Goa cabinet split over rape issue (Lead)

October 16th, 2008 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Oct 16 (IANS) A Goa minister Thursday admitted to a split in the state cabinet over the rape case registered against the son of another minister and urged the Congress leadership in New Delhi to despatch an emissary to soothe the ruffled political feathers. “There is a split in the cabinet or else why would we assemble here?” Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao said at a press conference held at the residence of Education Minister Atanasio Monseratte, whose son Rohit has been charged with raping a teenaged German girl.

Alemao is a part an informal pressure group of more than half a dozens MLAs and ministers who have put their weight the elder Monseratte. The father, who has also been charged for being an abettor to the crime alleged last night that Home Minister Ravi Naik had been using the case to unfairly taget him.

Monserratte’s supporters include legislators like Churchill Alemao and his brother Joaquim, Agnelo Fernandes, Manohar Asgaonka and Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco.

“How can you justify the police move to charge Monserratte’s son with rape when the medical examination of the victim has not been conducted yet?” Alemao asked, echoing Monseratte’s views.

Alemao also charged that the police top brass were high-handed when he went to intercede on behalf of Monseratte.

When why Chief Minister was silent on the entire issue Alemao quipped: “Because he is silent, he is the chief minister.”

According to reports here, the Congress leadership in New Delhi has dispatched party General Secretary B. Hariprasad and Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Shukla to defuse the crisis.

The Goa Police, meanwhile, have issued a lookout notice for Rohit Monseratte to ensure that he does not leave the country.

“We have started the process for issuing a lookout notice,” Superintendent of Police (North) Bosco George told reporters Thursday.

A lookout notice is issued in criminal cases and is served at all exit points in the country to deter a suspect from leaving the country.

Reacting to claims Wednesday night made by the Monserattes that the victim’s unwillingness to depose before the police virtually meant no case, Bosco said that since the girl was a minor, her statement was not the only evidence that the police were banking on. “We have sufficient material with which to proceed with the case.”

He also claimed that the police had seized the mobile phone as well as the SIM card on which the messages were received and they have been sent for forensic investigation. “We have also attached the passport, which proves that her age is indeed 14.”

Asked whether the police would arrest Rohit Monseratte or his father anytime soon, Bosco said that the arrests would be deferred until the girl makes a statement.

Earlier in the day, the police spent four hours recording the statement of the victim’s mother Fadela Fuchs at Bosco’s office.

Fuchs, whose criminal complaint was registered Tuesday after a 12-day delay, has claimed that 21-year-old Rohit had caused mental and physical agony to her daughter by raping her and sending lewd SMSs.

Fuchs’ complaint has had the Goa political circles churning. While Monseratte has claimed that he was being targeted by Home minister Ravi Naik, a pressure group of more than a dozen MLAs and ministers have been asking the Congress high command for a change in leadership.

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