Sri Lanka govt faces threat of split over 'floating armoury'

Sri Lanka's ruling coalition is facing the first major threat of a split as two key ministers threatened to take "decisive political action" if their Cabinet colleague was not sacked, following his defence of a controversial 'floating armoury' scandal.

Colombo: Sri Lanka's ruling coalition is facing the first major threat of a split as two key ministers threatened to take "decisive political action" if their Cabinet colleague was not sacked, following his defence of a controversial 'floating armoury' scandal.

Minister of Law and Order and Prison reforms Thilak Marapana on Wednesday defended the Avant Garde's armoury scandal by declaring that there was nothing illegal about the company's operation that involved using government weapons and hiring them out to foreigners.

Contrary to police claims, Marapana said Avant Garde did not require a licence as they were using weapons of the Sri Lankan state and accused the police of trying to "score political points".

He said all the allegations made by his own United National Party (UNP) and his own leader Ranil Wickremesinghe are not only false, but malicious allegations made out of jealousy, Sri Lanka Guardian reported today.

Clashes erupted during yesterday's meeting with Cabinet spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne and his ministerial colleague Champika Ranwaka both threatening to take "decisive political action" unless President Maithripala Sirisena ordered a fresh investigation into the armoury scandal.

Ranawaka threatened to resign while Senaratne said he would fight the corrupt individuals within the government.

"We will not allow these fellows to take us down," Ranawaka said.

Senaratne hinted that strong action could be taken against at least three of his Cabinet colleagues over the issue.

"There will be a special cabinet meeting next Monday. Let's see something can happen," Senaratne said.

Avant Garde, a company formed under former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime, is accused of illegal arms deals, violation of law on explosives and firearms and money laundering.

The issue surfaced in January with the defeat of Rajapaksa in the January presidential election when the police raided a vessel full of weapons at the Galle Harbour.

The Attorney General who carried out investigations on the issue said the company had not violated any procedure so there was no grounds for indictment.

Marapana who was the company's defence attorney before becoming a minister was endorsing Attorney General's stance during his parliamentary speech on Wednesday.

At least four civil society activists have also written to both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe calling for the removal of Marapana. 

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