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Sri Lanka’s president sacks outspoken justice minister

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In this handout photograph taken and released by the Sri Lankan President’s Office on August 15, 2017, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (R) swears in the new Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana (L) in Colombo.<br />Marapana, a former attorney general and a senior aide to the prime minister, was assigned the ministry vacated last week after Ravi Karunanayake resigned under a cloud of controversy. / AFP PHOTO / SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT’S OFFICE / Handout 

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked his controversial justice minister Wednesday for speaking out against a billion-dollar deal to sell a stake in a loss-making deep sea port to China.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had publicly denounced the government’s $1.1 billion sale last month of a 70 percent stake in Hambantota port to state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings.

“He (Rajapakshe) had violated collective cabinet responsibility by openly speaking against the deal,” said government spokesman Gayantha Karunathillaka.

The minister was sacked a day after facing sanctions from his own party for alleged breaches of discipline.

His United National Party has also accused him of stalling the prosecution of more than 100 former regime figures accused of murder and corruption under president Mahinda Rajapakse, who ruled Sri Lanka for almost a decade until 2015 and ended the war with Tamil separatists.

Rajapakshe is the second minister to fall from grace within a fortnight.

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake was forced to step down after being linked to a controversial bond dealer under investigation for allegedly causing huge losses to the state.

Negotiations over the port deal were held up for months amid opposition from trade unions and political parties.

India and the United States are also known to be concerned that a Chinese foothold at the port could give it a naval advantage in the Indian Ocean.



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