Fracas with tourist: SI suspended

The Swedish citizen had emptied two IMFL bottles after he was questioned by the police

With the high-handed approach of a group of police officers towards a Swede in Kovalam on the New Year’s eve coming under scrutiny, the Thiruvananthapuram City police placed a grade Sub-Inspector (SI) under suspension on Saturday.

Grade SI Shaji attached to the Kovalam police station was placed under suspension pending inquiry following a preliminary inquiry by the Special Branch. The action came close on the heels of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan instructing the State Police Chief to institute a thorough probe into the incident.

The incident in which the foreigner, Stefan Asberg, who has been running a homestay in Kovalam for nearly four years, was seen emptying two bottles of Indian-made foreign liquor after being questioned by a police team evoked much criticism with various quarters lamenting the unfriendly attitude towards tourists.

Tourism Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas termed the incident ‘unfortunate’ while lamenting such tendencies could hamper the tourism prospects of the State. Demanding a probe, the Minister felt the behaviour of the police went against the government’s policies. Such actions cannot be tolerated in a State that has been tirelessly exploring new avenues to attract tourists in the post-pandemic period.

Nonetheless, he expressed optimism that such incidents would not dampen the interest among tourists to visit Kerala and explore its tourist destinations.

General Education and Labour Minister V. Sivankutty, who invited the Swede to his official residence, said the incident was an isolated one.

Shortly after the Kerala Police Officers Association conveying its protest against the decision to suspend the sub-inspector, Mr. Sivankutty said it was unfair to project the entire police force in a bad light. The Kerala Police has been functioning in an efficient manner across the State, he said.

Finding himself in the vortex of a controversy unexpectedly, Mr. Asberg told media persons that he regarded police officers as his friends. Uninterested in submitting a formal complaint against the police, he said he felt sorry for the suspended official.

Nonetheless, City Police Commissioner G. Sparjan Kumar said the department-level investigation will continue in the incident.

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