TNA’s Sampanthan becomes opposition leader in Sri Lankan parliament

After A. Amirthalingam in 1977, this is the second time a Tamil has been chosen Leader of the Opposition.

Updated - November 17, 2021 03:49 am IST

Published - September 03, 2015 04:22 pm IST - COLOMBO

File photo of Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan.

File photo of Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan.

After a gap of over three decades, a Tamil lawmaker has become the Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament.

As soon as the House met on Thursday morning, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan had been made the Leader of the Opposition and said no other name had been proposed.

A. Amirthalingam of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was the first Tamil to hold the post between 1977 and 1983.

Mr. Sampanthan, who, in 1956, joined the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (also known as Federal Party), was first elected to Parliament from Trincomalee in 1977 on the ticket of the TULF when the general elections were held under the 1972 Constitution.

After resigning as MP along with other members of the TULF in 1983, Mr. Sampanthan returned to the Parliament in July 1997. Since 2001, he has been heading the TNA, which now comprises the ITAK, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). According to records of the Parliament, Mr. Sampanthan has served as MP for more than 22 years.

Later, speaking on a motion to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers to 48 and that of State Ministers and Deputy Ministers to 45, Mr. Sampanthan told the Parliament that his party would work closely with everyone to resolve the Tamil question while “we are loyal to this country and people of this country”. It was his party’s “primary duty” to ensure that there was a “fair and acceptable” settlement of the Tamil issue.

Tabled by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the motion was adopted by the House with 143 voting in favour of and 16 against the resolution. Sixty-three members including the that of the TNA were absent at the time of division. While the Speaker did not take part in the voting, S.C. Mayadunne, who was made MP through the national list of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), resigned his membership earlier in the day and the third person had not yet taken oath as MP.

The approval of the Parliament was required as the 19th Constitutional Amendment fixed the ceiling of the Cabinet Ministers at 30 and other categories of Ministers at 40.

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