move to protect the interest of the hotel owner,” he said. Mr. Sudheeran also criticised the “new consensus style” that was emerging, stating that such developments would leave a black mark on the political leadership of the State, especially when the Opposition and ruling front leaders were not prepared to come together to tackle issues related to protecting the interests of the poor. He wanted the State government to retract from the moves to hand over public property to the private industrialist, besides rejecting the “benevolent offer” of the private group (for a long-term lease).
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State unit general secretary K. Surendran has alleged an unholy nexus between the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]-led Left Democratic Front in giving on lease a portion of the premises of Halcyon Castle at Kovalam to a private company.
At a press conference in Kozhikode on Friday, Mr. Surendran said a section of the CPI(M) was hand in glove with the ruling Congress in transferring the land to a non-resident Indian group. CPI(M) State unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Polit Bureau members Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and M.A. Baby were keenly interested in handing over of this land, he alleged.
Mr. Surendran alleged that Halcyon Castle was leased to RP Group of companies in which Mr. Balakrishnan’s son and Mr. Vijayan’s daughter were employed. It was up to CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat to clarify whether the party supported the stand taken by the State unit on the issue.
Mr. Surendran said the BJP had not been invited to an all-party meeting called by the State government. However, the party would take the issue to the streets.