LS panel accepts Ronen's apologies

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New Delhi, Nov 22: Accepting unconditional apologies and clarifications by India's U S Ambassador Ronen Sen on his reported remarks of ''headless chickens'' seeking comments here and there on Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Lok Sabha privileges committee has exonerated him of the charge of having commited a breach of Parliament by casting aspersions on its members.

In its 9th report tabled in Lok Sabha today, the Parliamentary panel recommended that '' the matter be treated as closed'' in view of its findings and ''the unconditional apologies'' tendered by Mr Sen.

''The committee is, therefore, of the view that no breach of privilege or contempt of the House is involved in the matter.'' Quoting with approval the proverb ''Discretion in speech is more than important than eloquence'' the panel, however, underlined the need for review of many directives and advisories on do's and don'ts for diplomats with regard to their interactions and inferfaces with media on non-official forums to avert such ''piquant situations.'' After considering privilege notices by MPs and the reply given by Indian Amabassador, the committee held that the phrase''headless chicken'' was not used by Mr Sen in respect of members of Parliament or politicians.

In its findings, the committee said they were convinced that Mr Sen did not give an interview to Mr Aziz Haniffa of rediff India Abroad; the remarks made by him (Sen) were actually made during a casual conversation and there was, therefore, no cause for Mr Sen to realise that he was required to specify even during a casual conversation that the remarks were off-the-record.

The panel said they were ''satisfied by the clarifications given by Shri Ronen Sen that there was no malafide intention whatsoever on his part and accept his unqualified apologies tendered by him.''

During a question-answer session before the committee on October 29, Mr Sen admitted use of colloquial phrases like ''headless chicken'' for himself and his wife in informal conversation. With Haniffa, he said, he was using it because he thought it was completely priviate.'' But that was a poor judgement on my part and I apologise for that.''

Asked whether the interview he gave to Haniffa was an arranged one or a casual one, Mr Sen replied,''It was not an arranged one.....this took place in the background of my refusal to give an interview.(But) he caught me on my moblise phone... he asked certain questions and I gave some remarks.

He further asked certain questions, which got me a little irritated and I made those most ill-advised comments. But I repeat it was not an interview and I was totally shocked.''

In reply to another question, Mr Sen said '' I should not have given the interview. In fact, I fully agree with the committee that it was a very very bad judgement on my part, particularly after declining this request.... very frankly I should not have been ambushed in his manner. For a person of my experience, I have no excuse and I apologise.''

Earlier on the same day during his submission before the committee, Mr Sen said ''I did not give any on-the-record interview to Mr Aziz Haniffa of Rediff India abroad. I had frank telephone conversations with Mr Haniffa and with Mr Chidanand Rajghatta of The Times of India on either the 18th or 19th of August,2007.''

He said when on August 20 Rajghatta remonstrated that he had given an on-the-record interview to Haniffa and not him, he immediately called up Haniffa on telephone and sought his explanation. He said to this Haniffa responded''defensively'' and claimed he had only quoted some general statements and taken special care to ascribe what he(Haniffa) referred to as ''senstive remarks to unidentified diplomatic observors in Washington DC.''

Mr Sen said he was ''aghast'' to see the text of report filed by Haniffa and tried to again call him up telephonically. He said when there was no response he left a brief voice mail message '' expressing by deep disappointment and remarked that he (Haniffa) had thoughtlessly destroyed my credibility.'' The 16-member panel was headed by Mr V Kishore Chandra S Deo.

Breach of privilege notices were given among others by Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, Mr P C Thomas and Mr Anant G Geete.


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