COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's law and order minister quit on Monday to avert a possible split in the ruling coalition government after he defended a security firm amid a probe into allegations of a "floating armory".
Tilak Marapana, an ex-attorney general handpicked by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, last week defended private security firm Avant Garde in parliament.
Police this year seized more than 3,000 weapons in 20 containers from the armory, run by Avant Garde and docked in the southern port of Galle.
Marapana represented Avant Garde before he was appointed minister in September.
A faction of Wickremesinghe's ruling United National Party (UNP) along with some civil society groups had demanded Marapana's resignation after his speech. The ongoing probes are conducted by the police, which come under Marapana's ministry.
"Some members of the government and public suspect that my position as the law and order minister could have an impact on the ongoing investigations conducted by the police. So I have decided to resign," Marapana told reporters.
The investigations are part of a wide probe of alleged corrupt deals during the administration of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe's center-right UNP and President Maithripala Sirisena's center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) formed a coalition government after Aug. 17 polls and pledged to ensure good governance and probe past corrupt deals under Rajapaksa.
Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Nick Macfie