Thiruvananthapuram: The first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on deep-sea fishing with US-based EMCC was signed by the State government, it was revealed on Friday.
It had been believed that the MoU was between Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and EMCC, signed as part of the Ascend Kerala Global Investors’ Meet – 2020 held in Kochi in January that year.
Documents available now, however, revealed that the MoU was between the State government and the US firm. KSIDC Managing Director M G Rajamanickam had signed the document merely as the government’s representative.
The headline of the MoU itself had made it clear that the deal was between the State government and EMCC. The first promise in the MoU was to encourage deep-sea trawling in the State, and to invest Rs 5,000 crore for research activities on fisheries.
The MoU also stated that the project, slated to begin on September 2, 2020, would create 25,000 job opportunities and that the State government would ensure all support to EMCC to roll out the project.
Govt on the defensive
The Kerala government had aborted the deep-sea fishing contract with the US firm EMCC as the Opposition raised a furore. The Pinarayi Vijayan government went back on the deal last month fearing the adverse political ramifications and the backlash of the fisherfolk in the state ahead of the assembly election.
In a bid to defend itself, the ministers either passed the buck to bureaucrats or blatantly lied. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma had been so far reiterating that the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation had entered into the contract without the knowledge or approval of the state government. However, documents available in the public domain nail their series of falsehoods.
Here's a look at the government claims and the facts:
1) Government's claim: No talks were held with the representatives of EMCC in the US.
The truth: EMCC authorities admitted they had met with Minister J Mercykutty Amma in New York. (However, the minister's response that she doesn't recall such a meeting is not convincing.)
2) Government's claim: There were no talks with the EMCC representatives in Kerala.
The truth: Opposition leader released the photograph of Minister J Mercykutty Amma holding talks with EMCC officials in her office. Senior government officials were also part of the meeting.
3) Government's claim: The Chief Minister did not hold discussions with EMCC officials.
The truth: The EMCC President himself had clarified that the firm’s representatives had held talks twice with the Chief Minister at (the latter's official residence) the Cliff House, and the Kerala Secretariat in August 2019.
4) Government's claim: The government was unaware of the project.
The truth: The draft of the project report the EMCC had submitted to the Fisheries Department and the letter of the Fisheries Principal Secretary to the central government based on the draft have already reached the public domain.
5) Government's claim: Approval to the project was denied and EMCC was not entertained further.
The truth: The firm was invited to Ascend Global Investors’ Meet, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.
6) Government's claim: No evidence to prove that permission was granted to the EMCC.
The truth: The copy of the MoU between EMCC and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation is in public domain.
7) Government's claim: The EMCC did not get any out-of-the-way benefits.
The truth: Documents revealed that the firm was given four acres at Pallipuram in Cherthala ostensibly to carry out processing of fish.
8) Government's claim: EMCC representatives met Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala before submitting a letter requesting the State cabinet to consider its project.
The truth: Chennithala was undertaking the Aishwarya Kerala Yatra on that day.
9) Government's claim: No contract with the EMCC as part of the Ascend meet, the Assembly was told.
The truth: Documents reveal the MoU was signed at the Ascend meet.
10) Government's claim: The MoU with KSIDC has a validity of only six months.
The truth: The validity period is not mentioned in the MoU, and hence, is still valid, said legal experts.
11) Government's claim: The Kerala Shipping & Inland Navigation Corporation’s MoU is in conflict with the government policy.
The truth: Permission for deep-sea fishing included in the MoU between the government and the EMCC. The MoU with KSIDC is confined to building trawlers and constructing a harbour.
12) Government's claim: The KSINC had signed the MoU without informing the government.
The truth: Documents reveal that the Chief Minister’s Office and the head of the department concerned were informed in advance.