Chandy, Chennithala keep off function

The Honorary Consulate of Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram was inaugurated on Wednesday at a function, from which Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala stayed away, amid reports about the involvement of the Honorary Consul in a criminal case.

In the absence of Mr. Chandy, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor inaugurated the consulate to be headed by businessman Joemon Joseph, who is in the thick of a controversy over being named in an FIR filed by the police.

Political leaders, including K. Muraleedharan, MLA, CPI State secretary Pannian Ravindran, and BJP State president V. Muraleedharan, who were among the invitees did not turn up. CPI(M) district secretary Kadakampally Surendran was present, but left the venue before the function. Secretary of Bharat Bhavan Satheesh Babu Payyanur and president of the Southern region of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Biju Ramesh were present.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Tharoor said the new consulate would reflect the international presence of Kerala. Pointing out that the United Arab Emirates had opened a consulate in the city recently, he said yet another country was awaiting clearance from Delhi to set up a consulate here. Noting that the date of the function had been fixed to suit the convenience of the Chief Minister, Mr. Tharoor said the Sri Lankan Ambassador could not be present because he had to leave for Colombo.

Surprise end

Participants at the inaugural function were taken aback when the ceremony came to an abrupt end immediately after the MP’s speech. The dignitaries, later, came back to light a ceremonial lamp. Mr. Tharoor tried to evade waiting newsmen but when pressed for his response to the Honorary Consul’s involvement in a criminal case, he said: “As far as I know, he has not been convicted.”

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