Contending that the Government Order issued by the Environment department to close down the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi won’t stand up to legal scrutiny, DMK working president and Leader of the Opposition M.K. Stalin, along with fellow party legislators, staged a walkout from the Assembly on Tuesday, demanding steps to “permanently” shut down the plant.
Mr. Stalin urged the government to convene a Cabinet meeting and adopt a resolution to shut down the copper smelter unit. “Until the Sterlite Copper plant is permanently shut down, we will not take part in the proceedings of the House,” he said, before leading a walkout by DMK legislators.
The members of the Opposition party attended the first day of the current Assembly session in black clothing, as a mark of protest against the police firing in Thoothukudi last week, which left 13 people dead. Legislators of the party’s ally, the Congress, wore black tags on their clothes, while the sole IUML MLA sported a black shirt.
Mr. Stalin pointed out that there was no mention of the police firing in the statement placed before the House by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. He sought to know the intelligence inputs received by the authorities regarding the anti-Sterlite protests, and urged the State government to table a White Paper on the issue.
‘CM should go’
He reiterated his demands for Mr. Palaniswami’s resignation, the registration of a murder case against those involved in the police firing, the withdrawal of cases filed against the protesters and the release of the agitators who had been arrested.
After Question Hour, Mr. Stalin sought to move an adjournment motion on the Sterlite issue, but Speaker P. Dhanapal refused to consider the plea, since the agenda for the day had a call attention motion listed over the same issue.
The DMK leader eventually spoke after AIADMK MLAs S.P. Shunmuganathan and M. Thamimun Ansari and Independent MLA T.T.V. Dhinakaran, who moved the special call attention motion. In his response, the Chief Minister said a detailed statement over the issue had been placed on the floor of the House.
Mr. Shunmuganathan (Srivaikundam constituency) said he was satisfied with the statement and claimed that the people of Thoothukudi were happy with the action taken by the Chief Minister. The former Minister went on to thank Mr. Palaniswami on behalf of the people of the coastal town, amid expressions of disapproval from the Opposition benches.
Mr. Ansari (Nagapattinam constituency), while welcoming the “delayed” closure of the plant, questioned the need for the police to resort to “extreme steps”.
Mr. Dhinakaran (Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency), who was quite critical of the Chief Minister and his actions all through his speech, questioned why prohibitory orders were issued in Thoothukudi if the government’s claim that it had taken adequate security measures was true. Certain remarks made by Mr. Dhinakaran were expunged by the Speaker.
At one point, Electricity Minister P. Thangamani intervened, saying certain statements by Mr. Dhinakaran could instigate riots in the coastal town again.