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Lanka’s main Tamil party gets Opposition status in Par

R Sampanthan

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party TNA was today declared the main Opposition in the parliament with its leader R Sampanthan becoming the first lawmaker from the minority community to lead it in the House in 32 years.

“As the UPFA did not make any claim for the opposition leader’s post, I like to inform the house that Mr Sampanthan the leader of the TNA has been recognised as the leader of the opposition,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told parliament today.

The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which previously made up the Opposition, has joined Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) in government.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which has emerged as the third largest party in in the August 17 polls, has staked claim for the status of main Opposition following an arrangement between Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and Pesident Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to form a national unity government.

The TNA, which fought election under the symbol of Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), won 16 seats.

Sampanthan, 82, becomes only the second Tamil to lead the opposition in the history of the island. In 1977 then main Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader Appapillai Amirthalingam became the opposition leader.

The TULF in 1983 walked out of parliament as they failed to take oaths upholding the unitary constitution in the face of the demand for secession to create a separate Tamil homeland.

Earlier this week Sampanthan had said that his party would push for justice and greater autonomy for the ethnic minority, who say they suffer widespread discrimination on the Sinhalese-majority island.

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