Kerala Speaker’s staff member appears before Customs in dollar smuggling cases

The Opposition UDF boycotted the Kerala Governor’s policy speech in the Assembly, demanding the Speaker’s resignation.
Speaker Sreeramakrishnan
Speaker Sreeramakrishnan
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On Friday, Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan's assistant private secretary appeared before Customs officials probing the dollar smuggling cases in the state, sources said. The Customs department had served a notice to the official, K Ayyappan, at his residential address in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, directing him to appear before the investigation team in Kochi.

Ayyappan was responsible for charting out the Speaker's daily programmes and travel related matters.

Customs sources said that Ayyappan was summoned to cross examine the evidence it had gathered into the alleged involvement of some powerful persons in connection with the smuggling of dollars.

The notice asking Ayyappan to appear for questioning was delivered at his residential address on Thursday after the Speaker maintained that his prior permission was required to interrogate a member of his personal staff.

The central agency had earlier issued summons to Ayyappan at his official address in connection with the probe into the case related to alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate to Muscat in Oman.

The Speaker had come under criticism from the Opposition for inaugurating the shop of one of the accused in the gold smuggling case, Sandeep Nair, months ago.

Sreeramakrishnan said that he did not think that the central investigating agencies would question him. "I am fully confident that there was no lapse from my side. So I have no anxiety," he said on Thursday, adding that he would end his political career if it was proved that he had accepted even one rupee as bribe from anyone.

UDF boycotts Governor’s policy address in Assembly

On Friday, the Congress-led United Democratic Front Opposition boycotted Governor Arif Mohammad Khan's policy address in the Kerala Assembly on the first day of the budget session, demanding the resignation of Sreeramakrishnan. The opposition legislators, who came with banners and posters, raised slogans against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Speaker as Governor Arif Khan arrived to deliver his customary address.

Despite sloganeering, the Governor began his speech on time detailing the achievements and performances of the lone Left government in the country in its over four and half years' tenure.

As the sloganeering continued, a visibly irritated Khan asked the opposition members three times to allow him to fulfill his constitutional duty, but his plea fell on deaf ears.

"I am doing my constitutional is expected that no obstruction will be created while the Governor is performing constitutional duties. You have already raised enough slogans... Don't interrupt me," the Governor told the opposition.

Though Opposition Leader Ramesh stood up and tried to speak in between, the Governor did not yield to his demand.

The protesting opposition legislators later walked out of the Assembly hall and staged a sit-in at its portal, raising slogans and displaying banners and posters.

Meanwhile, the Governor, who continued his speech, said that the LDF government has been facing challenges ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Detailing various pro-people measures taken by the LDF government, the Governor said that the state started community kitchens for the needy to ensure that none went hungry during the lockdown, ensured that treatment for COVID-19 is being given free, and kits are being distributed to all ration card holders. Kerala was also the first state to announce a pandemic relief package of Rs 20,000 crore. The southern state also declared floor price of 16 vegetables produced in the state, he said.

Almost 9% of the state's population is living abroad and with nearly six lakh immigrants returning due to the impact of COVID-19, it will hamper the flow of remittances, causing a severe impact on the state's economy, he said.

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