COLOMBO: In a set-back to Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, an influential minister today resigned from the cabinet allegedly over a controversial 'floating armoury' scandal.
Law and Order and Prisons Reform Minister Tilak Marapana sent his resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena, days after he defended the Avant Garde's armoury scandal by saying that there was nothing illegal about the company's operation that involved using government weapons and hiring them out to foreigners.
Marapana was under pressure to resign after his comments.
Explaining the reasons behind his resignation, he said there were doubts in the minds of MPs and members of the public that the Avant Garde probe would not be conducted properly if he continued to remain as the minister.
However, he insisted that he would continue to remain in Parliament as an MP.
Marapana's statement in Parliament last week regarding the Avant Garde issue drew strong criticism even from some of his ministerial colleagues in the government.
At one point, Marapana even claimed that the police, which is now under his purview, had raided the Avant Garde floating armory docked at the Galle harbor in January to "score points".
Prior to being appointed as a minister, Marapana had in fact rendered legal services to Avant Garde, further fueling the anger against his statement.
Marapana's statement made for a heated cabinet meeting last Thursday, where some ministers vehemently criticised his conduct. This prompted President Sirisena to call for the special cabinet meeting today in a bid to resolve differences.
Avant Garde was allowed to run the floating armory under the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The present government had ordered a probe following the discovery of a ship carrying arms in the Galle harbor.