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CPI(M) seeks judicial probe into poaching

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 11. The CPI(M) State secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, has demanded a judicial inquiry into the activities of the sandalwood mafia and `the protection they have received from the administration.'

In a statement here today, Mr. Vijayan said the issues relating to the mafia's activities did not end with K.P. Viswanathan's resignation as Forest Minister. The former Forest Minister K. Sudhakaran and Mr. Viswanathan had come out openly against each other and raised serious allegations about the way the sandalwood wealth was protected during their respective tenures.

Mr. Sudhakaran claimed that all steps were taken during his tenure to number and protect the sandal trees and alleged that 1,500 of these trees were cut after Mr. Viswanathan assumed charge as Forest Minister. The latter questioned the claim and alleged that no raid was conducted to unearth contraband sandalwood during Mr. Sudhakaran's tenure. The dispute between the two clearly showed that under the UDF rule, there was rampant felling of sandal trees and underscored the need for a judicial probe, the CPI(M) leader said.

Referring to Mr. Viswanathan's claim that he had not ordered a Vigilance inquiry or any other inquiry against forest officials who had raided the Walayar Rural Industries, Mr. Vijayan said that if that was the case, the Government should immediately place the officials who had headed the Vigilance probe under suspension and order an inquiry into it.

BJP demand

The BJP State president, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, today demanded a judicial inquiry into the alleged links between politicians, officials and the forest mafia.

He urged the Advocate General to initiate steps for contempt of court proceedings against Mr Sudhakaran who had made "defamatory comments against the High Court."

Mr. Pillai alleged that several sandalwood factories were benami enterprises of higher-ups in the Government.

Our Staff Reporter writes from Thrissur

Mr. Viswanathan said an inquiry must be conducted into the allegations that some Government lawyers were deliberately paving the way for the victory of the rival side in the courts. At a `Face-to-face' programme organised by the Thrissur Press Club today, Mr. Viswanathan said that he had suggested to the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, to conduct such a probe covering various cases including the recent case involving him also. He said he would be leaving for New Delhi on February 14 to move the Supreme Court to get the remarks made by the Kerala High Court against him expunged.

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