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* Controversy at opening of Sri Lankan consulate in Kerala
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 08:30 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 26, Thiruvananthapuram: Sri Lanka has opened a new consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala state in India amid controversy that the honorary consul appointed to the Consulate, a Kerala-based Sri Lankan businessman, is on bail in a criminal case.

Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor opened the Sri Lankan Consulate Wednesday evening. However the Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy who was scheduled to inaugurate the opening and Home minister Ramesh Chennithala skipped the function to avoid the controversy.

Home minister Chennithala has told the Indian media that he will not attend the inauguration after learning that the Honorary Consul appointed to the Consulate, Joemon Joseph is out on bail in a criminal case for beating a 63-year old man.

BJP state president V Muraleedharan, who was also invited to the event, has also decided to avoid the function.

As state of Tamil Nadu has become increasingly hostile towards Sri Lanka, establishment of a consulate in Kerala is expected to strengthen the relationship between India and Sri Lanka.

The Chief Minister Chandy has said that the setting up of the Sri Lankan Consulate will increase the cooperation between Kerala and Sri Lanka in the fields of trade, agriculture, industry and higher education.

The Sri Lankan Consul denying the allegations has told the Indian media that he was cleared by the central Indian government to take up the position.

"Proposal to appoint me as Honorary Consul was forwarded by Sri Lanka government to Indian government. Different agencies like Central Intelligence Bureau and RAW made detailed inquiry about me and only after their clearance, I have been selected for this position," Joseph was quoted in the media as saying.

The Chief Minister has said that he would look into the allegation against the Honorary Consul.

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