Sri Lanka floating armoury threatens to sink M-R regime

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – The uneasy coalition governing Sri Lanka since the collapse of Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime is facing a serious split over several high profile investigations, including the controversial floating armoury.

What began as a tip off of an unauthorised weapons ship at the Galle harbour shortly after President Maithripala Sirisena came to power has turned into a contentious issue that is dividing the shaky coalition.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne has already spoken of attempts to pay huge bribes to a government minister to hush up the investigations.

The floating armoury with over 3,000 automatic weapons plus unauthorised storage of weapons inside the Galle naval headquarters has raised one simple question as to how a private company was allowed to maintain a private armoury.

The Sunday Times newspaper has already exposed details of the scandal (see full story here: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150125/columns/shocking-revelations-of-deep-security-state-within-the-state-131923.html).

But the latest shocker is the behaviour of cabinet ministers amid allegations made by fellow cabinet ministers that huge amounts had been offered to stop the investigations.

Public Order minister John Amaratunga told reporters last week that he was accused of taking bribes to delay the floating armoury investigation, but insisted that it was the police who were going slow.

Police Chief N. K. Illangakoon assured that the probe was almost complete and denied they had agreed to releasing the passport of the floating armoury owner Nissanka Senadhapathi of Avant Garde Maritime Services (PVT) LTD to allow him to leave the island.

He has returned after the first travel abroad amid the investigation and his request to go abroad again is being resisted by the police following fresh questioning about the investigation.

At the latest national Executive Council meeting this week, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is reported to have threatened to quit over a spat with Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksha who denies he took a bribe.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tried to pour oil on troubled waters by asking all to refrain from making public pronouncements on ongoing investigations.

Minister Amaratunga is already in the dog house over police failure to show progress in any of the high profile cases. Amaratunga tried to deflect criticism aimed at him by indirectly accusing Police Chief Illangakoon of incompetence.

However, the the cost of botched up investigations, delayed probes and allegations that the current government ministers are no better than the ones they replaced has led to widening rifts.

The Prime Minister is keen to have early elections before internal squabbles turn into deeper fissures that will open a way for former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse to make a come back.

With Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s relationship with President Sirisena also appearing to be uneasy, especially over military appointments, the sooner they go for a parliamentary election the better the chances of keeping Rajapakse out.