Sri Lanka opposition MP cries foul over gun arrest

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lankan police on Saturday (Jan 4) arrested an opposition legislator over an alleged gun offence, but the outspoken MP claimed he was being targeted for speaking out against corruption in politics.

Ranjan Ramanayake was the third member of the United National Party - which lost a November presidential election in a landslide win for Gotabaya Rajapaksa - to be arrested in as many weeks.

Police seized what they said was an unlicensed handgun, 127 rounds of live ammunition and unspecified documents from the home of Ramanayake, who livestreamed the search and arrest.

"I have not done any crime... I am ready to face any repercussions for speaking the truth," he said shortly before being taken into custody to give a statement.

Fellow UNP lawmaker Eran Wickramaratne said the arrest was politically motivated. "The continuing trend of using police force to further a political agenda is abhorrent and must be stopped," Wickramaratne said on Twitter.

Ramanayake was the third UNP lawmaker arrested since mid-December. Former minister Patali Ranawaka was arrested on December 18 in connection with a 2016 traffic accident in which a motorcyclist was seriously injured.

Another former minister, Rajitha Senaratne, was arrested on December 27 and accused of violating election laws by holding a press conference ahead of the November 16 vote, among other charges.

Both Senaratne and Ranawaka have since been released on bail.

All three lawmakers are vocal opponents of Rajapaksa, who has said he wants to hold early parliamentary elections, possibly in late April or early May.