Chandy takes on opposition on Italian marines



Thiruvananthapuram: Under heat from Left inside and outside the Assembly on the Italian marines issue, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Friday took on the opposition as he triumphantly announced in the house that the two marines are returning to India.

"Early this week, CPI-M's (Communist Party of India-Marxist) PK Gurudasan sought leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the statement that the two Italian marines who went to cast their votes in the national elections won't return. He also dragged the name of Sonia Gandhi into this issue for no reason."

"I made the firm assurance that the two would return after the prime minister assured me," said Chandy amidst thundering applause from the treasury benches.

"Diplomatic immunity does not mean that the law of our land can be broken. When this issue came up before the apex court, all saw the tough posture taken by the centre and the court ruled that the Italian ambassador cannot leave the country. No country can take India lightly."

"I take this opportunity to express the thanks on behalf of all in our state to the apex court and our Prime Minister for the stand they took," added Chandy.

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, posted aboard oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie, had on February 15, 2012, opened fire at a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala, suspecting that the boat carried pirates.

Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, were killed in the firing.

Chandy first came under fire from the Left when the Kerala High Court allowed the two to return to Italy to celebrate Christmas with their families but the issue ended after the duo returned ahead of their deadline.

Latorre and Girone were again allowed to go home to vote in their country's elections after Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the duo would return to India by March 22.

Following this, the court had on February 22 permitted to leave India, with the promise that they would return in four weeks.

But on March 11, the Italy informed India the marines would not be sent back, leading to a diplomatic standoff. The ambassador was restrained by the apex court from leaving India for reneging on his word.

Meanwhile, Dora Gelastine, the widow of one of the victims, expressed happiness after hearing the news that the two marines will return.

"They should stand trial in our country... I am happy that they are returning and thank the efforts of all who made this possible," she told media here at her home near Kollam.

IANS